By Patrick Gomez and Lauren Huff
June 07, 2019 at 03:24 PM EDT
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Big Little Lies finally returns this Sunday! With Meryl Streep!

There’s still a lot of mystery around the sophomore run of the hit HBO limited series, but we’ve pieced together all the existing information, including details divulged at a Television Critics Association panel in February with the cast — Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Shailene Woodley — and creator/writer David E. Kelley. And, speaking with EW in May, Kelley provided a first look at the paths we see our favorite Monterey mommas on.

Ahead of the show’s return, take a look at everything we know about the much-anticipated season 2:

The second season starts a few months after the events of season 1.
When we first make our return to Monterey, the events of the climactic costume party — in which Kravitz’s character Bonnie pushed Celeste’s abusive husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) to his death — have been weighing on the characters for at least a few months. “There’s a cord and a core of stress that’s pulsating through each of the women, some fueled and complicated by the lie, and some dependent on the lie,” Kelley explains.

There will be new woes for Madeline Martha MacKenzie.
Madeline and Ed’s (Adam Scott) marriage was hardly peachy in the first season, but Kelley says to expect it to get even worse in season 2. And, in addition to her marital woes, Madeline is sent reeling by her daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) and her decision not to go to college. “In Reese’s hands, we get to realize the potential of the character, one that’ll make you laugh, make you cry, be a bully in one scene, be a caretaker in another … it’s quite a whirlwind,” Kelley says.

Jane has a new love interest!
Woodley’s Jane starts a relationship with a colleague in season 2, but naturally, not everything is hunky dory. “She needs to heal and she needs to rebuild; she’s been through a great personal trauma and she’s got an internal fortitude,” Kelley says. “She wants to plow through it — maybe plow through it too much without getting therapeutical help that would make her course easier — but she definitely is forward-thinking and [has] foot-forward positivity.”

Celeste’s journey will be “truthful to the recovery of abuse.”
Plagued with guilt over what happened to her husband, Celeste (Kidman) experiences nightmares while juggling the sudden appearance of her suspicious mother-in-law (Streep), and keeping her twin boys from the truth about their violent father. “The one thing that [Nicole and I] were really adamant about was being truthful to the recovery of abuse because it’s very complicated,” Kelley says. “It’s not as simple as ‘okay, the abuser is dead so life goes on.’ Not only do the scars of abuse continue to live on but the gravitational pull towards the abuser is not extinguished either.”

Meryl Streep couldn’t wait to become a part of the BLL family.
“I loved this show. I was addicted to it,” Streep said at the February panel of watching season 1 of the drama. “I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and what we don’t know about people, about family, about friends, how it flirted with the mystery of things, what was unsaid, unshown, unknown, was sort of the gravitational pull of the piece, and it was so exciting so…I wanted to do it to be part of that world.”

In fact, Kelley said the part of Celeste’s mother-in-law, Mary Louise, was written with Streep in mind — in fact, the actress’ real name is Mary Louise and that’s not by accident — and the whole team “hoped and prayed” they could get her to join the cast.

Streep describes her character as “someone who is dealing with whatever the deficits of her parenting were…and how you can’t go back in time and fix something,” she said. “I just felt like I had something to give to this piece.”

The cast truly did believe the show would only last one season.
Based on Liane Moriarty‘s hit novel, executive producers Kidman and Witherspoon thought the story was told after their series concluded in 2017.

“We all said goodbye — big goodbyes,” said Kidman, who does admit that “desire to spend time together was a big part of” the decision to come back for a second season, but “demand from the audience” was an even bigger factor: “I’ve never been a part of something that reached so far, globally…it was very much generated by the audience.”

Author Liane Moriarty wrote a novella to help inspire David E. Kelley’s scripts for season 2.
“We were lucky that Liane Moriarty wrote almost like a novella for us to use as sort of a template,” Witherspoon said. “That gave us a basis for us to go on.”

And Kelley was eager to delve more into the characters.

“We didn’t really close the chapter,” he said of how season 1 concluded. “It ended on a very open note of what is going to happen next: Will the lie have a life?”

The death at the end of season 1 will play a big part in season 2 — where the women are known to the public as the “Monterrey Five” — but many of the loose ends from the first season will also be revisited.
Witherspoon was excited to see the ramifications of her character’s affair come to light in the new season, but she also teased that we’ll learn a lot more about Bonnie, whose character development was explored much more in Moriarty’s novel than it was on season 1: “The book ended with a lot to do with Bonnie’s character, so it was fascinating to see how she was going to respond and how the actual events happened and how it affects her and her life.”

For Kelley, getting to explore the core characters more while only introducing a few new players was essential to getting the story right for season 2.

“We don’t go much broader but we go deeper,” he explained of the seven-episode season.

Speaking with EW in May, Kelley teases that Bonnie has emotionally shut down and isolated herself. “This season, we obviously go much, much deeper into who she is, where she came from, and exploring the consequences of her actions in year 1 and also maybe unearthing a little bit of who that person was that came to push Perry down the stairs, and why,” he says.

There will no longer be a “Greek chorus” on the show.
To introduce the world of BLL, Kelley framed the series through the eyes of Monterrey residents who were recalling the events leading up to the death at the end of season 1. But in season 2, Kelley felt their voices were unnecessary.

Even toward the end of season 1, the writer felt those voices “wanted to go away a little bit. The Greek chorus was a way of informing the audience on the world and the characters…but once the show intensified by episode 3 or 4, “we used them way less.”

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Renata has friends now!
Laura Dern told reporters that she was “thrilled” her character was now close with the rest of BLL‘s main group of women.

“It’s thrilling for Renata to have any friends,” said Dern, whose character was often at odds with everyone else in season 1. “You don’t know how happy I was to go to work and have people to talk to.”

The secret the women share from the night of the fundraiser does bond them all together, but the pressure to stick to their shared silence will weigh on them.

“The dynamic is really interesting this season because…we are a group now,” said Kravitz. “[But] watching us all do this dance together because of this lie that we all hold is really interesting to see.”

This new dynamic is particularly fraught for Woodley’s character.

“In season 1 she had this idea of who this person was, [she had] this demon who haunted her constantly,” said the actress. “It feels very exciting and good for me to be able to portray a character who has had extreme trauma in her life and work on the other end of that trauma…how does she move forward in a way that’s healthy for her and her son?”

There probably won’t be a BLL season 3 — they swear!
“We like where our closure is at the end of season 2, so that will probably be it,” said Kelley.

“You sat here and said that last time!” Witherspoon joked in response.

Season 2 of Big Little Lies will premiere June 9 on HBO.

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