Based on the bestseller of the same name by Liane Moriarity, written for television and created by David E. Kelley, and with the season directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, the HBO seven-episode series Big Little Lies is as highly addicting and entertaining, as it is well done and expertly acted. Set in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, where nothing is quite as it seems, the story follows Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley), and their lives and friendships, as rumors, conflicts, secrets and betrayals threaten to compromise everything between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Zoë Kravitz (who plays Bonnie, the sensitive soul with a strong moral compass who’s married to Madeline’s ex-husband) talked about how well the book transferred to screenplay, reading the book before reading the scripts, what she thinks of her character, the dynamic between Bonnie and Madeline, and what it was like to be on set with so many strong, talented women. She also talked about being a part of the Fantastic Beasts franchise and all of the intense secrecy, as well as the type of work she’s hoping to do, in the future.
Collider: When you read this script, was it as addicting, as a reader, as it is for the viewer?
ZOE KRAVITZ: I read the first three episodes, at first, but I also read the book, so I knew where it was going. It was transferred well, from book to screenplay, and I knew it was going to get better and better, which it did. There’s such interesting, weird stuff coming.
Had you been familiar with the book prior to finding out about the show?
KRAVITZ: No. It was one of those things where, once it came to my attention, I realized I had definitely seen it in the front of a bookstore or at the airport, or as Oprah’s book of the week, but I hadn’t read it. I read it right before I met Jean-Marc Vallée, before I’d even read the scripts, just ‘cause I knew they wanted to meet with me and I wanted to know what I was walking into. I was hooked. The book is great. It’s the kind of writing that should be turned into a screenplay.
Were there any major changes, between the book and the scripts?
KRAVITZ: There’s not too many major changes. There’s the location, but I think the way that they changed it is great. With all of the couples you see in the interrogation room, they elevated it, in ways. It was very important to Jean-Marc and Reese that there be diversity. In the book, Bonnie is white and blonde. So, they modernized it a little bit, which is great.
Bonnie seems like the most centered, moral and normal person, out of all these characters. What did you think her?
KRAVITZ: She is, in a lot of ways. You’ll see what happens towards the end, and she obviously has her own demons, but I felt for her. All of these characters are written and presented in a way where the audience thinks they know who they are, when they first meet them, but the beauty of the story is that you learn about these characters and they unravel in ways where you realize that you’re judging them. That’s how we are, in the world. You meet me and you’re like, “Oh, she’s this kind of person.” And I meet you and I decide that you’re another kind of person. If you spend time with that person, like you do in this show with these characters, you see that there’s so much more going on with everyone. It’s a lesson in compassion and judgement.
Madeline is a bit high strung and neurotic, especially when it comes to Bonnie, but it’s understandable since she’s the new woman in her ex-husband’s life.
KRAVITZ: I understand that. I understand why Bonnie would be a threat, and also be annoying. The nicer she is, the more annoying she is. I’ve been in that situation where I’m like, “Oh, you’re so nice, it makes me upset!” And then, the more you learn about Bonnie, you see that she really is coming from a genuine place and that she’s frustrated because she’s hitting this wall. The nicer she tries to be, the more resistance she’s met with. I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation, where someone has a problem with you, and you’re trying and trying, but the more you try, the more you distance yourself from that person. It’s interesting. Bonnie could have very easily been written as a one-dimensional character. She’s the young, hot wife, and she’s annoying ‘cause she’s so nice, and it could have ended there. But you actually end up having compassion for her and her struggle, and her desire to have fluidity. She just wants them to be a functioning family.
Do you think Bonnie just wants them to all get along and stop the bickering?
KRAVITZ: Yeah, she’s all about harmony. I think she has compassion for Madeline and understands why it’s difficult for her. She’s not completely unaware. She knows that she’s younger and that Nathan is in a different place with her. She’s treating her differently than he was able to treat Madeline. But, she’s not the bad guy. The beautiful thing about these characters is that you see the common ground with all of them, by the end of the story. They really are all dealing with a lot of the same struggles. It’s more about the different ways they deal with them.
What kind of mother is Bonnie?
KRAVITZ: The thing with Bonnie is that she seems very at ease. I don’t think she’s trying to force anything or control anything. The issue that a lot of the other mothers are having is from their need to control everything. That is what sets Bonnie apart, and that might be an age thing, too. She doesn’t feel like she needs to prove anything right now. She’s just easing into motherhood. The relationships she seems to have with her husband, her step-daughter and her daughter seem to be organic. I don’t think she’s trying to force anything or prove anything, or make her daughter the best at anything. It’s more of a relaxed approach to parenting.
Do you think she has friends outside of this group?
KRAVITZ: That’s a good question. I feel like there’s a loneliness to Bonnie. Maybe she moved to Monterey from where she was living with friends that were closer to her age and her lifestyle. It seems like there’s this feeling of being misplaced and an outcast, which I think is part of why she does want to get along with people and be accepted. She knows that she’s the black sheep of this group of women. It seems like she’s chosen her family over being in an environment that would maybe be more comfortable to her.