Big names, bigger secrets in Season 2 of Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep joins Big Little Lies 2 as the TV hit gets even more suspenseful
Liane Moriarty, the writer of the novel Big Little Lies, gave producer Nicole Kidman the TV rights to her book on the condition that she play the character of Celeste, the abused wife, on the show.
Kidman agreed and the TV adaptation premiered in 2017 to great acclaim, winning a slew of awards for the seven-episode season.
"They thought it was just going to be a small drama about some mothers who have kids in kindergarten, and people were like ah, okay, that will find its way in its own little niche world," Kidman says at our interview at the Beekman hotel in New York City.
"But it won't break out into something that men want to watch. And it did."
She says her husband, Keith Urban, is a huge fan. "I remember the first time he saw Season 1, he was like, you have a hit show, this is amazing and I am completely addicted."
After the success of Season 1, Kidman, along with fellow producer Reese Witherspoon, planned Season 2.
Moriarty again weighed in, asking for Meryl Streep to play Celeste's mother-in-law.
Kidman explains: "Liane wrote the novella and she called the character in it Mary Louise, which is Meryl's real name, which we didn't know, but Liane knew. And then Liane said, I want Meryl Streep. She goes, I called the character Mary Louise. And we were like, it doesn't work like that. And then strangely enough, we sent Meryl an e-mail on the night that we won the Golden Globe.
" The next day, she was like, well, this just means I have to do it, huh? Reese and I were screaming on the phone and then we were like, is this real? And it was real."
The first season of Big Little Lies deals with a group of rich women in Monterey, California, whose kids attend the same school. Along with Celeste, there is Madeleine (Witherspoon), Renata (Laura Dern), Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz).
The story is a murder mystery of sorts as it deals with a death, but it is also about the bonds that are formed between these women and the secrets they hide and the ones they share.
Fans will remember that Celeste's abusive husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), was pushed down a flight of steps and dies. And all the women keep the secret of the circumstances, pretending it was an accident, setting up Season 2 for how they deal with the trauma of the death. Mary Louise's arrival and her suspicions propel the story forward.
Season 2 of Big Little Lies starts today on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601/Singtel TV Ch 420). New episodes premiere every Monday at 9am, with a same-day encore at 10pm. It is also available on HBO Go and HBO On Demand.
In this new season, all the women are dealing with some sort of trauma. Celeste finds herself mourning Perry, minimising his abuse and making excuses for his behaviour. Jane is dealing with the trauma of discovering her rapist and the father of her child is Perry. Madeleine is dealing with the fear that the affair she had behind her husband's back will be discovered by him. Bonnie is dealing with the enormous guilt of actually being the one who pushed Perry to his death. And Renata is dealing with the fear that her feckless husband has lost all the family's wealth.
Under these pressures, Kidman said: "The women are carrying the burden of the secret. If one of them cracks, the whole thing falls apart."
Kidman loved working with Streep whom she already knew.
"The thing to be said about Meryl is that she didn't read a script, she signed on to do this because she wanted to support us," said Kidman, 51. "She walks onto the set and she knows all her lines; she is completely prepared and there is no airs and graces. She could just sort of cruise in and cruise out and still do a pretty great performance but she does not do that."
The Australian actress added: "You act opposite her and she is listening and she is thinking and changing. And so for me, she is just heaven to work with, and I would do anything with her in a heartbeat."
We talk about the friendship that developed between the women.
"It kind of just naturally happened," said Kidman.
"We are all different ages, while some of us are married, some aren't, some of us have kids and some of us don't, but we seem to have just managed to form this very, very tight bond.
"Laura is also one of my best friends now, Shai is just a light, she is just a gorgeous, gorgeous woman, and Zoe I have known since she was little. So we didn't really have to rehearse for this in terms of the friendships, because we already had that.
"We would have incredible dinners where we would share stories and our lives and help each other, and so much of the friendship is on screen."