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Reese Witherspoon on the myth of perfection: “People who are perfect are full of s**t”

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Kayleigh Dray
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It isn’t long until HBO’s Big Little Lies hits our television screens, and we genuinely thought we couldn’t be any more excited about the feminist drama series; not only does it star the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley, but it has also vowed to bring us strong, complex female characters and an endlessly gripping story.

Now, however, Witherspoon has piqued our interest even more, as she’s revealed that she was heavily involved in the creation of her character.



The 40-year-old actor is set to play Madeline Martha McKenzie, who was initially dubbed as the show’s ‘perfect wife’ character. However Witherspoon, being the badass we know and love, wasn’t content with her two-dimensional role and insisted on a rewrite.

“I didn’t have anything to play but perfection,” she explained to Variety, “and I just think those people who are perfect are full of s**t.”

While Witherspoon refused to elaborate on what those changes were, she added: “It mainly came out of me not having anything to really put my teeth into.

“I think there’s something fascinating about a person who projects perfection or is very judgemental of others… [they’re] clearly just swimming in their own discontentment.”

Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Big Little Lies weaves a complex tale about three mothers. Jane (Woodley), a single mother who recently moved to town, meets Madeline (Witherspoon) and Celeste (Kidman).



The pair take the younger women under their wing and into the gossip machine of Monterey’s wealthy seaside community. Cue betrayal, sex, and toxicity – and, yes, it does spiral out of control for a very frightening finale.

While the series was initially conceived as a film, Kidman has since confirmed that she and Witherspoon decided it would work far better as seven episodes.

“It needs the time to do justice to the five women,” she said. “We wanted the storylines to be evocative. We wanted them to be properly dealt with, and to squeeze it into two hours would have been tough.”

Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Nicole Kidman in HBO's Big Little Lies

Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Nicole Kidman in HBO's Big Little Lies

Witherspoon reunited with Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée for the series – a man who she has described as her ideal business and creative partner.

“I know he’s always going to demand the best, but I’m always going to bring my best,” she said. “We hold each other to those standards. We don’t have any artifice between us.”



However, while the project prides itself on creating incredible roles for women, there has been some criticism about the majority-male film crew.

To this, the Legally Blonde star has said: “Any woman who’s trying to lift other women up and create more work for women is literally just looking for parity.

“We’re not looking to completely take over projects. It’s just nice to have 50-50. You need male energy and female energy on every project. You need different races on every project.

“The deep mission to understand each other is what creates great art.”

Big Little Lies will be shown on  Sky Atlantic in March, although there’s no confirmed start date yet.

Images: Rex pictures / HBO

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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