5 Things We Learned From the ‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 Panel at TCA

Big Little Lies Season 2
Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley in ‘Big Little Lies’ season 2 (Photo: Jennifer Clasen/HBO)

Big Little Lies won’t return until June on HBO, but there won’t be a TCA between now and June so HBO brought the cast and writer David E. Kelley for a Television Critics Association panel on Friday. They’re still pretty tight lipped about what season two will entail, especially since this is uncharted territory after Liane Moriarty’s book.

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern and new cast member Meryl Streep joined Kelley on the panel. Get a preview of Big Little Lies season two below and look for it on HBO this summer.

1. The Monterey Five fracture pretty quickly.

Season two picks up right where the season finale left off, after the Monterey Five killed Celeste (Kidman)’s husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard). Now they’re all bound together telling the big little lie about how he died. That can’t last.

“When we come back, their lives, like all of our lives, seem very well put together on the surface but then the fissures and the fractures begin to emerge,” Kelley said. “There’s a big fault line that lies under all of it which is the event that happened at Trivia Night last year. Once the crevices start to widen, it escalates pretty quickly.”

Perry was abusive to Celeste, and that kind of trauma doesn’t just go away when he dies.

“We’ve talked about trauma and seen each other’s trauma, but how do we cope with it?” Witherspoon said. “How do we move on?”

Woodley, whose character Jane Chapman came to Monterey escaping abuse herself, related to the continuing PTSD.

“It feels very exciting and good for me to be able to portray a character who has had extreme trauma in her life and who now is able to work on the other end of that trauma,” Woodley said. “What does it look like once this ghost in her closet is gone? How does she cope with that and move forward in a way that’s healthy for herself and her son, while co-existing with women who maybe aren’t in the same boat as her, but moving forward are aligned or committed to standing with one another?”

2. Meryl Streep is Perry’s Mom.

Big Little Lies already had a who’s who of powerhouse female talent. Who could make it more powerful? Only Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. She joins the cast as Perry’s mother coming to investigate what happened to her son.

A clip shows Mary Louise (Streep) ask Madeline (Witherspoon) if she knows anything, but Mary Louise also says she doesn’t think Madeline would tell her the truth. So she’s onto Madeline, but Streep said she loves her daughter-in-law.

“The dynamic between Celeste and me, I do love her,” Streep said. “That’s the only thing I’ll tell you.”

Author Liane Moriarty wrote a new novella to be the basis of the second season. In creating the character of Mary Louise, she was trying to incept David E. Kelley to cast her in the show.

“She was sending a subliminal message to Meryl because she wanted her,” Kidman said. “So she wrote her character as Mary Louise. That was her message to you.”

3. Renata has friends now!

Renata (Laura Dern) was the enemy of all other mothers in Monterey even before she became suspicious of them. Renata had it out for anyone’s kids who weren’t her own. She led the charge against Jane’s son for grabbing her daughter.

After conspiring with the others to cover up Perry’s death, Renata has four BFFs now.

“It’s thrilling for Renata to have any friend,” Dern said. “I want to say how happy I was every day I had other people to talk to.”

Witherspoon marveled in Renata’s enthusiastic attempts to join the Monterey Five.

“It’s really cute to see Dern’s character so happy to have girlfriends,” Witherspoon said. “She wants to hang out and drink wine. She gives a lot of unsolicited advice.”

4. The Greek Chorus is gone.

Season one used the other gossiping parents as a sort of Greek chorus to comment on the proceedings and catch the audience up. Season two doesn’t need them anymore.

“The biggest difference for me with this one is we don’t have the Greek chorus this time,” Kelley said. “Am I allowed to say that? That fell away. That, I think, changes some of the tone of it.”

Kelley explained how he gradually gave up the chorus element by the end of season one.

“We felt last year the Greek chorus wanted to go away a little bit,” Kelley said. “Once the show intensified by show 3 or 4, you kind of wanted to live and breathe in that intensity. We pick up where we left off. Tonally it’s still a mix of comedy and drama, probably more dramatic than comedic this year than last season.”

5. Season 2 is really, really the end. Really.

The cast of Big Little Lies is happy to continue the story, and Kelley felt there was more story to tell. But he doesn’t see any more to tell after the conclusion of this season.

“It’s one and two and we like where our closure is at the end of season 2 so that will probably be it,” Kelley said.

Witherspoon reminded Kelley that he said the same thing about season one, and now they’re making a second.

“There’s no plan for it,” Kidman asserted. “I will say not to compare it to the first one, because artistically it’s a wonderful thing to take something and go okay, let’s jump off the cliff. At the same time it is its own entity and hopefully it will be taken in that way. It was made with an enormous amount of love.”