The second season finale of Big Little Lies — and that epic court battle between Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and her mother-in-law Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) — had fans sitting on the edge of their seats.
Now, Kidman and fellow BLL star/executive producer Reese Witherspoon talk with EW exclusively about that ending, the reports that have surfaced that season 2 director Andrea Arnold supposedly lost creative control to season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée, and whether fans will be able to enjoy another season of the women from Monterey, Calif.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like to get everyone back for another season?
REESE WITHERSPOON: The collaboration was otherworldly, particularly having Meryl joining the cast. And then having audiences respond the way they do and love these characters and take them into their homes and hearts. That’s a big deal. That’s lightning in a bottle. I think Nicole and I frequently text each other and say, “Can you believe this is happening?”
NICOLE KIDMAN: Meryl in that cardigan, with those teeth and delivering that dialogue, I mean, that is such a unique character. I’ve never seen that on screen. That makes me happy. I’ve not seen that kind of strangely unique, woman-in-a-cardigan, wielding those verbal swords. It was sort of delicious. We’ve always said this show needs to be delicious. And hopefully it will still culturally penetrate. Obviously, so much of what we are grappling with is, “I believe you, I don’t believe you.” And to have a woman on the stand saying “I don’t believe you” with such vehemence to another woman, a momma to a momma, all of those things — for that to get lost is sad. We are trying to interweave all of these story lines, six women and their story lines, and having seven hours is still not really enough. We started to put our toe in the water with euthanasia; we started to deal with the cultural ideas of… once again there is a society that says “I don’t believe you; I believe you brought it upon yourself.” Those things are still very much in existence: “you caused someone to rape you,” “maybe you didn’t realize what you were doing,” “maybe actually it’s your fault that he wanted to hit you.” All of those things are very prevalent in this culture right now. To have them discussed and still in an entertaining way, and then to be dealing with the weight of a secret, how do you heal when you are still holding on to secrets? All of that is very complicated. Trying to deal with these complicated issues and have them still resonate with people in an entertaining way was something we were open for. Did we succeed or fail? Reese and I always say, “Hey, we are always going keep trying.”
What was it like having Andrea come in as director for season 2?
KIDMAN: Andrea wanted to do it and we talked to her. I think she did beautiful work. There is the same vocabulary cinematically but the performances are mined differently and you really feel that. She did beautiful work. We obviously had Meryl playing this uniquely strange character. All the performances this season were mined by Andrea. The performances are in a different place this season. Whether we go for another season and where the performances end up, is up to whoever directs it. Because that’s definitely the magic that Andrea brought to us, the mining of those performances.
WITHERSPOON: Andrea’s wonderful. I feel like she was incredible. The thing that is perplexing to me, as Nicole and I experienced on season 1, is how TV is a completely different medium. It’s a collaborative medium; it is very much different, driven by writers. I’ve seen this more and more as I have done more TV shows since. It’s also this great opportunity for Nicole and myself to have a large creative voice in a process. Not only was it just one person, say [creator/executive producer/writer] David E. Kelley or a Jean-Marc or an Andrea, it was actually all of us collaborating every single week, every time we got a script in, every time we saw a cut. It was one of the most creatively collaborative experiences in my whole career. Everything was discussed as a creative group and entity. The thing that was confusing to me was that anybody would say people took over because it was always a very creative process. For Nicole and I, we were involved in every single conversation.
KIDMAN: Not every. Almost every [laughs]. There was definitely the relationship between each actress and Andrea, and then each actress and David. They were very much involved in the arcs of their characters and how to make their characters’ shape. It’s seven hours and most of these situations, you don’t have one person directing all seven hours. We have one both seasons now. That’s an enormous task. David E. Kelley is the creator and I would say Jean-Marc is the heartbeat, and Andrea came into season 2 and brought the most tender, beautiful care and warmth to us as women. That was the unbelievable collaboration of these artists. We are lucky to work with these great artists who are willing to intertwine their talents.
When addressing reporters at TCA on July 24, HBO executive Casey Bloys said there was a lot of “misinformation” about what happened with Andrea. He said, “As anybody who works in television knows, the director typically does not have final creative control. So the idea that creative control was taken from the director, it’s just a false premise.” Is that true?
KIDMAN: He said it beautifully. That’s why we had Casey handle it. Obviously, he’s the head of HBO. He really said it beautifully.
WITHERSPOON: In our minds, there is no controversy. We just love the show. We had such a great time doing it. There was a lot of misinformation and no credited sources on any of the information. This was an incredibly collaborative process for all of us and the idea that anyone was mistreated and not communicated with is completely not true. I was glad that Casey spoke so clearly about that and we are thrilled with the collaboration that yielded this season. It could have never been this show had it not been with these particular artists collaborating on this particular material.
KIDMAN: The most important thing for us is that the audience showed up for the show in season 2. I’m over here in Australia and the reaction was so, so strong and that’s a lovely thing. As Reese and I said, this didn’t fall flat on its face, which it could have. We kind of jumped off the cliff not realizing how much pressure it was going to be. And somehow we are here, celebrating something as women, together again. That’s something we were hoping to discuss as well because for the viewers to have shown up with such a voracious appetite was really lovely.
Did you know at the beginning of the season, before you started, that all the women would turn themselves in to police?
KIDMAN: It’s so important not to discuss all of the intricacies of this, because if we do a season 3, there’s going to be things that will be explained. It’s probably better to allow just a little mystery. I know the voracious appetite for knowledge and to leave no stone unturned. But I’m always going to fight for just a little bit…there can be a few mysteries and secrets held intact.
WITHERSPOON: I totally agree! If there are conversations still to be had, I think that’s really what determines if we can tell a season 3. Is it as good as season 1 and 2? Does the audience still have questions? Do we have answers?
Casey left it in your laps. So is season 3 up to you now?
KIDMAN: It’s a collaboration. We work as a group. We are incredibly tight; we talk to each other, and we are on each other’s side. So, we will decide as a group. We listen to the way in which people react because so much of TV is a very immediate medium. Every single person who has made this has said this show is bigger than any single one of us.
- Big Little Lies season 2 finale recap: No more lies
- Big Little Lies recap: Are the Monterey Five about to crack?