The Untold Truth of Series ‘Big Little Lies’
Since premiering on HBO in 2017, Big Little Lies has evolved into a true television phenomenon — being nominated for (and already raking in) a slew of awards. In addition to being optioned and co-executive produced by two of its stars, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, the series centers around a refreshingly female-driven narrative. It’s not surprising the immensely popular mini-series has pivoted into a full-blown series, or that its second season is attracting celebrated actresses such as Meryl Streep.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Big Little Lies is without any surprises. Watch one episode and that becomes abundantly clear. But adding even more intrigue to the series are these little known behind-the-scenes facts about its stars and what really goes on when the cameras aren’t rolling.
It’s natural to relate to the women central to Big Little Lies. No, you likely haven’t colluded to cover up a major crime. But in a general sense, you know these women. That kinship is only amplified by the fact that not only do the characters have meltdowns, the women playing them do, too — underscoring that this is a show made for complex women by complex women.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Reese Witherspoon confessed that the show’s finale was “the worst shooting experience I’ve ever had in my life.” Later, at a round table alongside co-star Nicole Kidman and other dramatic actresses (think Oprah Winfrey and Elisabeth Moss), Witherspoon shared how she reached her breaking point when an emotionally charged scene was repeatedly pushed off.
“By day seven of getting prepared and not ever using it, we came in and, out of nowhere, we were told we had to do the title sequence, and I just couldn’t do it. I started to scream, and I’ve never screamed like this. Like, howling,” Witherspoon said during the Hollywood Reporter round table. “And instead of having this feeling — like, ‘Oh, my God, what did I just do?’ — all the women came over and said, ‘Girl, I have so been there.’ And Nicole [Kidman] goes, ‘Jean-Marc, she’s ready to shoot right now, right now. We need to get Jean-Marc.'”
Ladies’ night doubled as rehearsal
Can you imagine what it must have been like shooting the series with such a nuanced cast? As evidenced by Witherspoon’s major meltdown revelation, even difficult days on set didn’t actually . In fact, when the women weren’t shooting, they unpacked their characters together — over adult libations.
“With Big Little Lies, especially, it was great to work with all those wonderful women (including [Laura] Dern, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley). We learned more about each other at night over wine. We didn’t rehearse; we’d just go to dinner!” Witherspoon told Southern Living magazine.
That organic on-set chemistry and commitment to digging deeper clearly paid off. “I think people see themselves [in the show],” Witherspoon continued. “I think men discovered how women really feel about marriage and relationships and each other. I mean, when was the last time you got to see women really talk about complex issues?”
Nicole Kidman was secretly engaged to a co-star’s dad
Coming into the project, most of the women in the cast had professional connections: Wild for Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, The Fault in Our Stars for Dern and Shailene Woodley, Divergent for Woodley and Zoë Kravitz. But, unbeknownst to many, Kravitz and Nicole Kidman had a very personal connection. During an interview with The EDIT, Kidman casually dropped the pair’s past, saying, “Well, I knew Zoë because I was engaged to her father. It’s all in the family! I love Lenny; he’s a great guy.” Wait, what?!
In her own subsequent interview with The EDIT, Kravitz addressed the collective shock the admission caused. “I think she forgot that no one knew that,” Kravitz said, reportedly laughing. “I hadn’t seen her in a long time before Big Little Lies, but there was a point where we were all kind of living together. I was about 13, and she would take me to see movies; she was so nice to me.”
Filming made one actress smash a glass door off-set
By all accounts, Nicole Kidman is the consummate professional. She comes off as calm and, as co-star Zoë Kravitz describes it, at times “quiet and shy.” So it may come as a shock that the meek-mannered Kidman smashed a window in cathartic angst over a Big Little Lies scene.
It happened, as Kidman confessed to The Hollywood Reporter, following filming the last episode — after Kidman lay crumpled in nothing but underwear. “I just lay on the floor. I couldn’t get up. I didn’t want to get up,” she said, revealing that director Jean-Marc Vallee walked over and put a towel over her between takes. “I just felt completely humiliated and devastated. And angry inside. I went home and I threw a rock through a glass door.”
Kidman regained her composure enough to call her co-star, Reese Witherspoon, and admit what had happened. But the instance speaks strongly to why Kidman told Deadline the role of Celeste was “the hardest character to work on.”