Fears … Nicole Kidman stars in new season of HBO drama series, Big Little Lies. Picture: Foxtel/HBO
Fears … Nicole Kidman stars in new season of HBO drama series, Big Little Lies. Picture: Foxtel/HBO

Kidman pushed to edge in Big Little

THEY were some of the most intense scenes which pushed Nicole Kidman to the edge and brought the brutal truth of her abusive relationship with Alexander Skarsgard to light in the mega hit, Big Little Lies.

Now - in this first look at season two - it can be revealed the fears held for the "fragile" Oscar-winning actress by the woman charged with playing her therapist in the psychological thriller, returning to air next week on Foxtel.

Kidman's Emmy and Golden Globe-winning role in the HBO drama series was celebrated for the light it shone on domestic violence survivors and the crippling emotional and physical pain they endure.

While her on-screen husband's role was doomed by the end of season one, Kidman's character, Celeste Wright is left to carry the burden of grief, guilt and an unthinkable bond to her dead spouse and abusive partner.

 

Leading ladies: (from left) Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep at the BLL season two premiere in New York. Picture: Getty Images
Leading ladies: (from left) Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep at the BLL season two premiere in New York. Picture: Getty Images

With his mother - played with majesty and menace by Meryl Streep - imposing herself on the young widow and her friendship circle in the wealthy Californian enclave of Monterey, under the guise of helping to care for her grandsons, Celeste is forced to seek a safe place to unravel in the treatment rooms of her counsellor, Dr Amanda Reisman.

Speaking to News Corp Australia at the series' New York premiere last week, Robin Weigert, who plays Dr Reisman, feared any small misstep on her part might "trigger" Kidman or "drive her from the room" in a real "flight or fright" response.

"I would really have these thoughts," Weigert said, " because it remained a possibility that I could trigger her and she would leave. That kept those scenes vital."

Kidman would stay in character with Weigart, "98 per cent of the time on set" so as to maintain the emotional intensity of their scripted relationship.

"She'd come straight to set loaded for bear," Weigart said, "and I'd come to set ready to receive her and we would plunge in."

A teaser from season two: Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Renata (Laura Dern) in a police line-up — still wearing their clothes from the party that ended season one.
A teaser from season two: Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Renata (Laura Dern) in a police line-up — still wearing their clothes from the party that ended season one.

It's just one snapshot of the next level Kidman and her BLL co-stars - Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley - take the new season and the ferocity of their performances.

These are no Desperate Housewives, but in the hands of this unparalleled, female-focused ensemble delivers some of the most powerful TV fans will see this year.

Adapted from a "novella" written by Sydney author Liane Moriaty and fleshed out by Boston Legal and Ally McBeal creator, David E Kelley, this is rare drama - where no scene is wasted, no character an afterthought and the minor characters - the men, children and supporting staff at Otter Elementary and surrounds - all have a pivotal role to play in this carefully threaded narrative, full of murder and intrigue.

A scene from season two featuring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. Picture: Jennifer Clasen/HBO
A scene from season two featuring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. Picture: Jennifer Clasen/HBO

While Streep brings to the small screen all the nuanced talent and effortless genius she has turned into box office gold and Oscar nominations over the years, it is Kidman as the battered wife, turned plagued widow who delivers the performance of a lifetime.

Invested body and soul in the material since buying the rights to the book back in 2017, Kidman is in this deep, holding her own and then some with Streep - one minute a mewling victim, still cowered by the psychological scar her husband has left; and the next, exploding in a blinding rage that shocks the audience but also seems to scare the star herself.

If there remains any question of Kidman's remarkable acting ability, whether her own insecurities or the reflex responses of bitter and twisted critics, they will surely be buried under the weight of her mighty performance in this new season - no doubt about it.