How 'Big Little Lies' Season 2 Came Together: "There Was Enormous Demand"

Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley explain the process of how HBO's limited series became a continuing one.
Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Big Little Lies was presented as a limited series, implying that it would be finished telling its story when the season wrapped in 2017.

As the HBO seris became more of a phenomenon, however, rumblings about a second season began. As the show racked up awards, word came that Big Little Lies novelist Liane Moriarty was preparing ideas for a second season. Star and executive producer Reese Witherspoon was "optimistic" about returning.

And then, after Witherspoon and fellow star-exec producer Nicole Kidman secured big raises, a second season became a reality. It's set to premiere in June. 

Kidman said Friday at the Television Critics Association press tour that the cast and crew said "a big goodbye" after the first season, "but we became very close, and we had such a good time doing it, and the desire to spend more time together was a huge part of it."

"But also there was an enormous demand for it from the audience," Kidman said. "I'd never been in something that reached so far globally, and that was such a compelling idea, the chance of putting it together again. But it was very much generated by the audience and the desire to see these people still in existence."

Still, writer and showrunner David E. Kelley said he and the cast — including Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Meryl Streep, who joined the series to play Celeste's (Kidman) mother-in-law — agreed that a second season wouldn't happen unless it would be "compelling enough that it will rise up to the first year."

"Everybody up here can get jobs," Kelley said. "We didn't want to do this unless we could at least have a fair shot of living up to the bar that we felt we had all set in season one. We met and talked about what the stories were. We were very unflinching and candid with each other about the ones we thought were viable and the ones we thought were not good enough. We didn't finally agree to set sail until we had the commitment, en banc, from all of us that this was storytelling we all felt passionate about."

HBO also showed a bit of footage from season two that shows Madeline (Witherspoon), Celeste, Jane (Woodley), Renata (Dern) and Bonnie (Kravitz) straining under the pressure of maintaining the story about how Celeste's abusive husband (Alexander Skarsgard) died. "[It's] like we all have scarlet letters on our backs," Jane says at one point of the way others look at the "Monterey Five."

Kelley and Kidman both said there are no current plans do do another season: "We like where our closure is at the end of season two, so that will probably be it," Kelley said.

But Witherspoon noted, "You sat there and said that last time, David."