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Remote Controlled: Alexander Skarsgard on Being Hated for ‘Big Little Lies,’ and His Idea for Season 2

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Alexander Skarsgard, star of HBO’s hit show “Big Little Lies.”

In the critically acclaimed series, which finished its run back in April, Skarsgard played Perry Wright, the abusive husband of Celeste (Nicole Kidman). “It was a pretty intense shoot,” acknowledges the actor, who says he apologized to Kidman on a “daily basis” during filming. He also apologizes to the audience as well: “Yes, America, I’m sorry.” He admits he hasn’t yet watched it: “I had no idea how hated I was!”

Skarsgard says he signed on for the project immediately when it was presented to him. “It was a pretty easy decision when you have a great director, great co-star, and beautiful script, and a very interesting character,” he says. He wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of playing the villain. “I was really intrigued by their relationship and I thought it was an interesting opportunity to maybe try to play an abusive husband in a way that at least felt real,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like it can be a bit stereotypical and a bit cliché. And this was so rich and so layered. It’s a man who’s conflicted and he has these demons inside.”

Alexander Skarsgard photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

The actor says he tried to find some humanity in Perry, who has deep secrets that get revealed over the course of the series. “It was important to find some core of humanity, I think, in order for the audience to at least understand this character, not to empathize, but to understand him,” he says. “And at least acknowledge that he’s struggling or that he’s conflicted. And that he is in a lot of pain. Because otherwise I don’t think it’s interesting if you don’t get in there.”

Filming the fight scenes with Kidman was incredibly difficult, he says. “We had to check in with each other constantly,” he says. “And especially at the end of the day after a tough day like that to just hug and make sure that we’re OK. Because it’s incredibly tough to shoot those scenes for 10 hours, and then jump in the car and go home. You can’t shake that off.” He stayed with friends who had young children, who were like family to him. “That loving environment was tremendously important for me to have,” he says.

But while the fight scenes were tough to shoot, he says, he loved shooting the finale. “I love how physical it got because it’s at that point where it’s very, very primal,” he says.

And he’s got an idea for a second season: “Perry’s got a twin sister called Terry and she shows up and she’s pissed off that they all killed her brother,” he says. “So, it’s basically a badass revenge story about this six foot four woman named Terry who’s there to avenge the death of her brother.”

You can listen to today’s episode here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes of Remote Controlled here.

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