Big Little Lies is among the most acclaimed, talked about and zeitgeist-defining shows of recent years. Season one, which aired on HBO and Sky Atlantic in early 2017, was must-see TV which went on to win eight Emmy awards and inspire countless conversations about domestic violence and female agency. The show was such a smash, it's even added actual Meryl Streep to the cast for season two.
But Nicole Kidman has revealed in a new interview that she and co-star/co-exec producer Reese Witherspoon had no great expectations for BLL – partly because of prevailing sexist attitudes in Hollywood.
"When we proposed it, even getting it made felt like a coup," Kidman tells The Observer. "It was like, 'Oh my God! They will actually let us do it!'"
Kidman explains that HBO warned them the show would only appeal to "a certain demographic" – a roundabout way of saying it was a show that was just for women.
Kidman adds: "The first night it came out, we were a bit bummed, the reviews weren’t so great and the numbers were just OK. And we thought: 'Oh they were right [about the limited audience].' Which felt devastating. Because we had put our heart and soul into it."
But as Kidman notes, the show soon became a word-of-mouth hit as its themes chimed with the burgeoning #MeToo movement in Hollywood and across the world.
"We started our production well before #MeToo," Kidman says. "And then it was percolating a bit when Big Little Lies first came out. That is why for that role of Celeste, there was a bigger response than anything I had done before."
Kidman also tells The Observer why she thinks her character Celeste has struck such a chord with viewers.
"Celeste's is a very privileged life, which is important," she reasons. "She is a woman who should have been able to leave, but we see why she stayed. It was that feeling: my children are having a good life, I can take this for their sake. I think the woman, or the victim in a domestic violence relationship, [often] thinks those things. And that started that whole conversation about hidden violence, behind closed doors."
Kidman is known for supporting women both in her role as an ambassador for UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and in her day job as an actor-producer. She recently revealed that she has vowed to work with a female director at least once every 18 months, and has already worked with five female directors in the space of two years – including British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who's steering season two of Big Little Lies.