When we last left the Monteray Five — Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), and Renata (Laura Dern) — on Big Little Lies, they had finally gotten over their mommy shaming and accusations to actually band together. You know, as you’d expect a group like that to do following the murder of an abusive husband.
But when the series returns to Crave for its second season in June, what happened to Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) remains very much in the forefront of the conversation. Especially since his mother, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep), is in town and wants to know what really happened to her son that fateful night.
Until recently that’s pretty much all we knew about the show’s second season or Streep’s big casting. Luckily all of the leading ladies—including Streep—stopped by the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena this weekend to give us even more details. Here’s what we learned.
The role was totally created with Streep in mind
After the first season wrapped (and won all the awards), Liane Moriarty — who wrote the original novel — whipped up a novella template that gave the characters more life. And when she created the role of Mary Louise, she named the character after Streep’s birth name in an attempt to subconsciously lure the three-time Oscar winner to the part.
“She was sending that subliminal message to Meryl because she wanted her, so she wrote the character as Mary Louise,” Kidman said before turning to a surprised Streep, who had no idea. “That was her message to you.”
“We hoped and prayed. I think all of us said, ‘Can we get Meryl? Can we get Meryl? Can we get Meryl?’ And, fortunately we did,” producer David E. Kelley added.
“She’s so easy to get,” Streep deadpanned.
Mary Louise loves her daughter-in-law
Always a pro, Streep knew not to give too much about her character away when critics pressed her during the panel, but she did allude to a somewhat positive relationship between herself and Celeste.
“I do love you, actually. And I do love her” she said in reference to Kidman and Kidman’s character. “That’s the only thing I’ll tell you about my character. But that’s the truth.”
Luckily we got to actually see the character in a clip, and we have to say that she doesn’t look as glammed up as some of the other Monteray mums on the show. In the clips Streep wore a grey cardigan and striped button-down, with a chin-length haircut and bangs. So you know, a basic “mom” outfit.
Streep was a super fan of the first season
As it turns out Streep also has excellent taste in television, because she was already a fan of Big Little Lies. That made the overall pitch a bit easier for Witherspoon and Kidman when they actually went out to go and get Streep on the series.
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“I loved this show. I was addicted to it. 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 sort of the pull, 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 do it, to be in that world. The world that was created was amazing.”
Mary Louise’s parenting style will also come into question
One of the things that appealed to so many moms during the first season of the series was how the stories tackled mommy shaming, judgement, and guilt, and how it looked at the toxic relationships that can occur when women tear each other down rather than build one another up.
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Listen up, Sisters !! I’m not lucky enough to have a biological sister so my girlfriends & my female co-workers have become my sisters. I would not be where I am today without their text messages, endless phone calls, long walks, emergency girls’ trips and lots of drinking wine on Friday nights😆 So here’s to #Sisterhood and women supporting each other in this crazy world ! @draperjames
It seems like Mary Louise will be pulled into that fold in season two, which is an interesting take given Perry’s abusive character in the first season. How did he become that way, what role does a mother play in that, and what kind of guilt does a mother feel in those circumstances? Those are just some of the questions Streep couldn’t wait to dig into.
“This piece, for me, because I have four grown children, I’m playing someone who is dealing with whatever the deficits of her parenting were, and the mysteries in that, and how you can’t go back in time and fix something,” she said. “All those issues, that was interesting to me. And it felt real, honest, honestly investigated. David really understood that part. I felt like I had something to give to this piece.”
This season is the last… for now
The cast and crew joked about how they had no idea they’d be back for a second season the first time they presented the show at the TCA tour a couple of years ago, since they genuinely believed they were done.
“We all said goodbye at the end, big goodbyes. 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. And that was such a compelling idea, in terms of putting it together again that we were like, ‘Okay.’ But it was very much generated by the actual audiences and the desire to see these people still in existence.”
The moral of the story? Even though there are no plans for a third season, if we all band together to watch season two these actresses will probably be back in a heartbeat.
Big Little Lies hits Crave in June.