Jade Pettyjohn (‘Little Fires Everywhere’) on playing a ‘mini version’ of Reese Witherspoon [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Jade Pettyjohn took great inspiration from her onscreen mom, Reese Witherspoon, on the set of Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere.” Pettyjohn plays Lexie Richardson, the privileged eldest daughter of Witherspoon’s character, Elena, who has always been the perfect daughter in her mother’s eyes. “[Lexie] has always actively watched and observed and taken the colors of her mother so it was important for me as an actor to be able to see how Reese would play Elena Richardson,” Pettyjohn says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “I had lots of conversations with her about it and just watching her in her element was a masterclass in herself.” Watch the full video interview with Pettyjohn above.

As the “mini version of Elena,” as Pettyjohn puts it, Lexie frequently shows her misunderstanding of the world around her, particularly when it comes to race. She appropriates Pearl’s (Lexi Underwood) story for her own benefit to get into a good college and even uses Pearl’s name when she’s going to get an abortion. “As ugly as it is, it’s so truthful and something that we need to talk about without glamorizing or romanticizing it or glossing it over,” Pettyjohn states, of the show’s depiction of privilege and microaggressions. For that big abortion episode, it was important for the actress to come at Lexie from a place of understanding, to “build that isolation and that feeling of your world caving in on itself.”

Being part of “Little Fires Everywhere” wasn’t only a great opportunity for Pettyjohn’s career but a good lesson in how to conduct herself in the industry. She attributes this to Witherspoon’s leadership on-set, observing her not only to accurately portray her daughter but to really learn from an Academy Award-winning powerhouse of the business. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for her and learned so much not only as an actress but as a producer and as a female in this industry on how to operate and how to conduct yourself in a work environment,” she raves. “It was just so inspiring and empowering.”

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