‘Little Fires Everywhere’: Who Are Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington’s Characters?

Shows and movies that explore race issues are starting to increase again, which is important considering the complexities of the issue continue ramping up in America.

The book Little Fires Everywhere tackled such issues from a unique family perspective when author Celeste Ng released her tome in 2017.

The same year it released, the book caught the eye of Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Both have agreed to produce a Hulu miniseries based on the book, with both playing the leads.

Who are the characters they’ll play? It deals with relationships within the white and seemingly perfect Richardson family in upper-crust Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1998. This is where Ng lived for a while, making it tangentially autobiographical.

Since Witherspoon and Washington are playing two different matriarchs, it could be award-winning territory for them all over again.

A new look at racism in the 1990s

Kerry Washington in Los Angeles
Kerry Washington | PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Those who lived through the ’90s probably remember when it was thought racism was “over” in America. One thing the book of Little Fires Everywhere tackled was the naive aspect to this in the wealthy areas of Shaker Heights.

With the white Richardson family being the first characters seen in the book, there are quotes in there of the family living in a bubble when it comes to their privilege and thoughts of racism being long behind them.

Then, African-American mother, Mia Warren comes to live in the Richardson household. Mia has a young daughter named Pearl who becomes fascinated with the Richardson lifestyle.

At the heart of this story is matriarch Elena Richardson, allowing Mia and Pearl to live in the house in exchange for Mia doing housework. Already, this smacks in the face of a racial stereotype, though it’s only the beginning of problems within the Richardson family.

Soon, Elena learns a painful secret about Mia, not including Asian mother Bebe Chow being in the mix along with an adopted baby. Considering Ng is from Hong Kong, she managed to include two different examinations of race into her novel, giving potential in the Hulu series to show the subtle racism they and African-Americans still had to endure into the ’90s.

Witherspoon and Washington will play the mothers

According to info from Entertainment Weekly, Reese Witherspoon will play Elena Richardson. Kerry Washington will play Mia Warren, which couldn’t be a better combination.

Neither one have ever worked together on a project, though both can probably relate to the situations the characters are in. Witherspoon has decried how minority women in Hollywood have been treated. Washington, of course, has faced direct situations being a young African-American woman in Hollywood.

So many interesting issues were in the Little Fires Everywhere book that it’s no wonder they plan to shoot seven episodes in this miniseries for Hulu. Of course, Emmys are probably in the picture as well thanks to Witherspoon’s aptitude in picking projects reflecting on the most pertinent issues.

Just in the last couple of years, Witherspoon was in Big Little Lies (1 and 2) and The Morning Show, both of which took on toxic masculinity. Also, Washington has been in various shows/movies examining race issues and ethical dilemmas (e.g. ABC’s Scandal).

The miniseries will also have flashbacks

Based on information about the new miniseries, flashbacks are going to occur to help fill in the backstory of Elena and Mia, played by AnnaSophia Robb and Tiffany Boone, respectively. Perhaps this will help viewers understand the characters and their motivations a little more, not including what happens to Elena’s kids.

Izzy Richardson, the black sheep of the family, will be played by Megan Stott who will probably be an unexpected standout since she factors into the fate of the Richardsons by the end.

There isn’t a set date yet for when the miniseries will air on Hulu, but expect it at some point this year. It may push Hulu further into the awards zone, something they’ve already begun with many shows examining serious social issues like The Handmaid’s Tale.