Secrets behind Big Little Lies’ new series
It's the unlikely Hollywood clique that took audiences by surprise: a motley crew of characters that made Big Little Lies a runaway success.
The award-winning HBO series features neurotic busybody Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), abused housewife Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), and young mum Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), all dealing with their own secrets … and lies.
Add to that laid-back yoga guru Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) and resident drama queen Renata (Laura Dern), and Big Little Lies' first season - which screens on Foxtel in Australia - was one of the breakout hits of 2017.
Late in 2017, HBO announced the show would return for another season, in part due to huge viewer demand, and it will finally premiere in Australia on June 10.
Known for its darkly comedic script ("I love my grudges, I tend to them like little pets") and dreamy styling, including a seriously enviable set wardrobe, Big Little Lies was a ratings and on-demand streaming hit both in the US and Australia.
Such was the critical success of Big Little Lies that it won eight Emmys and four Golden Globes, including acting accolades for Kidman, Dern and Alexander Skarsgard (who starred as Celeste's abusive husband Perry Wright).
The TV series was based on the book of the same name by Australian author Liane Moriarty, who penned a "novella" on which the second series is based.
Though the manuscript will not be released publicly, it was used as the framework for Hollywood mega-screenwriter David E. Kelley when he wrote the plot and scripts for the second series.
Kidman and Witherspoon, who are also the show's executive producers, are reprising their roles as Celeste and Madeline, along with Woodley (Jane), Kravitz (Bonnie) and Dern (Renata) and most of the characters from the first series, including Madeline's husband Ed (Adam Scott) and her ex, Nathan (James Tupper).
The first of seven new episodes will pick up where the first series ended - in the aftermath of Perry's death.
The circumstances surrounding his murder on the steps at Otter Bay Elementary School, during an Elvis and Audrey Hepburn-themed fancy dress fundraiser, lead detectives to investigate the women, dubbed "the Monterey five".
"It's going to get us, it's going to get us all," Bonnie says to Madeline in the trailer.
Madeline looks puzzled: "What are we talking about?"
"The lie," Bonnie responds. Cue the show's eerie opening credits song, Cold Little Heart, and the lyric, "Did you ever want it? Did you want it bad?"
In an image from the series two trailer, the women appear to be suspects in the police probe, and are seen wearing their Hepburn-inspired costumes in a police line-up.
One huge addition to the cast is Oscar-winner Meryl Streep in the role of Perry's mother, Mary Louise Wright.
She storms into the affluent Californian coastal town "concerned for the wellbeing of her grandchildren following her son Perry's death and on the hunt for answers", according to HBO.
"My son is dead. I want to know what happened that night. I'm very tempted to ask you. But I don't think I would get the truth, would I?", Mary Louise says to Madeline in the trailer.
The plot, though kept largely under wraps, is said to "explore the malignancy of lies, the durability of friendships, the fragility of marriage and vicious ferocity of sound parenting".
Kidman has previously said the second season will "have its own tone and own story".
"We follow all of the women in-depth now, which is fantastic," she told Entertainment Tonight.
"It twists and turns … but it's hopefully very authentic and truthful of where these women are in this stage of their lives."
NEW FACES REVEALED
Oscar-winner Streep stars Mary Louise Wright, the mother of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard), who turns up in Monterey looking for answers about her son's death.
Skarsgard - whose abusive character Perry died at the end of the first season - is expected to appear in the new series via flashbacks.
"I was on set, yes. I can't disclose what I did on set," Skarsgard told The Tonight Show. "Maybe I was acting. I might have been just moral support. I might have just made coffee for the ladies.
"I might have helped Meryl Streep with her acting … Not help, but just give her little pointers, finetune it a bit," the former True Blood star joked.
There are also a string of other new characters joining the cast.
Martin Donovan and Crystal Fox play Bonnie's parents Martin and Elizabeth Howard, with Fox's character noted as a "controlling and emotionally abusive mother".
Mo McRae plays a teacher named Michael Perkins, who becomes a source of controversy for Renata (Dern) when her daughter, Amabella, has a panic attack over his climate change lesson.
Douglas Smith has also been added to the cast, in the role of Corey Brockfield, an "offbeat surfer, aspiring marine biologist and Jane's (Shailene Woodley) co-worker".
A fluffy Samoyed dog named "Jolly" also joined the show, after appearing in social media posts with the cast.
Big Little Lies' second series premieres screens on Foxtel's Showcase on June 10 at 11am. It is repeated at 8.30pm.