Reese attended the Television Critics Association Winter Tour on Friday, to preview her upcoming Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere. Reese’s co-star/co-executive producer Kerry Washington, and writer and co-executive producer Liz Tigelaar joined her for the panel. They talked about developing roles for women, the complexity of the characters and storylines, and how producing their own projects opens up more opportunities for them. Reese wore a chic black outfit by Michael Kors for the panel.
We have the first photos in our Gallery for you:
• Hulu Winter TCA Press Tour x48
Witherspoon, Washington team in front of and behind camera
Tired of others influencing her career choices, Reese Witherspoon launched her own production company eight years ago. She has been calling the shots on both sides of the camera ever since, often in collaboration with other high-profile actresses.
“I didn’t see a place to exist within the industry that we had,” she said. “There just wasn’t a spectrum of storytelling for women that I felt like was representative of the world that we walk through.”
Her company Hello Sunshine generates most of what Witherspoon does when she isn’t working with streaming services like Hulu. Starting in March, it airs “Little Fires Everywhere,” based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller, with Witherspoon and Kerry Washington playing mothers living in Ohio in the late 1990s. Both women were executive producers as well.
“We really shared all responsibility. That extends to every script, every nuance, every costume design, every cut of every episode,” Witherspoon told a TV critics meeting on Friday.
Washington said, “I don’t know why we can’t be in charge of blockbusters.”
An unintentional impact of the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment has been bringing women in Hollywood together to act, produce and direct on the same projects, Washington said.
“We’ve been able to grow our friendships and also grow our professional relationships,” she said. “As producers we get to employ hundreds and hundreds of artists and activists, and now we can do it in environments that are safe and have values that embody our values.”
Besides Washington, Witherspoon has worked with Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman.
“We all remark about how much things have changed,” Witherspoon said. “We are put in a position of respect for our ideas, and that is a new world for us.”
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Team Talks Adapting Themes of Motherhood and Race, Importance of Inclusive Writers’ Room
When Reese Witherspoon first read Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel “Little Fires Everywhere,” she was struck by the very many complex themes around motherhood and womanhood, as well as race and class portrayed within the pages. In wanting to adapt it for the screen through her Hello Sunshine banner, she knew she needd a true partner with whom she could have “many conversations” and would “actually…show up and do the work,” she said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the Hulu limited series Friday.
In looking for someone who would share “equal parts and equal responsibility and leadership” entered Kerry Washington. Both women star in the adaptation and also executive produce.
“As producers we get to employ hundreds and hundreds of artists and activisits and we can do that in environments that are safe and embody our values,” Washington noted.
Added Witherspoon: “Choices used to be made for me a lot. About eight years ago, she “wasn’t happy with the choices that were ebeing made for me and I didn’t see a place to exist within the industry that we had. There just wasn’t a spectrum of storytelling for women that was reflective the world that we walked through.” That inspired her to launch her first company, Type A Films. Hello Sunshine followed, in 2016. “I had no idea the world would open up for us.”
“Little Fires Everywhere” centers on Witherspoon’s Elena, a wealthy wife, mother and reporter who also dabbles in rental properties — including to Washington’s Mia, a single mother and artist who moves around a lot and has a secret in her past. While the novel deals in the aforementioned themes of class and race, especially as Mia helps an immigrant try to find the infant daughter she regrets giving up and Elena’s lawyer husband (played by Joshua Jackson) gets involved in that custody case, Washington’s casting pushed race further into the forefront of the story.
“It does complicate, but it also enriches, I think,” Washington said. “The book really does delve into class and sociopolitical differences and cultural differences, so I think adding the level of race to that really enriches the storytelling. We are stepping away from this binary idea we have of race in this country — of black and white — because we’re also dealing with Asian American identity and immigrant identity.”
All of this, she continued, is “embodied in these very rich women — these women you know or you love or you hate or they make you feel closer to them because you are them or make you feel like you have no idea how they got to who they are.”
In order to adapt this story, Liz Tigelaar (“Life Unexpected,” “Casual”) was brought in to showrun. Tigelaar met with Ng and kicked around some ideas, including wanting to amplify Elena’s daughter Izzy’s (Megan Stott) story to include more of an exploration about her sexuality.
“When I read that character and relating to that character, although I probably wasn’t as much as a rebel as I thought I was, it just seemed so obvious to me that she could be a girl in this town at this time, at this age, with this mother who could be living in a world that feels like such a facade,” Tigelaar said.
When she pitched Ng the idea that Izzy would be struggling with identity and her sexuality, the response was excitement and that Ng “totally thought that for Izzy [but] just thought there wasn’t room in the book.” With eight episodes for the Hulu limited series, Tigelaar knew they had the real estate to get into it. But furthermore, she loved how that story would then open up more ways in which Izzy bonds with Mia.
“I loved the different things that she could teach Mia about herself,” she explained. In turn, Mia could be an example for Izzy to “grow up to be your own person and find your own place and don’t have to live in a cookie cutter version of your mother and feel like you’re failing all of the time.”
In adapting Ng’s novel, Tigelaar said she “really felt like she was passing me this baton with permission to run with it.” Ng came into the writers’ room as they were about halfway through breaking the series, she continued, to teach them about the real Shaker Heights. Additonally, Ng was sent every script so she could take a “Shaker Heights pass” on it for authenticity.
“She wrote the song, but we were writing the cover,” Tigelaar said.
In the big ways, though, the show will follow the book, Tigelaar noted, especially in how Mia and Elena “hold a mirror up to each other.” They may “mother very differently, they live their lives very differently,” but “there are similarities between them that get set off by coming into each others’ lives,” she said. “We are getting to the core of how we operate as mothers and how we operate as humans in the world.”
A key line that embodies the series, Tigelaar said, is one that says Mia “didn’t make choices, she had choices.” This was written by Attica Locke and is one example of why the series’s writers’ room was the place she was most proud of in the show.
In assembling the room, Tigelaar wanted to make sure to “match the racial landscape of the book” with voices behind-the-scenes.
“What was amazing about the room and is why it moves me so much, [is that] everybody had these multiple connectivity points for the show. I can’t necessarily write Mia’s character because that wasn’t my exprience,” Tigelaar admitted. “And the parts I couldn’t write to, what was so great was I got to bring in seven other people who could write to those parts and then write to parts I didn’t even know [would exist].”
As an adopted daughter, biological mother, bisexual woman and woman who was raised in the 1990s, Tigelaar noted that Izzy was a character who came easily to her: “I can write to those longings and those wishes and those fantasies.” The room as a whole, Tigelaar shared, was made up of “mostly mothers” with one lone father, and many people who were adopted and/or in different versions of foster care growing up, as well as many people who were raised by single parents and who were in biracial relationships now.
“One lived on the border of Shaker Heights, that was a real score,” she laughed.
But more seriously, she added, “No one was there for one thing or to be the voice of one race or one anything. Everyone was there to bring their whole experience to it and to have really hard, challenging conversations about what mattered to them.”
“Little Fires Everywhere” premieres Mar. 18 on Hulu.
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ EPs On Hulu’s Limited Series: “It’s A Lot To Unpack” – TCA
Hollywood heavyweights Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington made a stop at the TCA winter press tour Friday to present their new Hulu limited series Little Fires Everywhere, based on the bestseller by Celeste Ng.
The pair star in and executive produce the series, which follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. The story explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger in believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
“From the beginning, the book does delve into class and sociopolitical differences and cultural differences,” Washington said. “The book does a really good job of stepping away from this binary idea of race we have in this country, which is black and white, because we’re also dealing with Asian identity, immigrant identity and class. It’s a lot to unpack.”
She continued: “It’s wonderful because all these issues are present, but they’re really embodied in these very rich women. These characters are women you know and you love or you hate or make you feel closer to them because you are them or they make you feel you have no idea how they became who they are because they are so real.”
Witherspoon, who discovered the book before it was published in 2017, brought Washington aboard after “looking for a project to do with Kerry for a long time.”
“When I read the book,” Witherspoon said, “it had so many themes in it that were very complex, and I knew whoever was going to be my partner I wanted to have many conversations that carry these performances together.” She said her first instinct was to figure who was going to “show up and do the work,” and Washington was the perfect fit.
“Everything she does she brings a grace to it and an intellectual aspect to it,” Witherspoon said. “She deepens the conversation. So I knew I wanted to go on this journey with her.”
Both women agreed that their similar work ethic and trust made the process of working together seamless.
“There’s not a lot of people in this business that I trust with my full inner life the way that I trust Reese,” Washington said. “On a project like this, it’s important. In order to bring as much truth as we could to these characters and these performances, we had to explore some of our personal stuff and share our personal experiences. … We really revealed ourselves to each other. I never felt in that nakedness we were unsafe.”
Witherspoon and Washington were joined onstage by Little Fires Everywhere showrunner and executive producer Liz Tigelaar, who talked about putting together a writers room that was reflective of the “racial landscape of the book.”
“I knew when I read the book that, in assembling a writers room, I wanted the racial landscape of the writers room to match the racial landscape of the book. That was a no-brainer going in,” Tigelaar said. “What was amazing about the room is that everybody had these multiple connectivity points for the show.”
She added: “No one was there to be the voice of one race or one anything. Everybody was there to bring their whole selves and experience to it and have really hard challenging personal conversations about what mattered to them. For a lot of us, that’s getting to the core of how we operate as mother and humans in the world.”
Little Fires Everywhere premieres March 18.
“We had been looking for a project to do with Kerry for a long time,” Witherspoon said at the Television Critics Association presentation on Friday. “When I read the book, it just had so many themes that were very complex and I knew whoever was going to be my partner… who was going to show up to do the work because it’s a lot of work. The first person who I thought was perfect was Kerry. She deepens the conversation and I knew I wanted to go on this journey with her. It just made sense that we were representing completely different kinds of women and different kinds of mothering but both with dignity and respect.”
“Adding the layer of race to that really enriches the storytelling,” Washington added. “The book also deals with race and does a great job of stepping away from the binary idea of race.”
Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon: Why can’t women be in charge of blockbusters?
Kerry Washington wants to know why working in blockbusters and being in charge of her career should be mutually exclusive.
When a reporter asked the star if she planned to keep producing her own work or appear in blockbuster films, she had a simple response.
“I don’t know why we can’t be in charge of blockbusters,” Washington said at the Television Critics Association Friday. “Why are they mutually exclusive questions?”
Washington and Reese Witherspoon partner as stars and producers on Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” (premiering March 18), based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestselling novel of the same name, and both champion the ability to carve their own destinies in an industry that has long been incredibly controlling of women.
“Choices used to be made for me a lot,” Witherspoon said. “I made a conscious decision about eight years ago to start my own company because I wasn’t happy with the choices that were being made for me, and I didn’t see a place for me to exist in the industry that we have.”
Starting her production company, Hello Sunshine, about the same time as the streaming boom began made it easier for Witherspoon to create TV shows and films.
It “has changed my entire experience, and now I primarily generate everything that I do … which wasn’t possible eight years ago, she said.” Recent co-stars Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston “remarked about how much things have changed. … We’re just going to keep going and keep doing it.”
Women in Hollywood were often separated from each other, Washington said. An unintentional benefit of the anti-sexual-harassment Time’s Up movement has been bringing women together, allowing them to collaborate on more and different projects.
“One of the extraordinary impacts of the Time’s Up movement is that so many of us came together to try to champion the cause of equity and safety in the workplace. But when we came together we were no longer siloed,” the “Scandal” star said. “In that sisterhood, we got to ask each other how can we get together to create.”
Washington and Witherspoon chose to work together on “Little Fires,” in which they play mothers with radically different attitudes toward work and family in Ohio in 1997.
“I think from the beginning, the book really delves into class and sociopolitical differences and cultural differences,” Washington said. “And I think adding race into that (and) stepping away from the binary idea of race in this country … it’s a lot to unpack. … It’s wonderful because all of these issues are present, but they’re really embodied in these really (complex) women.”
Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington Face Off in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Trailer
Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington go head-to-head in the newly released trailer for their upcoming Hulu drama, Little Fires Everywhere.
The eight-episode limited series, which is an adaptation of Celeste Ng’s best-selling book of the same name, will debut on the streamer March 18. Ahead of the show’s launch, stars Witherspoon and Washington and showrunner Liz Tigelaar were on hand at the Television Critics Association press tour to field questions about the project.
During their half-hour on stage, the two actors praised each other for their shared work ethic and commitment to hands-on producing. Washington credited Time’s Up for bringing her together with actresses like Witherspoon and opening the door to collaborating together, while Witherspoon reflected on the fact that a show like Little Fires, starring two complicated female leads, likely wouldn’t have been made a decade ago.
Tigelaar, for her part, shared what it was like to have Ng involved in the adaptation. “It was not stressful,” said the writer, who noted that the author often told people that she may have written the song but that they were writing an amazing cover. “I felt like she was passing me the baton and asking me to run with it.”
The show follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family (lead by Witherspoon) and an enigmatic mother (played by Washington) and daughter who upend their lives. In the fiery clip released today, Witherspoon’s character says, “A good mother makes good choices,” to which Washington’s character responds, “You didn’t make good choices, you had good choices.”
Though the trailer shows them locked in conflict, the real-life buddies appeared together and very much unified at the Television Critics Association press tour Friday. The actor-producers got into a veritable love fest as they talked about the series and why they wanted to work together on bringing Celeste Ng’s 2017 best-selling novel of the same name to life. “It was a great partnership,” said Witherspoon, who, like Washington, is an executive producer on the series. “I love that Kerry works as hard as I do.”
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets and, per the show’s official description,”the danger in believing that following the rules can avert disaster.” Washington said that, because of the nature of the story’s racial and socio-political elements, they had to bare themselves and reveal intimate personal details, as women, as mothers, as wives. “We really revealed ourselves,” Washington said of her working relationship with Witherspoon. “I trust her.”