10:25am PT by Lesley Goldberg
HBO Exec "Embarrassed" After Saying 'Big Little Lies' Salary Demands "Raped" Network
HBO senior vp drama Francesca Orsi regrets saying that the Big Little Lies cast's salary demands for season two "raped" the premium cable network.
Orsi, who was instrumental in the deal that brought the Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman drama to the cabler, appeared at a conference in Israel on Tuesday and was asked about the rising costs sweeping the industry amid a crush for content and deep-pocketed buyers like Netflix and Apple. The executive confirmed The Hollywood Reporter's January business story that the cast had to ink new deals to return, as the series was initially designed as a closed-ended limited series.
"From a budget standpoint going into season two of Big Little Lies without any options in place we've been … um … sort of raped," she said at the conference. Hours after the public remarks — which were covered in THR and picked up among other outlets — Orsi has issued an apology of sorts. “Obviously, I am embarrassed by my poor choice of words. We are extremely proud of Big Little Lies and excited for the second season," Orsi said in a statement.
Following the breakout success of season one — the series won an Emmy and Golden Globe, among other hardware — HBO had to ink the entire cast to new deals to return for a second season that would go beyond the book that covered all of season one. Star and exec producer Reese Witherspoon leveraged her deal with Apple for a morning show drama to help secure a sizable pay raise. Apple, sources say, is paying Witherspoon $1.25 million an episode for the 20-episode order plus points on the show's backend. (Witherspoon is also an exec producer on the Apple show, as she is on Big Little Lies.) Witherspoon and fellow star/EP Nicole Kidman, sources say, received between $250,000 and $350,000 an episode for season one, plus EP fees and points off the show's backend. Those numbers skyrocketed for season two not only because of the show's success, but also because of the precedent of the massive payday Witherspoon scored from Apple.
Sources say the duo is getting in the $1 million-an-episode ballpark for season two, as well as points off the show's backend and EP fees. Co-stars like Zoe Kravitz also are said to have scored significant bumps, with the actress' total season-one salary of $380,000 jumping to $3 million for the sophomore run. Shailene Woodley, who earned $1.7 million for season one, is also said to be getting a sizable pay raise. Season two of the show is being planned to shoot in the spring but won't air until 2019.
"It's not a shock to anybody that having a second season of an ongoing series is easier to have with those deals in place," HBO programming president Casey Bloys told THR at the time. (Bloys and HBO representatives declined comment on the cast's salaries with Orsi's remarks Tuesday the first to address the new paydays directly.) "Every outlet has to make their own decisions about economics that make sense for them. I'm not going to shake my fist and say, 'Darn it, Apple!' If that's what made sense for them for that show, God bless."
As for a potential third season of Big Little Lies — which now will compete in the drama series category for awards — sources say none of the cast has deals in place.