AnnaSophia Robb did more than just perfect Reese Witherspoon‘s mannerisms to play a younger version of her character Elena on Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” — she inhabited her. Robb was cast early on in the process and was able to shadow Witherspoon on-set, asking questions and talking to the writers along the way. “I would just copy her voice and watch her mannerisms and I listened to her book on tape to listen to her voice,” Robb says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “I’ve also been watching Reese my entire life; I feel like when I close my eyes I can see her.” Watch the video webchat above.
Robb’s process wasn’t limited to just studying Witherspoon from afar. She dove into the Celeste Ng novel on which the series was based to unpacked who Elena was as a person. She spent time “talking with Reese about that and asking her questions and trying to get in the same headspace as her character.” The Elena Richardson we meet in the first episode of “Little Fires Everywhere” appears to be the archetypal suburban mom, but she is harboring some resentment toward her misunderstood youngest child, Izzy (Megan Stott). Episode 6 allows us to see where that animosity stems from, with Robb playing a young version of Elena who just reluctantly gave birth to Izzy, her fourth child. “Young Elena has this plan for her life of how she envisions it and she’s very controlled and anything outside of that is extremely nerve-wracking,” Robb explains, of Elena’s desire to have a fulfilling career over motherhood. “All of her decisions in this episode as she becomes unraveled, I don’t judge her for any of those.”
Surrounded by mostly women in the cast and crew of the Hulu series provided a level of comfort to Robb, who helped her understand the complexities of motherhood. “It was a really special experience for me because I was able to talk to a lot of mothers,” she recalls. “I never thought about postpartum. What is that like? What does it feel like when your body is no longer your own and your boobs hurt because you’re breastfeeding and you have a fever?” She praises the series for really showing there is more to being a mother than just packing lunches. “We don’t necessarily see those moments of motherhood on television.”
While she was only in two episodes, it was a significant role for Robb, who has been working in Hollywood since age of 11, starring in such films as “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Having successfully made the jump from child star to adult actor, she is hopeful for today’s young actors to be treated with respect. “I think it’s important to see that and raise up young voices and empower them and make them comfortable in their own skin and that they don’t have to be anything else but themselves,” Robb adds, noting that “Little Fires Everywhere” was a particularly supportive set. “It was so exciting to see Reese and Kerry [Washington] talk with all of the kids and they really seemed like such a family and were so supportive of each other.”
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