Big Little Lies' Adam Scott on Madeline's huge betrayal, the 'extremely dangerous' Mary Louise
Warning: This article contains spoilers from episode two of Big Little Lies, ‘Tell-Tale Hearts.’ Proceed at your own risk.
Amidst all the secrets and lies (big and little) on HBO’s hit series, there stands Ed Mackenzie (Adam Scott), Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) stalwart, loyal husband, always willing to go to the mat for his wife, daughter, and step-daughter.
But at the end of this season’s second episode, one of those sneaky little lies reared its head and Ed was dealt a blow almost as bad as the one that sent Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) spiraling down the stairs. At long last, he knows that Madeline was unfaithful to him after overhearing Abigail (Kathryn Newton) talking to her about it. After at first attempting to play it off and pretend he misheard, Madeline finally owned up to it, proclaiming her love for Ed in a desperate last-ditch effort to excuse her mistakes. But after discovering Madeline was keeping the secret of Ziggy’s (Iain Armitage) parentage from him earlier in the episode, Ed has had enough of secrets and tells his wife, “I think we’re done.”
Elsewhere, other secrets continue to seep toxicity into the lives of the Monterey Five. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) struggles to get over her love for Perry, while also working up the courage to tell his mother Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) the truth about his abusive nature after she discovers Ziggy is also her grandson. Mary Louise rejects this claim and instead accuses Celeste of leaving details out of her story.
Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) is still grappling with killing Perry, and Nathan (James Tupper) calls in her mother for back-up in trying to get to the bottom of her withdrawn behavior. Renata (Laura Dern) is dealing with a new mess of her husband Gordon’s (Jeffrey Nordling) making — his arrest for securities fraud and her possible significant decline in net worth. “I will not not be rich,” she shrieks to him in the frontrunner for best line of the season.
To pull apart this tangled web the ladies have weaved, we called up our favorite Monterey bae, Adam Scott to talk about the future of Ed and Madeleine’s relationship, how much of a threat Mary Louise poses to their well-being, and if we might see him in another crazy costume this season. So let’s crank up the Fleetwood Mac, put away the Ambien, shave off our beards, and dive into episode 2 of the second season of Big Little Lies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ed tells Madeline, “I think we’re done.” On a scale of 1-10, how worried should we be about their marriage?
ADAM SCOTT: As worried as you can be. Between seasons, Ed has been forging a bit of his own identity. Because at the end of season 1, he was starting to get some signals that might be the smart thing to do. I don’t think any of this was 100 percent on a conscious level because Ed has, by and large, built his identity around this relationship. He judges himself on how well and how able he is to take care of Madeline emotionally and be there for her and be a safety net for her emotionally. Since the end of season 1, I feel like he’s been bracing himself a little bit. [He’s changed] the clothes he wears and his haircut, just sniffing around for an identity outside of this relationship, which is primarily what he sees as his duty and calling. When there’s a betrayal that is this unequivocal, for someone like Ed, there’s nothing worse. This is as bad as it could be for the prism with which Ed sees the world through, which is this relationship. I don’t think there could be a bigger betrayal.
Ed overhears the truth, but do you think there was any part of him that remotely suspected it? If he hadn’t overheard it now, would something have pushed it to a breaking point?
You know when you get a lottery ticket and you do a scratch off, and you get two out of the three things that it takes to win the jackpot and you still have one or two spaces to scratch off, and you don’t want to do it because you know the answer is going to be no? You want to live with the possibility that the answer is yes for a few minutes. I don’t want to know; I just want to live with the idea that I just won $25. Yes, there have been some signs that Ed just doesn’t want to scratch off the rest of the ticket and really know. I guess you could call it denial or just survival. But there have been a few signs. Most notably, the hints that surfaced at the party that ended season 1 would’ve been maybe investigated a little further and talked about, but then there’s this huge tragic event that rocked the community and upturned everyone’s lives. They all went into emergency mode and the slate was wiped clean a little bit, so this hasn’t really come up again. But there was information or at least a hint of information. He more than likely just didn’t want to investigate further.
You said this is the worst possible betrayal. We know Madeline has worse secrets, and he doesn’t like secrets. If he reacted this way now, is there something worse down the line? What reaction might he have to the bigger secret he still potentially has to discover?
What secret are you referring to? I have no idea what you might mean [Laughs]. Ed is all in on his marriage. In a way, it’s his life’s work. He loves Madeline so much. He met Madeline and thought, “I’m going to empty my pockets and put everything out on the table in front of you. This is me. I’m yours, take it, take it all.” He’s finding out that it’s not 100 percent mutual. Disillusionment is a fair word to use along with betrayal. Anyone would feel betrayal here, but, for Ed, it’s particularly world-crumbling. He needs to grapple with and figure out who he is outside of this relationship and how he fits into the world. It’s that sort of re-assessment for someone like this.
In the first episode, we saw Tori (Sarah Sokolovic) laying the moves on Ed, and he was clearly flustered by it. We know he’s super loyal, but is there any chance he turns to her in some misguided attempt at revenge? Or even that he makes a deal with Madeline to get a hall pass here — you were with her husband, so now it’s my turn?
Oh man, I don’t know. Anything’s possible.
Ed also still has a lot of tension with Nathan. Will this road bump with Madeline be a bonding point for them? Or cause further conflict?
It has the potential to go in the bonding direction. But they’re both dead set on misreading each other. These guys are on a collision course no matter what. It’s just never going to work out with these two. Or maybe it will. I don’t know. There is potential for these two to be friends. Again, the events of the end of season 1 wiped the slate clean. It was like a kiln that just burned everything, burned the most essential elements away. It seems like they’re both, in their own way, dealing with the aftermath of this horrible event, even though neither of them knows the truth but the truth is reverberating in their home lives. This big lie is setting them on some sort of collision course. Or it’s not.
Madeline and Mary Louise clearly do not like each other, and Ed has always defended Madeline’s honor. When you signed on to Big Little Lies, did you ever think, “If I play my cards right, I’m going to end up acting opposite Meryl Streep?”
No. The thing is when I was signing on, it was close to the equivalent, if not the equivalent, of that anyway because of all these incredible actors. I remember reading the first couple season 2 scripts and being like “Wow Mary Louise, that’s a character. That’s incredible, I wonder who they’re going to get for this.” And then hearing that it was Meryl, it’s like, “Oh s—, of course.” And why not? The impact of that was felt throughout everyone involved. It’s such a huge, incredible deal to have her around. What can you say about Meryl Streep? I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say she’s the best we have and the best there ever was.
Celeste finally opened up to Mary Louise about some of the ugliness of their marriage and Mary Louise rejected what she was trying to tell her. Mary Louise seems very smart — she instinctually knows there are things she’s not being told, but also she seems a little unhinged. Have we just scratched the surface with her and the threat she might pose to the Monterey Five?
She is extremely dangerous if you’re someone that is holding a secret. Especially a secret that has such higher implications attached to it like this one. She’s incredibly smart, she’s cunning, and her son died, and she has nothing to lose. She is clearly retired, she is there to stay, and she has a lot of questions. The longer she stays, the more questions pop up, and it doesn’t seem like she’s buying anything anyone is saying as far as I can tell. So yeah, I would say, she is the last person that any of the Monterey Five want sniffing around.
Ed and Bonnie have always had a good, cordial relationship. She’s sort of coming apart at the seams. If the house of cards collapses, is there a possibility Ed could be a good comfort to her?
Those two are genuinely friends. And are in a similar position in that they sort of married into this weird, toxic, passive-aggressive relationship that is Madeline and Nathan. It’s similarly annoying to Ed and Bonnie, [and] they’re friends. As far as where that’s going, I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere or not. But they are stuck in a similar situation.
At the end of this episode, Bonnie’s mom asks, “What have you done this time?” So, can we assume there’s some previous time, possibly of a dark variety?
Gosh, I don’t know but that’s a great way to end an episode, isn’t it?
In the trailer, we see there is another costume party this season. Do you get to be involved, and if so, what’s it like?
I will say that I think it tops the Elvis outfit.
Not the Blue Hawaii one, but the big white one you surprised Madeline with?
Is there an acting moment coming this season that might surprise audiences or be something we haven’t seen before from that person?
Blow the doors off, as they say? Yes. I’ll just say that at the table read, I got to watch Nicole, Reese, Meryl, Laura, Shailene, Zoë – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen better acting. It was maybe my favorite day ever in show business to get to watch [those] six people do their thing. To say it blew the doors off is an understatement. So, those scenes put up on their feet and filmed — I cannot wait for the world to see them.
What can you tease about episode 3? People are very concerned about Ed and Madeline.
That concern is legitimate and very real. I don’t know if it’s recoverable. I think they’re in a tough spot. But everyone on the show is in a tough spot.
Big Little Lies