Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon turn Liane Moriarty's best seller into the addictive HBO mini, Big Little Lies

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18 February 2017

HBO, February 19, 9:00 PM ET

By Lori Acken

Best girlfriends. Nothing like ’em — right, ladies? They’re our playmates, fashion consultants and de facto therapists, and there’s nothing we can’t tell them. Except there always is.

So it goes for the women of HBO’s event series Big Little Lies, based on the Liane Moriarty bestseller and starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, who also executive produce. Lies, which premieres Sunday, moves Moriarty’s tale from Australia to America — California’s idyllic Monterey makes a fine stand-in for the fictional Pirriwee — but keeps its aching bones and fearless heart. At the center are Celeste (Kidman) and Madeline (Witherspoon), wealthy, 40ish pals who find themselves taken with a young newcomer, guarded single mom Jane (Shailene Woodley), whose son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), enrolls at their kids’ school. When the school’s mean-girl moms target the little boy, a torrent of truths unspools to a stunning — and deadly — conclusion.

“I fixated on this idea that there’s always someone within a group of women who is ‘perfect,’” Witherspoon says of the outwardly sunny Madeline. “I’m always wary of that person who’s afraid to show vulnerability. [Madeline] only shows it to her friends, and later you see how truly conflicted she is.”

Kidman’s Celeste is a cool, strawberry-blond beauty married to Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), a younger, jet-setting businessman with whom she has lively twin boys, a gorgeous seaside home, a hefty bank account and a life that is the envy of the Monterey moms. But if you’ve ever heard “… but most of the time, he’s wonderful” from a furrowbrowed pal, you’ll recognize this union, too. “We wanted it to be complicated,” Kidman explains of the explosive pair. “I don’t like to talk in broad strokes because everyone’s different, but in this relationship, there’s an addictive quality for them, and the way in which they’re both culpable and the way in which they can’t get away from each other — because there is love there. Deep love.”

Fans of Moriarty’s novel will welcome Lies’ expansion of Madeline’s husband, Ed (Adam Scott), and ex Nathan (James Tupper) into vivid characters, too — especially, says Witherspoon, “the complexity of the divorce dynamic between James and I. It’s amazing to see our journey from beginning to end.”

“It’s very topical and very funny — but it’s also hopefully very moving and disturbing,” says Kidman. “It’s the sort of show where you want to have dinner, drink some wine and talk at the TV. People that have seen it already go, ‘I watched it with two other girls and we were yelling at the screen and we were laughing.’ It’s that sort of viewing.”
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