Big Little Lies stars and executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman praised director Andrea Arnold for her work with the cast during Season 2 of the HBO hit while echoing comments made by the network's programming chief amid controversy over whether Arnold lost creative control to Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée.
"In our minds, there is no controversy," Witherspoon told Entertainment Weekly in a joint interview with Kidman published Sunday. "We just love the show. We had such a great time doing it."
On July 12, Indiewire published a story claiming Vallée, who directed the entire first season of the HBO hit, had taken over the editing process during post-production, leaving Arnold "heartbroken" since it wasn't communicated to her that Vallée would be so heavily involved with her work. (Vallée didn't direct Season 2, in part, because he was busy with HBO's Sharp Objects.) While none of the key players — including Arnold, Vallée, and writer and executive producer David E. Kelley, among them — provided official comment to Indiewire, HBO did release the following statement to address the article's claims: "There wouldn't be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself."
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Witherspoon and Kidman echoed the idea that Season 2 was a big collaboration between a number of parties. "There was a lot of misinformation and no credited sources on any of the information," Witherspoon said, in reference to the original Indiewire piece. "This was an incredibly collaborative process for all of us and the idea that anyone was mistreated and not communicated with is completely not true."
Said Kidman: "David E. Kelley is the creator and I would say Jean-Marc is the heartbeat, and Andrea came into season 2 and brought the most tender, beautiful care and warmth to us as women. That was the unbelievable collaboration of these artists. We are lucky to work with these great artists who are willing to intertwine their talents."
Witherspoon and Kidman's remarks come on the heels of HBO programming chief Casey Bloys telling reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour last week that Big Little Lies Season 2 was "business as usual" for a television series.
"As anybody who works in television knows, a director typically does not have final creative control, so the idea that creative control was taken from a director is a false premise," Bloys said, addressing what he called "misinformation." According to the HBO boss, Arnold was "never promised she would have free rein" on the show nor that her director's cuts would reach the network's platforms. "I'd be hard-pressed to point to any show that airs a director's cut as its episodes. It's typically raw material producers work from," he said.
"I was glad that Casey spoke so clearly about that and we are thrilled with the collaboration that yielded this season. It could have never been this show had it not been with these particular artists collaborating on this particular material," Witherspoon told Entertainment Weekly.
Big Little Lies wrapped up its second season with its biggest audience yet and ended on a massive cliffhanger. But despite that success and story potential, Season 3 remains unconfirmed and Bloys downplayed the idea during TCA. "There's no obvious place to go, no obvious story," he said, while adding that if the creative team came to him with "the greatest take" he'd be open to more episodes.
And what does that creative team think? "We work as a group. We are incredibly tight; we talk to each other, and we are on each other's side," Kidman told EW about any Season 3 plans. "So, we will decide as a group. We listen to the way in which people react because so much of TV is a very immediate medium. Every single person who has made this has said this show is bigger than any single one of us."
Previously, Kidman said about Season 3, "I think we would love to do a Season 3 because there are certainly ideas. But we would not do it without all of the same people involved... even the kids."