Sunday, February 19, 2017

After disappearing into every character she has portrayed for decades, Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman is assuming her biggest role yet — this time as executive producer for her passion project, HBO’s “Big Little Lies.”

Based on the best-selling book by Australian author Liane Moriarty — and developed for TV by veteran writer/producer David E. Kelley (“Ally McBeal,” “Chicago Hope,” “Boston Legal”) “Big Little Lies” tells the tale of three mothers in Monterey, California, whose seemingly idyllic lives slowly unravel to the point of murder.

Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Alexander Skarsgard also star in the miniseries, as does Reese Witherspoon, who joins Miss Kidman in co-executive producing.

The Washington Times spoke with Miss Kidman on the red carpet at the “Big Little Lies” Hollywood and the press tour panel at the recent Television Critics Press Tour about the miniseries, which premieres on HBO Sunday.

Question: What do you hope viewers will get from watching “Big Little Lies”?

Answer: When I was working with Stanley Kubrick [on “Eyes Wide Shut”], he would always say, “You never tell the audience what to feel. Let them choose to have their responses.”

So I never like to tell people what they should take. I think you put art out into the world, and sometimes it’s divisive, sometimes it’s embraced. Sometimes people cry, laugh or have complicated reactions.

I feel there are so many issues in this that are topical; you are dealing with divorce, domestic abuse [and] single mothers, but there’s a very tricky tone to this piece. So you are balancing the tone. That’s what I feel David [E. Kelley] and director Jean-Marc Vallee did beautifully.

Q: What do you love about producing?

A: I love storytelling. I love stories, and I love the way in which 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, my whole life was books. They were my fantasy. That’s where I could go. That was a lot of times [what] saved me. So I’m interested in storytelling. I love being an artist now and connecting through art.

[As a producer] it’s the stories of women that I know, and it was a way in which we could go to other women and say, “Here’s a great role. There’s five great roles here. They’re all complicated. They all deserve to be told, and are you interested?” And that is rare. It’s very, very rare to find five roles in one piece where we’d all jump at the chance to play any of them.

Q: What was it like to work with your co-executive producer and co-star Reese Witherspoon?

A: We’re very, very close friends, and we’re able to talk about anything. A lot of the conversation is personal, and then we would do work.

We laugh, we have fun, and we’re both at [a similar] stage in our lives. I want to be with people I really like. I don’t want to be working on things with people that I’m not happy to be there [with]. I want to be contributing and working with people that I like and love, and this was the perfect combination.

I love that [“Big Little Lies”] is about women coming together and making something happen very quickly, with friendship being the core of it.

Q: What is the appeal of speaking David E. Kelley’s words? What did he bring to this project?

A: For me, my storyline is very complicated and nuanced. [The script] was so beautifully written. It was very, very easy to play. … I think one of the scenes is almost eight minutes.

And the dialogue, not one word is changed. It’s exquisitely written, so it was a joy when things just come. And sometimes as an actor you’re struggling to make things work. That was never the case for me with this. It just kind of flowed out.

Q: Did you have any say in the wardrobe style of the characters?

A: We worked with Jean-Marc in terms of finding it. Because when you have five women, you’re trying to find how they each dress and how they present themselves to the world.

When you know psychologically what they’re feeling, then that plays out on how you dress a lot of times. In particular, for my character, Celeste, there was a way in which we wanted to present her, because she has sort of barriers that she has to put up for protection because of things that are going on in her life. Yet she wants to be, I suppose, very presentable but neutral.

Q: You’ve observed a lot of parents in your life. Is there this tendency to overparent in your own life?

A: Yes. You learn as you go along. But I do have to say my daughter, Sunday, said to me this morning [I was being] overprotective, so you must have been a fly on the wall.

Q: What was your own personal takeaway from “Big Little Lies”?

A: My friends. I got to make four girlfriends that will be my girlfriends for life.

“Big Little Lies” premieres Sunday on HBO.

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