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HBO’s Big Little Lies: Behind the scenes and why we love it

Madeline, Jane, and Celeste align on HBO series Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies is a dramatized vignette of very rich people’s lonely lives, where trouble is manufactured and trumped up, and the fallout of the best-laid plans is a gruesome death in picturesque Monterey, California.

Nothing is quite as it seems. Perfect-looking mothers and successful people with precocious children, and insanely well-appointed homes: What cancerous belly lies beneath this idyll?

When the balance of daily routines and societal structure in this microcosm of staggeringly affluent people’s lives is tinkered with, we get a dead body at a school fundraiser and a town full of people who appear as a Greek chorus painting layers of different plausible explanations while the local police sort and sift.

Fact? Fiction? Feuds? All the good F-words come into play here as steamy sexual kink and marital malaise all add up to one of the best-adapted stories of haves and have-nots fighting to preserve the illusions of their complicated and messy lives.

Based on the New York Times number-one eponymous bestseller by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies is a noir comedy, a dramedy of whodunit, a study of suburban mischief that hasn’t been seen on the screen since the 1987 British film White Mischief.

The top reasons to tuck into Big Little Lies

The cast

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern…yes, there’s more…Zoë Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, James Tupper, Sarah Baker, and Jeffrey Nordling make this one of the most talented ensembles on TV.

The Mackenzies are Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Ed (Adam Scott), Abigail (Kathryn Newton) and Chloe (Darby Camp).  The Wrights are Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) and twins Max and Josh (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti).

The Carlsons are Nathan (James Tupper), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) and Skye (Chloe Coleman). The Kleins are Renata (Laura Dern), Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) and Amabella (Ivy George). The Chapmans are Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Ziggy (Iain Armitage).

The Mothers of Monterey

Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) is who paves paths to hell with good intentions. Her regrets and frustrations are lived out in her mothering style, while she inserts herself into every situation regardless if she is needed or not.

Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) is an enigma, a statuesque fading beauty whose wealth and younger husband and twin sons obfuscate the truth of her existence.

Jane (Shailene Woodley), is the newcomer, the wildcard and the meteor in this teleplay. A single mother of modest means whose son gets off on the wrong foot at the prestigious public school, Otter Bay Elementary, where uber wealthy people let their kids attend.

Renata Klein (Laura Dern) is trying to have it all and control everything. This powerful career woman is at loggerheads immediately with Jane and is the mortal enemy of Madeline.

Bonnie Carlson (Zoë Kravitz), is the awkward new wife of Madeline’s ex-husband, who has the friendship of Madeline’s oldest daughter.

The dads

Welcome back to HBO moment: Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård) is the accomplished and devoted dad and husband to Celeste. Except that their sexual life borders on abuse. We have missed seeing him on HBO’s wrapped series True Blood.

Ed Mackenzie (Adam Scott) is the rock. Madeline’s second husband who feels like the runner-up prize in her life. How did she snag him?

Nathan Carlson (James Tupper), the ex-husband of Madeline, married to yogi Bonnie. He tries to manage Madeline.

Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling) loves his ocean views and Balvenie scotch and is happy to support his high-achieving wife Renata, but we think he likes his scotch a little bit more.

The locations

Big Little Lies is an homage to the stunning beauty of coastal California, shot in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Malibu, Los Angeles, Culver City, Pasadena and Altadena.

Episode 1 – Somebody’s Dead

The intrigue starts right from the get-go. We are living the life in Monterey, California, until a suspicious death at a coastal elementary school fundraiser peels back the onion of resentment, envy, and hatred that has developed between some of the mothers.

Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman), who are longtime friends, take in newcomer Jane (Shailene Woodley) and her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage).

Except that an incident at school has created a huge chasm between them and another mom, Renata (Laura Dern).

We begin to see the unhappiness of everyone’s life under the affluent facade.

Watch a behind-the-scenes clip with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon below…

Seven-episode limited drama series Big Little Lies premieres tonight 9-10pm ET/PT, exclusively on HBO.


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