You’ll Never Guess Which ‘Big Little Lies’ Scenes Are Improvised

Sunday scaries feel so much more manageable since Big Little Lies returned to HBO. The show is unflinchingly real, raw, and honest. Grappling with a wide array of issues, from motherhood to murder, it is a show that is authentic at it is responsible. Rather than painting complex issues such as abuse and PTSD in black or white, it deigns to showcase all the brilliant hues of grays within the human experience. There are so many iconic scenes within the outstanding television show, it’s hard to believe that many of them weren’t actually scripted. In fact, some of the most powerful scenes on the show were completely improvised.

'Big Little Lies' Cast
Meryl Streep, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman | Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

Perry & Celeste Wright

Perhaps the most guttural scenes in the series are the scenes that showcase the deep physical and emotional abuse that Perry Wright inflicts upon his wife Celeste Wright. The scenes are deeply violent, extraordinarily volatile, and heartbreaking to watch. However, they do a beautiful job of showcasing the extraordinary talent of both Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, who play Celeste and Perry respectively. What’s even more impressive about the fight scenes is that they are entirely unrehearsed.

No rehearsal

In an interview with W Magazine, Kidman opened up about the process of shooting these gut-wrenching scenes. “We would go in and we would do things. We would try and then Jean-Marc would slowly build the scene, but he also shoots everything, so the minute you come on, you start to do it and we didn’t talk a lot about it. There wasn’t really any rehearsal. It was more on the day we would go in and do it” the actress said.

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Nicole Kidman & Alexander Skarsgård

Kidman continued on to speak about the enormous amount of trust that she and Skarsgård developed for each other in order to make these scenes a reality. Not only was it a physically dangerous situation, but it also took a toll on her mentally. “Alex was so in it, and I was so in it, and there was—talking about trust—an enormous amount of trust there, yet at times it felt dangerous and really upsetting, and I would go home afterwards and I would feel—I would keep on a very brave face at work and then I would go home and I didn’t realize how much it had penetrated me. And it affected me in a deep way” the 52-year-old confessed.

Fight scenes

Kidman recalls one of the most brutal fight scenes as one that she struggled with the most. In what is perhaps the most violent scene in the first season, where Celeste is gasping on the bathroom floor, Kidman reveals that she truly had a hard time coping with the emotions that came up.

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“I felt very exposed and vulnerable and deeply humiliated at times. I mean, I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom at the very end when we were doing the scenes in episode 7, and I was lying on the floor and I just wouldn’t get up in-between takes. I was just lying there, sort of broken and crying, and I remember at one point Jean-Marc coming over and just sort of placing a towel over me because I was just lying there in half-torn underwear and just basically on the ground with nothing on and I was just, like [gasps]” the Cold Mountain actress admits.

The truth

Though Kidman struggled at times, she admits that what got her through the scenes was thinking about survivors who have experienced this type of violence firsthand. It was extremely important to her as an actor to tell the narrative in a real way that would resonate with people. “I would have flashes of images of women that have gone through this and I’m like, ‘This is authentic, this is the truth and this is what I have to do, and it would just come through like that'” Kidman confessed.

Cast

It is truly amazing to see the level of talent and commitment that each actor on the series brings to the show. It makes the show infinitely interesting to experience even when it’s completely devastating. No wonder Meryl Streep called season one the best thing on television.