‘Big Little Lies’ actresses dish on Meryl Streep joining the show as ma-in-law from hell
LOS ANGELES—“My mother-in-law or Meryl Streep?” Nicole Kidman asked aloud with a laugh. Of course, the question was about La Streep as Nicole’s ma-in-law from hell in HBO’s “Big Little Lies.”
The series about a circle of emotionally troubled women in Monterey, California has scooped Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards since its debut.
Meryl, regarded as the world’s preeminent actress, has joined the crime-drama-mystery series as Mary Louise Wright, the mom of Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), Celeste’s (Nicole) abusive, manipulative husband.
At the end of Season One, Perry died at the hands of Celeste and her friends, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Renata (Laura Dern) and Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz).
In Season Two, Meryl’s Mary Louise arrives to investigate what happened to her son.
“I have known Meryl for years,” Nicole said about the award-winning actress with whom she costarred in “The Hours” but they did not have screen time. So this is the Aussie actress’ first time to act opposite Meryl.
“The thing to be said about Meryl is that she didn’t read the script first,” said Nicole, who is one of the series’ producers, which include Reese, David E. Kelley and Jean-Marc Vallee.
“She signed on to do this because she wanted to support us. That’s extraordinary, and that is her career that she’s betting with us and going, ‘OK, I don’t need to know what this is going to be, I just want to be a part of it and just want to support you.’
“As soon as she did that, it gave validity to having a Season Two. It suddenly became worldwide news that Meryl Streep was going to be in Season Two. So she gave us so much just by doing that.
“As an actor, she comes in, and there’s nobody better. I say she is the queen because she really is. Meryl walks on the set. She has one hair and makeup guy, who she pretty much had her whole life. She knows all her lines and is completely prepared. There are no airs. She’s rigorous with the work. Then she says, ‘Yeah, let’s go grab a bite to eat’ or ‘Let’s go out.’ Then she goes home, gets a good sleep and comes back to work.
“That technique, discipline and talent are why Meryl is where she is at. She does not rest on any laurels. I love saying that because she is at a stage where, if anyone could, they could just cruise in and out and still do a great performance. She doesn’t do that.
“You act opposite her and she’s listening, thinking and changing. So for me, she is heaven to work with. I would do anything with her in a heartbeat.”
As for her real mother-in-law—singer Keith Urban’s mom—Nicole said in this interview in New York, “I love my mother-in-law Marienne. She still lives in Queensland (Australia). Every time I look at her, I go, ‘Oh my God, Sunday (her first daughter with Keith) looks so much like you.’ So it’s been crazy because my oldest daughter looks so much like Keith’s mother. And Keith looks so much like his mother (laughs).”
Zoë Kravitz, who, along with Shailene Woodley, are among the two younger actresses in the main cast, spoke about having Meryl in the cast.
“It does feel a little different,” said the actress, singer and model. “I can’t speak for Shailene, but I was definitely quite nervous to be working with actresses of that caliber. Over the past couple of years, they’ve become some of my best friends. So, yeah, there’s a little more ease.”
Of the veteran actress, the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet remarked, “Meryl Streep is absolutely amazing. She’s everything you want her to be. I think she knows that people are intimidated by her, so she does go out of her way to be approachable and be a part of the group. She’s wonderful. We all went to dinner, and she told funny stories. It was an honor to watch her work and get to know her a little bit.”
“I had met Meryl once before at a Time’s Up meeting, but that was it. I had never spent time with her before,” added the actress.
The first meeting with Meryl on the set of “Big Little Lies” was “wonderful,” according to Zoë, whom we interviewed separately, also in New York. “Meryl was just so happy to be there, which was crazy. To me, it’s crazy that she watched something that I’ve been in (laughs). So, it was great.”
Zoë added, “You can see that Meryl is still very interested in the work. That’s why she remains great. She’s not calling it in. She hasn’t gotten too comfortable. She still works, and that’s why her performances stay so alive.”
“Meryl is very talented, if you didn’t know,” Laura Dern quipped with a laugh. “I just want you to know, she’s a lovely young actress.”
Laura, interviewed in LA, recounted how she heard that the actor who holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations was joining the cast.
“We all got the news at the same time, that she was open to the idea, because we had this fantasy, wouldn’t it be great (to have Meryl), given that there was this new character that was being written,” Laura began. “And that was just incredible!
“At the time, Meryl and I were both working for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as in activism work. Reese and I were in touch with Meryl and doing work together in other areas. So, it was incredible to be around her at the time that she also had said yes and get to celebrate that gift.”
Laura shared her memorable first-ever encounter with Meryl—when she was only 15 and the Miss Golden Globe 1982 at Hollywood’s party of the year.
“During my Miss Golden Globe days, I met Meryl at the Golden Globe Awards. Meryl remembers it well, because I was coming out of the bathroom and Annett Wolf was there with me,” Laura recalled. “I bowed at Meryl’s feet. I said, ‘I just love you so much and I pray one day I get to act with you.’ So, without starting to cry, I will just say, it meant the world to me to be around her, all of us, in scenes together, and be in her company.
“Then, we left ‘Big Little Lies,’ and Meryl and I both worked on ‘Little Women.’ So, I had two experiences with her last year, which was just a dream come true. She’s extraordinary.”
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