Liane Moriarty, author and executive producer of Big Little Lies, was set on having Meryl Streep join the cast of HBO’s critically-acclaimed beachside drama for season 2. Intended as a limited series, the first season was adapted from Moriarty novel and covered all of the original source material. However, after Big Little Lies became a breakout hit, HBO started developing a second season for the Emmy-winning show that would expand beyond the first novel. When Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley asked Moriarty to continue the story of the Monterey five, Moriarty said: “No, no. I think it’s a great idea to do a season two, but I’m not interested in writing it.”
When Moriarty invented a new character — Mary Louise, Celeste’s mother-in-law grieving the death of her son Perry — she began to develop a 200-page novella on which the screenplay for season 2 would be based. Mary Louise comes to Monterey, searching for the truth about her son Perry’s death, who was pushed to his death by one of the mothers in the season one finale. In season 2, the Monterey mothers are closely guarding their secret about how Perry met his fate.
“When I was sort of agonizing over whether or not I should do it, it was actually my sister who said to me, ‘Only do it if it would be fun, and why not create a role for your favorite actor?’ And that’s when I came up with this role for Meryl Streep, to be Perry’s mother. And it was really from there that it all came together, because you bring this new character in and the storylines just emerge,” said Moriarty.
Moriarty specifically wrote the role of Mary Louise for Meryl Streep and had to figure out how to get the star on the show. During a cast panel, Moriarty asked Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon if they could get Meryl Streep to join season 2 of Big Little Lies. Although both stars laughed at Moriarty’s request, Nicole Kidman shot Meryl Streep a simple text: “Do you want to be in Big Little Lies?”
To everyone’s surprise, Streep agreed to join the cast without even reading the script. “[My agent] said, ‘there’s a part that they wrote with you in mind because they called her Mary Louise’ — Mary Louise is my actual legal name,” said Streep while appearing with her co-stars at the Wing’s SoHo location. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ He said, ‘Don’t you want to read it?’ I said, ‘No.’ It was the greatest thing on TV. It really was, that first season.”
The second season of Big Little Lies just returned to HBO this past Sunday, June 9.