“Sometimes, the mother you’re born to is not the mother that you want,” reveals Reese Witherspoon in a new video featurette about sparking conversations about motherhood on Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere.” The limited series, based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Celeste Ng, offers a diverse look at mothers and their children through the intersection of race and privilege. Watch Witherspoon, her co-star Kerry Washington and the show’s team of female writers and producers discuss the show’s dynamic in the Gold Derby video exclusive above.
“Little Fires Everywhere” quickly sets up the differences in Elena Richardson (Witherspoon) and Mia Warren (Washington) in the upper-class community of Shaker Heights, Ohio. “Mia and Elena both really want the best for our kids,” says Washington, of one of the mothers’ only commonalities. Beyond that, Elena’s hellbent desire to be seen as a good person drives her children to resent her, a stark contrast with Mia’s more free-spirited attitude and close relationship with her only daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). But Pearl soon seeks stability in the Richardson household while Elena’s daughter Izzy (Megan Stott), finds herself alienated from her mother and finds a home under Mia’s wing. “When you go beneath the surface, everybody is struggling with problems of their own,” states Underwood.
Elena may project liberal-minded friendliness and a desire to help out, but she is often guilty of projecting micro-aggressions, especially to Mia. It was important for the writers and producers of “Little Fires Everywhere” to reflect where each side was coming from, which is why this isn’t a story of Mia coming in and changing hearts and minds in a mostly white community. “We didn’t want to tell a story about a black woman who comes in and makes white people better,” explains showrunner Liz Tigelaar. “Mia’s not a character who’s trying to make other people comfortable.” The series also explores motherhood through Bebe (Huang Lu), an undocumented Chinese immigrant who feels she has no choice but to leave her baby at a firehouse. “A white middle-class mom versus being an immigrant mom, it’s actually culturally quite different,” describes Nancy Won, writer and co-executive producer.
The cast and crew is hopeful that “Little Fires Everywhere” will create a dialogue about motherhood, race and privilege. “We all really grew in the process of making this show,” Washington observes. “I hope it’s a great conversation starter,” Witherspoon adds, hoping that the 1990s setting will prompt people to consider: “Look how we’ve evolved and look how we haven’t changed enough.”
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