“Those were some of the toughest days on set that I have ever experienced,” admits Alexander Skarsgard during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above). In “Big Little Lies,” Skarsgard plays Perry, the conflicted and abusive husband to Celeste (Nicole Kidman), one of the women at the center of the story alongside Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern.
“Big Little Lies” is the ambitious HBO limited series written by legendary TV creator David E. Kelley and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, based on the novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty. Set in the affluent California beachside town of Monterey, The program follows the complicated lives of families that seemingly have it all, but that are all hiding secrets and lies that bubble up to the surface as the town and the school to which these families send their young children are gripped by a shocking death, which remains a mystery to be solved by the audience as each episode unfurls.
“Those kinds of scenes, they linger, you think a lot about them,” Skarsgard reveals when discussing the process of shooting the confronting scenes in which his character violently beats his wife. “It’s really weird to do those scenes for an entire day and then jump in your car and drive home. I was lucky because we shot the most violent stuff here in LA in a studio. I’m staying with close friends out here and they have amazing kids, so it was nice to have that family life and to come home to a home filled with love. I’m very glad that I wasn’t in a hotel room. It would’ve been tough to go home to a hotel room and stare into a wall. That was a lifesaver for me, to come home to people I love.”
Skarsgard also gives a lot of the credit to his co-star Kidman. “Nicole is such a sweet and generous human being and obviously an extraordinary actress. It was very important that we got along,” he explains. “I am really lucky that I worked with her, because to shoot those scenes for 10 to 12 hours a day was emotionally draining. It’s very tough.”
By the end of the series, it is revealed that Perry is the victim of the murder at a lavish fancy dress trivia night held by the school, at the hands of one of the wives, who all come together in an act of self-defense on behalf of a beaten and terrified Celeste. Skarsgard was ultimately happy with the way the series ended, despite his character having been killed off. “It’s so physical, so intense and so primal, the way it goes down. I love that all the ladies gang up on him and get together, like smaller predators taking on a larger predator. Their combined strength will take him down.”
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