Is Season 2 of ‘Big Little Lies’ Based on a Book? How HBO Is Continuing the Story of the Monterey 5

Big Little Lies was supposed to be a limited series when it aired on HBO in 2017. But the story of a group of women in Monterey, California, whose lives get very complicated when one of their husbands is murdered was so compelling that people were left begging for more when the show ended.

Now, fans are getting their wish, since HBO is bringing Big Little Lies back for a second season. The show’s first season was based on a novel by Liane Moriarty. So is Season 2 based on another book by the same author?

Season 2 is based on an unpublished novella

Big Little Lies is a standalone novel. But when HBO expressed interest in continuing the story of the Monterey Five beyond a single season, Moriarty agreed to revisit the characters she’d created in her book, which was published in 2014.

The Australian author penned a 50,000 word follow-up novella that explored what happened to Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), and Renata (Laura Dern) after the death of Celeste’s husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) at the Elvis-and-Audrey themed trivia night fundraiser.

At first, she was hesitant to return to the world she’d created. When show creator David E. Kelley asked her if she had any ideas for future storylines, she demurred. “I was saying, ‘No, no. I think it’s a great idea to do a season two, but I’m not interested in writing it,'” Moriarty told The Hollywood Reporter. “But then I kept saying, ‘But if you do it, you could do this.’ So I kept coming up with different scenes.”

She wrote a part specifically for Meryl Streep

Big Little Lies season 2
Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern in Big Little Lies. | Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Witherspoon, Kidman, Kravitz, Woodley, and Dern are all reprising their roles from Season 1. But the show is adding another powerhouse actress to the cast for Season 2: Meryl Streep.

Streep will play Mary Louise Wright, the mother of Perry. She arrives in Monterey intent on finding out what really happened to her son. Moriarty created the part with the Oscar-winning actress in mind. The character even has the same name as Streep, whose real name is Mary Louise.  

“When I was sort of agonizing over whether or not I should do it, it was actually my sister who said to me, ‘Only do it if it would be fun, and why not create a role for your favorite actor?’ And that’s when I came up with this role for Meryl Streep, to be Perry’s mother,” Moriarty explained. “And it was really from there that it all came together, because you bring this new character in and the storylines just emerge.”

Can you read Moriarty’s Big Little Lies sequel?

While Moriarty did write a Big Little Lies follow-up for Kelley to use as a guide for Season 2, there’s no sign anyone else will get a chance to read it. The novella is unpublished, and no announcement has been made about it ever being released. However, if Season 2 is as popular as Season 1, perhaps Moriarty will turn her unpublished story into a full-fledged novel.

Season 2 of Big Little Lies premieres June 9 at 9/8c on HBO.

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