Michael Idato.

Marlborough Express - - ENTERTAINMENT -

In the bright, breezy world of Big Lit­tle Lies, Made­line, Ce­leste, Jane, Re­nata and Bon­nie are women who seem to have it all. Be­tween them, friend­ship, fam­ily, af­flu­ence and free­dom.

But to scratch the sur­face of this seem­ingly per­fect pic­ture is to ex­pose the truth of the hu­man ex­is­tence: that many things are of­ten not what they seem, that much hu­man in­ter­ac­tion is per­for­mance and that beauty is only skin deep.

The book on which the drama is based, writ­ten by Liane Mo­ri­arty, was orig­i­nally set in an Aus­tralian beach­front sub­urb. In the tele­vi­sion se­ries Aus­tralia is re­placed with the sim­i­lar Cal­i­for­nia sur­round of Mon­terey.

‘‘Liane writes with such an Aus­tralian voice, which is why [writer] David E Kel­ley put an Amer­i­can voice into it, but the rea­son we hope it works around the world is it is deal­ing with global is­sues in terms of women,’’ Kid­man ex­plains dur­ing an in­ter­view in Los An­ge­les.

And de­spite the in­nate Aus­tralian-ness of the story, Kid­man was sur­prised how uni­ver­sal the char­ac­ters be­came when they were trans­planted from the north­ern beaches to north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. ‘‘I think when you re­ally get into it, they’re ac­tu­ally just women,’’ Kid­man says.

Film­ing the se­ries in Mon­terey was cen­tral to get­ting it right, she adds. ‘‘[It felt Aus­tralian] be­cause of where it’s set, the beach part of it,’’ Kid­man says. ‘‘It would have been much cheaper to have the thing just in LA, and sort of make it look like a beach town, to some­how fudge all that.’’

It is also im­por­tant to sur­ren­der the story to the artists pro­duc­ing it, in this case: writer Kel­ley and direc­tor Jean-Marc Vallee. ‘‘There’s a book and there’s a cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence and if you just shoot a book, great, but it’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to work,’’ Kid­man says.

‘‘You have to give it over to a direc­tor be­cause it’s a direc­tor’s medium,’’ she adds. ‘‘Liane was amaz­ing. That’s part of the process if you’re go­ing to get your lit­er­a­ture made into cin­ema.’’

The se­ries comes to the screen with an ex­tra­or­di­nary cast. Along­side Kid­man, who plays Ce­leste, is Reese Wither­spoon (Made­line), Shai­lene Wood­ley (Jane), Laura Dern (Re­nata) and Zoe Kravitz (Bon­nie).

Dur­ing its de­vel­op­ment, the project came to a pro­duc­tion joint ven­ture be­tween Wither­spoon and Aus­tralian pro­ducer Bruna Pa­pan­drea.

Aus­tralian nov­el­ist Liane Mo­ri­arty’s best­seller Big Lit­tle Lies has been trans­formed into a mod­ern tele­vi­sion mas­ter­piece, writes

‘‘The first time I read it, I just thought it was elec­tric,’’ Wither­spoon tells Fair­fax Me­dia. ‘‘It had this driv­ing nar­ra­tive that was this mys­tery and the mur­der at the very be­gin­ning and all th­ese in­ter­est­ing par­ent­ing dy­nam­ics.

‘‘And then as it sort of slowly opened up it be­came this very dense, com­plex ex­plo­ration of the fe­male ex­pe­ri­ence, the moth­er­hood ex­pe­ri­ence, and fe­male friend­ship, and that’s what sort of drew me to want­ing to bring it to the screen.’’

Kid­man says she was im­me­di­ately struck by the fact that the story had not just one great fe­male char­ac­ter – a short­age in it­self, in Hol­ly­wood, by any­one’s mea­sure – but five of them.

‘‘At first we were like, could you make it a movie? But, it suited [the tele­vi­sion] for­mat, and we were ex­cited about putting some­thing into that for­mat,’’ she says. ‘‘Ton­ally it’s tricky, as well, be­cause it’s funny, yet it’s deal­ing with re­ally im­por­tant is­sues.’’

The se­ries ex­plores a raft of is­sues, in­clud­ing bul­ly­ing and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Wither­spoon, who has three chil­dren, says a par­ent’s re­ac­tion to those sit­u­a­tions is im­pos­si­ble to an­tic­i­pate.

‘‘Ei­ther when your child is the child be­ing bul­lied or, when your child is ac­cused of some­thing,’’ Wither­spoon says. ‘‘I had a thing with one of my chil­dren where they were ac­cused of cheat­ing and I got so an­gry, I had no idea what was in­side of me.’’

Kid­man, who has four chil­dren, con­curs. ‘‘Usu­ally a piece is deal­ing with one thing, this deals with bul­ly­ing, it deals with sex­ual as­sault, it deals with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, it deals with sin­gle moth­er­hood, it deals with di­vorce, and how do you par­ent when

Star­ring Ni­cole Kid­man, Big Lit­tle Lies ex­plores a raft of is­sues, in­clud­ing bul­ly­ing and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

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