In her prime
Nicole Kidman’s TV return in Foxtel’s Big Little Lies
AFTER decades of lauded film and stage work, Nicole Kidman is returning to where it all began: the small screen.
With a slew of television roles to add to her latest Oscar nomination for Lion, the Australian actress has never been in more demand.
While the slender ingenue, with her signature cloud of strawberry-blonde curls, continues to win plaudits for her best supporting actress role in box-office hit Lion – an inspiring story about adoption and motherly love – she has stepped it up again in the darkly comic HBO adaptation of BigLittleLies. And she couldn’t be more excited.
The seven-episode miniseries, based on Australian author Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel, has been a deeply personal project for its leading lady and co-producer Kidman, who stars alongside Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.
“I love the length of it, I love having the time, because I started in [Channel 10 miniseries] BangkokHilton  and Vietnam ,” she told TV Guide at the BigLittle Lies launch in Los Angeles. “I love working like this, you have 10 hours to develop a character, and to have the time to develop the character for me is so fantastic.”
That luxury to explore sees Kidman deliver what her costar, co-producer and friend Witherspoon describes as a masterclass in acting.
Kidman plays Celeste, a glamorous retired lawyer with a wealthy, younger husband and twin sons. But behind their utterly enviable exterior lurks a dark secret.
One scene features a silent Kidman watching on for several minutes as her husband, played by Alexander Skarsgard, talks about their marriage.
“I call that scene an acting class,” Witherspoon said.
“I stopped watching for a second, I had to catch my breath. I have never seen two actors sustained in that space, dealing with such complexity. It was just extraordinary. I would recommend it to all of our budding actors and actresses out there: ‘Watch that scene’,” Witherspoon enthused.
“Nicole disappears when you watch her work, it’s really beautiful.”
The feeling is mutual, with Kidman heaping praise on Witherspoon’s portrayal of overbearing, stay-at-home alpha-mum Madeline.
“When you read Madeline on the page she speaks nonstop, but that’s an incredibly hard thing to do,” Kidman explained.
“There’s nobody else in this country working today who can do that sort of role, where you balance the comedy and the verbose constant fast-talking with all of that emotion and humanity.”
TV is proving a happy new hunting ground for Kidman, who is set to make her guest appearance in Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake (expected to air later this year on BBC First).
She also plans a TV adaption of Janice Y.K. Lee’s bestselling novel The Expatriates, about three women living the expat life in Hong Kong.
Kidman, who is also producing a film of Moriarty’s most recent novel Truly Madly Guilty, said she was drawn to the author’s light hand with serious issues, such as domestic violence and divorce.
“There’s other issues in this as well. There’s sexual assault, there’s being a single mother, raising a child on your own,” she said.
“All of those things are just fantastic things to be talking about. I’m just glad that they’re in a seven-hour series that people seem to want to see because it’s not … something that’s incredibly didactic and heavy handed. This is funny, it’s poignant and it’s devastating.”
BIG LITTLE LIES
TOMORROW, NOON/7.30PM, ON FOXTEL’S SHOWCASE CHANNEL
Dream team: From left, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon at the BigLittleLies premiere in Los Angeles.