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Big Little Lies 2: who’s who in the cast of the second season

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Alexander Skarsgard in Big Little Lies

Do you know your Celestes from your Bonnies? Can you tell Madeline and Renata apart? Here’s your crib sheet on the characters of Big Little Lies, including just how much of a major role Alexander Skarsgård will play. 

The second season of Big Little Lies is almost upon us.

Is your body ready? Are you primed and prepped to dive back into the world of Monterey and the women who populate it? Are you ready to spend more time with Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Renata (Laura Dern), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) as they come to terms with what happened on that fateful night when Perry died? And what is going to happen in season two when Perry’s mother, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) turns up in town, demanding answers that the women don’t want to give?

Here are the key characters in season two of Big Little Lies, and this is what is in store for them this season: 

Celeste (Nicole Kidman)

As a victim of longterm emotional and physical abuse, Celeste will go into the second season in a much better place than in the first season. In the original episodes of Big Little Lies, Celeste was characterised by the secrets that she kept from her friends, from her therapist and from herself. But in the series finale, having finally been freed from her abusive marriage, Celeste was able to take the first steps towards a healthy, happy home life. 

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In the second season, we know that Celeste will continue to work with her therapist Dr Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert), the woman who was instrumental in helping Celeste end her abusive relationship with Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). But we also know that Perry’s mother Mary Louise is rolling into town, and with her all of the memories of Perry’s abuse.

Speaking of which…

Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) 

Celeste and Perry
Celeste and Perry

Perry died in the season finale of Big Little Lies, right? Right?

Well, according to a new interview with Kidman, he might have survived that fall and will return in season two. Kidman told People on the red carpet that Skarsgård “didn’t abandon us, we’ll put it that way,” before producers motioned for her to be quiet and stop spoiling the plot of the second season.

Did Perry survive? How could he have survived? Why did they have a funeral for him if he survived? All very good questions that we will only get an answer to once season two commences. Is Skarsgård present in flashbacks? Or does he play his cousin Saxon? (Big Little Lies book readers know that Perry’s cousin Saxon is the spit of Perry, and that Jane originally believes him to be her rapist. In the series, Saxon doesn’t figure as heavily as he does the book.)

In the Little Gold Men podcast, Vanity Fair writers Katey Rich, Joanna Robinson and Sonia Saraiya revealed just how much of a major role Skarsgård will play in the new episodes. “He’s in a lot of this season via flashbacks, dreams and videos recorded and stuff like that,” Robinson said.

“[He figures] way more than I expected,” Rich added. So much so, Saraiya likened his presence in the second season to “haunting” the women of Big Little Lies, particularly Celeste and Jane. Colour us intrigued. We can’t wait to see just how much of a starring role Skarsgård has in season two of Big Little Lies

Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) 

When Perry shuffled off his mortal coil, the position of the Big Little Lies villain became vacant. Enter Streep, who stepped in as Perry’s mother Mary Louise to shake up the world of Monterey. In the second season she is “deliciously evil” as a woman digging for the truth about her son’s death, squaring off against Madeline, Renata, Jane, Bonnie and especially Celeste in her quest for answers. 
Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies 2
Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies 2

We don’t know much about Mary Louise’s plotlines, and images of her on the set of Big Little Lies were scarce. Some of the only images featured Streep in a set of fake teeth walking away from Witherspoon’s character Madeline on the street. As Madeline’s face twisted in outrage, she lobbed an ice cream at Mary Louise’s head.

We can’t wait to watch that scene unfold in the series.

Madeline (Reese Witherspoon)

Madeline spent most of the first season in an affair with Joseph (Santiago Cabrera), a theatre director she was working with. Keeping the affair a secret from her husband Ed (Adam Scott) was tearing her relationships apart, and at the end of season one she still hadn’t levelled completely with him about her infidelity.

So where will that leave her in season two? We know from the trailer that Madeline is still up to her old tricks, antagonising fellow school parents and causing waves wherever she goes. Will she finally tell Ed about her affair? And what will happen to her marriage when she does? 

Jane (Shailene Woodley) 

Jane, Celeste and Madeline
Jane, Celeste and Madeline 

With Perry’s death, Jane was at last able to achieve some closure. She understood who the father of her child really was and she understood the pain that he had caused many other women, including her friend Celeste. The season finale felt like a powerful moment of moving forward for Jane.

We can see that in the early teasers for the second season, which show Jane starting a new relationship and spending time with her son Ziggy. The only problem, she tells Madeline, is that she hates lying to her son and misleading him. Will Jane tell Ziggy the truth about his father in season two? And if yes, how will that impact their relationship? And what about Celeste and Jane? Will their relationship get stronger, knowing that they were both victims of the same man? 

Renata (Laura Dern)

Renata spent most of season one at odds with the other women in Monterey, mostly by fighting with Madeline and Jane over the alleged violence against her daughter Amabella at the hands of Ziggy. (At the end of season one, we learn that it was Max, not Ziggy, who was hurting Amabella.)

Credit to Renata, when she discovered her error she went straight to Jane to apologise. She also sided with Celeste when Perry turned violent, something that shows where Renata’s heart truly is. Expect her to stand loyally with her friends in the second season.  

Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz)

Of the five main female characters, Bonnie was the most underexplored in season one. What do we really know about her, other than that she is a beautiful yoga instructor married to Nathan, Madeline’s first husband? And that, on principle, Madeline hates her guts? 

Bonnie and Madeline
Bonnie and Madeline

Over time, Madeline and Bonnie’s relationship improves, helped in part by Ed’s determination to build a bridge between the families. But when Bonnie pushed Perry down the stairs at the end of season one, many fans were wondering… why?

In the books, Bonnie’s actions are given more back story and history. As a victim of abuse herself, she responds strongly when she sees Perry launch herself at Celeste, and it’s fair to guess that the second season of Big Little Lies will see this aspect of Bonnie’s history explored further.

Bonnie is so much more than the cliché of the younger, attractive second wife, even if season one leant on that cliché pretty hard. (Remember how all the men stared at Bonnie dancing at the child’s birthday party? Remember how Madeline talked about Bonnie when she was alone with Celeste?) Hopefully, the second season will spend more time with this character who has become one of the most important on the series. To tell her story. And to give her back her voice. 

Season two of Big Little Lies airs in the US on HBO from 9 June and in the UK on Sky and NowTV from 10 June. 

Images: HBO

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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