Zoe Kravitz: Shailene Woodley and I are 'obvious soulmates'
US actresses Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz, stars of the Divergent movies, reunite on small screen for TV series Big Little Lies
Told through the eyes of three mothers - Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) - TV drama Big Little Lies shows how the town of Monterey, California, is fuelled by rumours and divided into the haves and have-nots.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the series is directed by Oscar nominee Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) and written by David E. Kelley, and airs on Mondays at 10am and 9pm on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601).
Woodley, 25, plays Jane, a young single mum who is new not only to Monterey, but to the complicated social hierarchy of Otter Bay Elementary School, where her son is a student.
Zoe Kravitz, 28, has a supporting role as yoga instructor Bonnie, who is married to Madeline's ex-husband, and is a sensitive soul with a strong moral compass.
Had you read Moriarty's book when you got this role?
When I got the role, there were only four or five scripts done. So I started reading the book, but the character in the book was different from how my character was in the script, so I didn't read the whole book, because I didn't want to get muddled.
What did you think of Jane?
I found it really vital that Jane's story be told. There are movies about young mothers or pregnant teens, but not many I've seen that authentically capture the motherhood aspect of someone that young... She is trying to navigate the chaos between being an adult for her son, and trying to grow up for herself.
Big Little Lies has a huge number of incredible female roles. Was that also a large part of the appeal for you?
Absolutely. Reese is really profound in the way she speaks about women in Hollywood, and women in this show particularly.
I've been fortunate that most projects that I've been a part of have had very strong women on board with me. I've worked with (castmate) Laura (Dern), I've worked with Zoe (Kravitz) on the Divergent movies...
But what's really special about this is that you have females from all different demographics, and all different lifestyles, and I think that's rare.
Even though we had a male director and a male writer, it's based on a book that was written by a woman. And the two men on board were really interested in the psychology of women, so it wasn't told from a patriarchal position. It was told from a truth-based reality of what it is like to be a woman in 2017.
Both of your parents have worked in education. Were they helpful in preparing for the role?
My mum coaches parents. From what I've witnessed and some stories she has told, there's a real (problem) of giving a child so much power.
She has parents going to her and saying, "My kid won't go to sleep, I don't know what to do!" And my mum's like, "Have you told your kid that it's time to go to sleep?" And they're like, "I can't do that, because my kid would hit me or yell at me". And my mum's like, "Your kid's five. You are in control".
There's a difference between being a controlling parent who is unkind, and being someone who expresses boundaries so that when this child is nurtured into adulthood, they don't enter the world and realise they don't have feet to walk on.
I'm excited to have a child one day, but I want to be very cautious and aware - you need to empower your child to be an individual, but at the same time, not give him a false reality of what the real world is like.
How did you get to be involved in Big Little Lies?
It happened very quickly. I got a phone call from my agent, and he gave me the lowdown on the project and asked if I wanted to meet Jean-Marc (Vallee). I met with him and a week later, I had an offer. I didn't have to audition - Jean-Marc is such an organic filmmaker and he just said to me, "You feel very Bonnie".
I think that's all he needed.
There was a lot of trust and I was very appreciative of that. I love him so much and I want to make so many films with him.
Was the fact that it has such a female-driven plot and cast one of the big draws?
Of course, it was an honour to work with the big dogs. The fact that Reese (Witherspoon) and Nicole (Kidman) were producing, I knew they had a say in me being cast too, which meant a lot to me. The fact they even thought I was good enough to work with them and be a part of something they had control over - it was a huge compliment.
And you and Shailene Woodley already knew each other
Yeah, Shailene and I called each other, we were like, "Oh my God, again!" It was great - Shailene and I... We are obvious soulmates and the universe agrees, because we keep on getting put together, which is fantastic.
Bonnie and Madeline are working hard to make their blended family work. Is that something you could draw on personal experience of?
My family is a blended family, but it's been pretty smooth for us. My mother (actress Lisa Bonet) and father (musician Lenny Kravitz) worked through their stuff and they were able to have their own relationship; certainly by the time my mum got remarried (to actor Jason Momoa), everyone loved each other.
Do you feel that there are more juicy female-driven parts now than 10 years ago?
It's hard to say, because I'm older and able to play different things. I think there were a lot of roles I would have liked to have played that were a little bit more thought-out, but I was just too young to play them.
Even with Big Little Lies, it was so much fun to play my age, because I look very young.
Sometimes I play a lot younger than I am, when I want to emotionally play my age. I think there are juicier roles coming, but I also think I am at an age where I am starting to get the more interesting roles."