When the second season of Big Little Lies premieres on HBO in June, it’ll kick off right where the first season left off: with “The Monterey Five,” as the ladies are now known, keeping their deadly secret while contending with Celeste’s mother-in-law Mary Louise, played by Meryl Streep.
At a TV Critics Association panel in Pasadena on Friday, Streep said she was “addicted” to the first season of the Emmy-winning show, which aired in 2017. “I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and what we don’t know about people. About family, about friends, how it flirted with the mystery of things,” she said. “What was unsaid, unshown, unknown was the gravitational pull of the piece. And it was so exciting. So when I got the chance, to join the crew, I thought, Yeah, I wanted to be in that world.”
Although the cast and producers originally intended the show to be a limited series, Kidman, who is also an executive producer, said the demand made everyone involved decide to give the “Monterey Five” a second chapter. “We all said big good-byes, but we became very close and we had such a good time doing it and the desire to spend more time together was a huge part of it,” Kidman said. “But also there was an enormous demand from the audience. I’ve never been in something that reached so far globally. That was such a compelling idea in terms of putting it together again. But it was very much generated by audiences.”
Below, six more things we learned from Big Little Lies’ TCA panel.
Why it took so long to commit to a second season: Executive producer David E. Kelley said everyone involved with the series needed to take a “deep breath” to figure out if there was a story that was compelling enough to rise up to the success of the first year. “We didn’t want to do this unless we could at least have fair shot of living up to the bar of what we set in year one,” he said, “We didn’t finally agree to set sail until we had the commitment on bank from all of us that this was storyline that we were all passionate about.”
To determine that, Kelley asked himself some questions: Since the series ended on an open note, what happens next? Will the lie have a life? Will it have a malignancy? What is the relationship of these friendships? “We take off on that lie and drill down on that lie and how it permeates the world of Monterrey and the people that make up this franchise,” he added. Author Liane Moriarty wrote a novella for Kelley to use as a template.
The dynamic between Celeste and Mary Louise: “I do love her. But that’s the only thing I’ll tell you,” Streep said.
How director Andrea Arnold’s style compares to Jean-Marc Vallée’s: “Andrea really mines the emotional center of character and story. And Jean-Marc as well,” Kelley said. “You feel like they’re jumping into trench with your characters and really being wrought and honest toward the approach toward the emotion. The emotional center of the series and the emotional enter of the characters is really what distinguishes the show at the end.”
Kidman also noted the significance of Arnold’s point of view: “This is female gaze because we now have a woman behind the camera, so the way she enters into all of us is from that angle.”
No more Greek chorus: “We felt last year that the Greek chorus, with each ensuing episode, wanted to go away a little bit,” Kelley said. “It was a way of informing the audience on the world and the characters but the fine line […] was that once it intensified, you wanted to live and breathe in that intensity. So, tonally, still it’s a mix of comedy and drama, but probably more dramatic than comedic this year than last season.”
Bonnie and Renata are now in the club: “The dynamic is really interesting this season because even though we are a group, we’re all going through so much,” said Zoë Kravitz, who plays Bonnie. “So there’s still conflict within us, but we now have this thing that binds us together. So watching us all do this dance together, because of this lie, we all hold, is interesting.”
Laura Dern, who plays Renata, added with laughs, “It was thrilling for Renata to have any friend! You don’t know how happy I was going work every day and have other people to talk to. She’s such an uncomplicated character and they’re all so complicated.”
Will there be a third season? “There is no such plan now,” Kelley said. “We like our closure at the end of season two, so that will probably be it.”
But maybe not? Right after Kelley’s answer, Witherspoon interrupted: “You sat here and said that last time.”
“There’s no plan,” Kidman added. “This was a long shoot for us and an enormous amount of work. I will say not to compare it to the first one because artistically it’s a wonderful thing and it is its own entity. It was made with an enormous amount of love.”