Take two megawatt executive producers, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Add a pair of Hollywood’s most zeitgeisty twentysomethings, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz. Throw in a blockbuster novel about a group of upper-middle-class mothers of kindergartners roiled by sexual violence, class issues, ageism, and…murder! (That’d be Liane Moriarty’s 2014 Big Little Lies.) The result is an HBO miniseries that, even in this big-budget, high-minded small-screen era, we’ve never seen before: a seven-part thriller that looks like a movie, feels like a movie—and packs enough woman power to populate the Oscars’ front row—but grips like only episodic TV can.
For more on ELLE’s Women in TV honorees, pick up the February issue on newsstands nationwide January 17.
On shooting sex scenes in Big Little Lies:
So many of the bruises you see on me aren’t fake. I had to do a shower scene where you would see a lot of them, and I asked them not to put makeup on me. It needed to be pretty raw and out there. There’s certain choreography that you need for a scene like that, so that you don’t actually get your cheekbone shattered, but a lot of the time, they’d say, ‘Oh, you can put some pads in your back,’ and I would say no, because you might be able to see them. I also felt that the nudity was a part of it. It wasn’t about exploitation. It really feeds into their relationship. You really get their sexuality through that.
On her costar Shailene Woodley:
She’s politically engaged, which is surprising for someone her age and in her career. She’s very, very responsible. She’s good at keeping her boundaries and standing up for herself. If she doesn’t believe in something, she says so. I could probably have learned from that at her age. I don’t think I stood up for myself in the same way she does. Reese and I have both said it: It’s a whole different world now. When we were growing up, we were far more protected, but we weren’t as empowered. We weren’t connected through knowledge, which is what social media gives you.