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Remote Controlled: Nicole Kidman on ‘Big Little Lies’ — ‘I Didn’t Realize How Disturbing It Was Going to Be’

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 “Big Little Lies” star Nicole Kidman.

The project began because she and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom would ultimately serve as executive producers, weren’t finding enough compelling, complex roles to play. “This was born of Reese and I feeling frustrated that we weren’t being offered the roles that we wanted,” she says. “We were reading things and they just weren’t enough. So this was born out of not having an opportunity, and we got lucky. We were able to make it happen.”

Kidman says the first sense she got that the series was a success came from watching the episodes with her own husband. “When he started to say, ‘When does the next one get here?'” she says. “And he just said, ‘People are gonna be addicted to this.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, this is really good.’ That’s when I knew, ’cause he doesn’t say that often.”

Nicole Kidman photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

The actress — who was nominated for an Emmy for best actress in a limited series — says she wasn’t intimidated to take on the role of Celeste, the wife and mother who’s abused by her husband, played by Alexander Skarsgard.

“I wanted to find the truth of it, and I wanted for people to feel her and understand her, and that’s been probably one of the greatest things that has come out of it is that there’s an understanding,” she says. “So I just delved in and tried to really find all of the motivations, and the reasons why, and her whole psychology. It was fantastic being able to do that, but it was also disturbing. I didn’t realize how disturbing it was gonna be to me, because it penetrated my personal life because of the nature of it.”

She says the experience of making “Big Little Lies” was a special one because of director Jean-Marc Vallee. “I’m glad that he was bold and brave with it. That he didn’t censor the relationship, and he didn’t censor some of the way in which it was playing out, because I think there’s an enormous amount of truth, which is probably why people have responded to it,” she says. “It’s very, very truthful in terms of the way in which somebody who’s in an abusive relationship stays in it and why.”

She admits she threw herself into the filming, especially the abuse scenes with Skarsgard that often left her bruised. “I didn’t want him to be pulling back. I never showed him anything on my body that maybe bruises or anything, because I didn’t want him to feel bad, and I didn’t want him to not commit to the truth of what was going on,” she says. “So that was my own stoic pride, and my desire to reach deeply into what we were trying to depict.”

Kidman also says she’d be willing to sign on for a second season, as long as it’s not just another murder mystery.

“I would hope that this is not just about a death and who did it. I would hope that the strength of the female characters and their story lines are enough to move into another [story],” she says. “I would hope that these women’s stories are strong enough to sustain more viewership. That people would want to watch what happens to them, where their lives go. It isn’t over.”

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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