Production Update: HBO’s Big Little Lies with powerhouse cast set in Monterey, California

Reese Witherspoon in HBO’s Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies is a deliciously intriguing seven-part series on HBO with a powerhouse cast. It stars Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, along with Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, and Laura Dern, as the women who realize “a perfect life is a perfect lie.”

The impressive ensemble is part of the sophisticated murder mystery set in a fascinating location–Monterey, California. The HBO production is based on the bestseller by Liane Moriarty, and it became a passionate project for Witherspoon and Kidman who are also the executive producers.

Director Jean Marc Vallée (Wild and Dallas Buyers Club) masterfully invites viewer into a community of complicated, challenging, and even some normal loving families in Monterey. The result is addictive and thrilling storytelling with the ocean waves pounding in the background.

Although the book was set in Australia, Nicole Kidman (a proud Australian) thought the shift to Monterey would work and be right to tell the story. Kidman said, “The thing that Jean Marc felt very passionately about was that it needed to be a town that had water. And you see that it’s almost like a character in the piece.”

Vallée explained, “The force of the ocean over is so powerful and David (writer David E. Kelley) captured it also on the page. The ocean is angry and violent and there was a nice symbol, a representation, the force of humanity, this thing, this water, this infinity.”

The production was able to shoot on location in Monterey, although there were difficulties. Vallée said, “I think we spent three, four weeks, 20 days of shooting in Monterey and we transformed L.A. into Monterey. So locations that were scouted in L.A. were all looking like there and then we shot on stage a tiny bit. So we made it happen. This project was a very special one, creatively.”

As the executive producers on the project, Witherspoon and Kidman loved the idea of exploring family, friendships, and facades with truth and a touch of humor to the story.

At the HBO panel for the Television Critics Association’s winter 2017 press tour, the actresses’ support of the project was evident.

Witherspoon, who won her Best Actress Oscar for Walk the Line (2005), and was nominated for Wild (2014), said, “What was great about reading Liane Moriarity’s novel for the first time is I saw myself in different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom when I was 22, like Jane (her character). Then I was a mom who was 40. I’ve been divorced, I’ve been remarried. It’s so relatable. It has every spectrum, every color of women’s lives. It’s a unique opportunity to have so many incredible parts for women in one piece of material.”

Kidman revealed that she also related to the women in the book, some who are the over attentive so-called “helicopter mothers.” She said, “There’s just such an array of emotions in this piece, and we were excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way, yet entertaining.”

Kidman was nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Supporting Actress in Lion. She won her Best Actress Oscar for The Hours (2002) and earned two other nominations for Moulin Rouge and Rabbit Hole.

What fuels Witherspoon and Kidman’s passion to produce projects that bring remarkable women together? Reese, who has her Pacific Standard production company with another dynamic lady Bruna Papandrea, reported, “I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are on film. We need to see real women’s experience, whether it involves domestic violence, sexual assault, motherhood, romance or infidelity or divorce, because we as human beings need to learn from art. And what can you do if you never see it reflected? I feel the constant of women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends with thankless parts. So I just had enough, and it’s a unique privilege to be able to come to other women with a piece of material that I feel deeply proud of. I think it’s these are the kinds of things that shift consciousness. That’s where my passion lies.”

Nicole also explained about her passion for producing. She said, “I love the way we connect through stories. I have seen films, read books, seen pieces of art that when I had been in very, very bad places have lifted me. As a child, I would get lost in books, they were my fantasy and that’s where I could go. So, I’m interested in storytelling. I love being an artist and connecting through art. And this this piece was the stories of women that I know. Five great roles for women, all complicated.”

Tune in Big Little Lies on HBO.

HBO’s Big Little Lies
(photo courtesy of HBO)

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.