LOS ANGELES (KGET) — Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington have been friends for years. In Hollywood, long-term friendships tend to lead to the buddies working together – if the right script can be found.
They discovered what they needed in Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere. The book – that’s now a series for Hulu launching March 18 – follows the interaction between the picture-perfect Richardson family and a mysterious mother and daughter who upend their lives. It is a tale set in 1998 of what happens when gender, race and class clash.
The series is produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street studios. As soon as Witherspoon started reading the novel, she knew that the only way the story would work is if she had the perfect acting partner.
Washington was the obvious choice.
“My first instinct is who’s actually gonna show up and do the work? Because this is a lot of work,” Witherspoon says of working with Washington. “Everything she does she brings a grace to it, an intellectual aspect to it, and she deepens the conversation.
“I knew that I wanted to go on this journey with her, especially because she read it so quickly and responded so quickly to the role. It made sense that we were representing completely different kinds of women and different kinds of mothering, but both with dignity and respect. So, it was just a great partnership.”
“Little Fires Everywhere” was not only attractive to Witherspoon because it was a good story and would give her a chance to work with Washington but also because it fits the kind of work she’s been doing since starting her own production company eight years ago. Since then she has starred in and produced “Big Little Lies,” “Truth Be Told,” “The Morning Show” and now this production for Hulu.
Before Witherspoon launched her company, others made decisions for her in regards to roles. She wasn’t happy with many of the choices because the options were so limited.
Hulu is one of the many streaming services available to TV watchers. It is a premium service offering live and on-demand TV and movies, with and without commercials, both in and outside the home. Witherspoon made the leap before the explosion of streaming services but the timing was perfect. When those deliver services launched, they needed original product and her company was ready.
“I had no idea the whole world would open up for us, but it has changed my life. The ability to work with different kinds of storytellers, to be able to option books and partner with other people I respect and admire who also have a perspective that is not my own but is just as valuable has changed my entire experience. Now I primarily generate everything that I do,” Witherspoon says. “I have the gift of having companies like Hulu let me be this woman in this leadership position, which wasn’t possible eight years ago.
“I have to say every woman that I’ve been working with in the past three years — whether it’s Nicole Kidman or it’s Jennifer Aniston — we all remark about how much things have changed and that we are put in a position of respect for our ideas. And that is a new world for us. So, it’s been a great time and it’s also — it’s exciting to get to think that I could actually be in a project with Kerry, where we had equal parts and equal responsibility.”
Washington was just coming off a long run as Olivia Pope in the ABC drama, “Scandal.” She was willing to jump back into another long project after she started reading the book.
She was intrigued by how Ng’s book delved into class, sociopolitical differences and cultural differences. The layer of race, says Washington, enriched the storytelling by stepping away from the binary idea of race – black and white – in this country.
“We’re also dealing with Asian identity and immigrant identity and again, class. This is a lot, it’s a lot to unpack. It’s really exciting and fun,” Washington says. “I think it’s wonderful because all of these issues are present but they’re really embodied in these very rich women, these characters that are women you know and you love or you hate or who make you feel closer to them because you are them.
“Or they make you feel like you have no idea how they became who they are, but they’re so real and so rich. And we got to dive into that.”
Along with Witherspoon and Washington, the cast of “Little Fires Everywhere” includes Joshua Jackson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jade Pettyjohn, Jordan Elsass, Gavin Lewis, Megan Stott, Lexi Underwood and Huang Lu.