Though her latest show’s title refers to her only by her first name, Reese Witherspoon says she’s not trying to join the ranks of one-name celebrities like Beyonce, Cher and Madonna.
At the premiere party for her new AT&T interview series Shine On With Reese, the actress explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “It just takes a long time to write ‘Witherspoon!’ It eats up most of the billboard, and it’s just a big ol’ last name!” (Shine On is available on Hello Sunshine Video On Demand channel, featuring fare from Witherspoon’s production company of the same name.)
The intimate moniker, however, is also in keeping with the tone of the new series, in which Witherspoon serves as a host and interviewer who profiles extraordinary women of all ages and backgrounds. At the Shine On premiere event at NeueHouse Hollywood, Witherspoon revealed two episodes: one focused on the famed pop singer P!nk, and another on Simone Askew, a current student of U.S. military academy West Point.
Despite a long history of stepping into various roles onscreen, Witherspoon admitted she had some initial trepidation about becoming the show’s interviewer. However, she said she quickly found some comfortable footing.
“I feel like I learned to be even more inquisitive than I already am: to do a lot of research, to watch every YouTube video, read every article, because you never know where that little gem of a story is hiding,” she said. “And then just be a really good listener.”
Witherspoon also relished the opportunity to get a taste of the lives her subjects lead, even if it meant setting what she described as her inherently cautious nature aside and try out the silk acrobatics that Pink performs during her live shows.
“I loved getting my hands messy,” said Witherspoon. “I did a whole episode where we were cooking cupcakes and we did one where I was making pizza and that was really fun, just sort of getting in the kitchen and making a mess. Turns out I don’t have a culinary career [in store].”
Still, her ability to effectively — and accurately, she revealed — hurl ice cream in the direction of Meryl Streep, as revealed in a recent Instagram shot taken from the duo filming a scene of the new season of Big Little Lies, was the hot topic among her interviewers on the red carpet. THR inquired as to whether Streep gave as good as she got in the ice-cream tossing department. “No, but she might — we’re not done shooting!” Witherspoon replied.
“Everyone knows who Reese is — now everyone’s going to know her for much more than just being an actress,” said Nashville-based decluttering guru Clea Shearer, who, with partner Joanna Teplin, headlines another upcoming series that will bow on Hello Sunshine’s VOD channel next month: Master the Mess. “She’s an entrepreneur, a powerhouse — and I mean, she has her own channel. I think that [Hello Sunshine’s] whole purpose for this was about female storytelling and we have our stories and we have the way we are. They didn’t try and reconstruct us to be anything different. Thank goodness, because I don’t know if we could do that.”
Another of the Shine On profilees, retired soccer player Abby Wambach, revealed how impressed she was with Witherspoon’s willingness to step away from her acting and producing duties to shed light on the stories and struggles of other women.
“She doesn’t have to do any of this, right? She doesn’t have to work,” said Wambach. “But she’s choosing to dedicate her time and money to building something that can sustain, that can probably sustain past her own life and maybe support her children in their lives and whatever they would choose to do. And of course, the most amazing by-product of that is that she wants to do it while lifting other women up.”
For Witherspoon, ramping up the output at Hello Sunshine and opening up fresh narrative points of view (projects in development include an Apple TV series with Jennifer Aniston set in the world of morning news anchors, an adaptation of author Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere for Hulu and a Legally Blonde sequel for the big screen, among others) has become something of a mission, she emphasized.
“It’s been great — I put together this incredible team: I’m working with some of the greatest people who work in digital and television and film and they’re all so passionate about telling women’s stories from different points of views,” she said. “So we really feel like if we can change the storytellers, we can change the stories that people are seeing out there. We do it for ourselves, we do it for our girls, we do it for the next generation and we’re having a blast.”