Adam Scott (‘Big Little Lies’) on portraying the ‘dissolution of a marriage’ in Season 2 [Complete Interview Transcript]

Adam Scott returned to play Ed Mackenzie, husband of Reese Witherspoon‘s character, Madeline, on Season 2 of HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” He was among the cast members nominated for Best Drama Ensemble at the SAG Awards earlier this year.

Scott spoke with Gold Derby contributing editor Matt Noble recently about coming back for Season 2 of “Big Little Lies,” the arc for Ed and Madeline this season and how the set compared to “Parks and Recreation.” Watch the exclusive web chat above and read the complete transcript below.

Gold Derby: What was different about coming back for Season 2?

Adam Scott: It’s interesting, ‘cause Season 1, when we shot it, obviously it wasn’t this cultural phenomenon that it became, but it was a big deal. I certainly knew that I was working on something that was pretty monumental as far as getting all these women together and this story that was centered on these women, and just the caliber of talent as well. We already knew this was a really special thing, a really big deal. But then coming back for Season 2, it was after it had become what it became. There were these expectations, a little pressure, because it was so good creatively but also as successful as it was, but getting there and getting on-set, if you thought there was that kind of pressure, you wouldn’t know it, because it was just nice to be back, nice to be back with that cast and creative team and it was just really fun and as with any second season of a show, as a person involved in making it, as well as an audience member, you don’t have to take the time to get to know these people. You just dive right back in and you can continue your inside jokes and set rituals and all of that. So it’s really fun. Going back for a second season of anything, for me, is always a blast ‘cause it feels like we’re making a sequel and I always, growing up in the ‘80s, love sequels. So it was really fun and I guess what I’m saying is there’s a level of comfort because we all knew each other already.

GD: Can you tell us any of the great inside jokes or your favorite inside joke from “Big Little Lies”?

AS: Reese and I had this thing that was really dumb. I forget where it came from. I almost feel like it came from a scene, ‘cause Ed’s always preparing food, I’m always getting something ready food-wise and we started talking in this ridiculous accent, I think it was about cheese, about a snack I was making. You know what, I’m deciding right now I’m not gonna recreate it here because it will be embarrassing and then taken out of context, it could be disastrous.

GD: It’s not an offensive accent, is it?

AS: It is not offensive. It’s only offensive to myself, to the comedy gods and to myself. Like any inside joke, it’s not the greatest in the retelling.

GD: It was a big season for Ed and Madeline, their relationship on the rocks in a big way. How did you find Ed’s growth this season and what were the challenges that you faced in portraying that?

AS: I really loved what David [E. Kelley] wrote for Ed and Madeline this season. It was kind of taking the dissolution of a marriage, something that could be on a television show cliched, it could go down any number of roads that we’ve seen before, particularly for the man and it was kind of switched up a bit. I think Ed was always a bit of a beta and always someone that was there to clear the path for Madeline to make sure she’s having a smooth ride as far as life goes. One of his primary functions as a partner is to make sure that she’s taken care of and she obviously took advantage of that. So Ed this season is in the process of carving out an identity for himself outside of this relationship but when that relationship takes up the majority of your self-identification, then when you start trying to carve outside of that, you need to find out what that is. I think that the character has trouble finding anything else and that’s where some crisis sets in, and he’s just really pissed off at Madeline.

GD: What scene do you reckon was the quintessential scene for Ed this season?

AS: One thing that I found was heartbreaking and also really astute was far as what David did, as far as the writing’s concerned, is he finds out through a slip of the tongue with his stepdaughter, Kathryn [Newton]’s character, that Madeline had this affair and so when he does confront Madeline for the first time about it, it was a tough scene to do but I think one thing that I really loved about it is that David brought the daughter into it, the heartbreak of his daughter, his stepdaughter, but he thinks of her as his daughter. He loves her and has watched her grow from a kid to a young woman and the heartbreak of knowing that she knew before him, his daughter, that Madeline was comfortable keeping this secret with her, it’s really embarrassing and really sad. I think that’s part of what fuels his rage and confusion.

GD: Yeah, and I guess with the character and with the development of the story, something really cool about acting is you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you think about things from their perspective. Did you learn anything about yourself from playing Ed?

AS: That’s interesting. You know what, I think you always do and I think really trying to harness the reality of what the character’s going through, it’s you first. You have to think personal first and then whatever you can’t salvage personally, you have to go look for, either with your imagination or find out through others what that feels like or once your perspective shifts, what does the world look like after that? I think when you start with yourself, you start thinking, “What would I do if this happened to me? How would I react? How would that feel?” So yeah, there were some of those things I had never considered because I would never think that that would happen to me. Similarly, that’s how Ed felt as well, it’s why the betrayal was so complete and so deep.

GD: We’re an awards website, obviously “Big Little Lies” has done very well with entertainment awards, particularly that first season. You are surrounded in this show by awards royalty with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, who didn’t have an Oscar [at the time]. They’re all Oscar winners. What’s it like going into a set with people that have won all these awards and have all this hardware on their mantles?

AS: Well, they all carry all of them to set which makes it extra intimidating.

GD: Power move.

AS: Yeah. No, of course that’s intimidating but it’s also something that you get over pretty quickly. But also, even more than the awards that they have and richly deserve, it’s so thrilling to watch it on display right in front of you, to watch Reese or Laura or Nicole, how they go from chatting on the sidelines to diving into a scene and getting to watch that, being such a fan of all of these women, and such an admirer of Meryl as well, of course, getting to see that and see the magic trick of it, it’s really, really fun. But they’re all really sweet, generous, cool people that you wouldn’t know that they have all of this hardware, as you say, sitting at home because there’s no airs about them or anything like that. They’re all really cool.

GD: That’s good. You were a part of “Parks and Recreation,” on the cast there since the end of Season 2 so you were on most of that run. That was a very funny show. “Big Little Lies” has some nice moments of comedy though it’s a fairly dramatic series. What is it like comparing the comedic ensemble and the way collaboration works there and the more dramatic ensemble? Are they very similar? Are they quite different?

AS: It’s different in the sense that the result you’re going for is different. On “Parks,” you’re always trying to figure out what the funniest route to take would be. We improvised quite a bit. But that’s where the differences end. With something like “Parks,” which is so well-written and directed, we were always trying to, of course, go for jokes but also working from an emotionally true place. That show was always about the love between this gang of friends and this woman and her community and her wanting to make the world and her town a better place. That’s what everything led to. I think when you’re collaborating with great people like that, there’s more similarities than differences and the “Big Little Lies” set and the “Parks” set are probably more alike than you would think.

GD: When you think back at your time on “Parks,” I’m assuming it’s fun thoughts. Is there a particular moment or scene that comes to your mind when you think of it?

AS: I remember, maybe it was Season 3 or 4, we were in Washington, D.C. and shooting an episode and we were shooting in the old executive office building, which is right next door to the White House shooting a scene with Vice President [Joe] Biden and when we finished the scene with him, he said, “Hey, I have to go but why don’t you guys walk across the street and check out the West Wing?” And we’re like, “Okay.” So it was Amy [Poehler], Chris [Pratt], Aubrey [Plaza], Mike [Schur], the showrunner, Morgan Sackett, Dean Holland, the director, five or six of us, we just walked over to the White House, went inside and found the six of us alone in the Oval Office. The president had just left and so we went in there and they’re like, “Go ahead, you can look around for a few minutes,” and we were in the Oval Office, just the six of us, for five, 10 minutes and we all looked at each other and we’re just like, “Wow, how did we end up here?” So the joy of being there with my friends, making this show that we all cared about so much and standing there in the Oval Office, this president that we were all proud to have him as our president, it all just felt like one terrific thing. That’s not a particular scene we were shooting but that was a real moment that I’ll never forget.

GD: Just touching on something else you did, you did “The Greatest Event in Television History” with your wife, Naomi. She also produced “Ghosted,” which you were in. Are you two gonna do something together in the future? Is there anything planned with her or any ideas kicking around?

AS: Yeah, we have a few things we’re working on right now. We have an animated project that will hopefully be coming to a screen near you. We have different stuff in development. We have a movie we’re getting off the ground. We’ve made three movies at this point and we’re about to get another one off the ground. We’re hard at work getting some more TV shows out there.

GD: That’s cool. You said before you loved sequels growing up, coming back for a second season feels like a sequel. Did you have a favorite sequel from the ‘80s and second question, what movie do you think deserves a sequel that doesn’t have one yet?

AS: Oh, that’s such a good question. “Temple of Doom” is my favorite sequel of all time. It might be my favorite movie. I think it’s everything a sequel should be and the excesses of it that almost topple it, and many people think do topple it, I love. There’s never been an equal to those action sequences in “Temple of Doom.” A movie that deserves a sequel, I think “Midnight Run” deserves a sequel and never got one. But like any sequel, it would need to be the perfect combination ‘cause it would be a shame to ruin “Midnight Run.”

GD: Yes. Is there any talk of a third season of “Big Little Lies”?

AS: I don’t know. That’s certainly above my pay grade on this show. So I would imagine if that’s a conversation, it’s a conversation that would happen in a room where I am not.

GD: You’re on-board, though?

AS: I think we would all be into it but I can only speak for myself.

GD: What would you like to see for Ed if there was another chapter in his story? If you could wave a wand, what would you wish?

AS: I think that Ed is still in the dark about a lot. He got some information this season about Madeline, certainly, but also about Harry and all this stuff that happened but there’s still a lot that he does not know. The way the season ended, it looks like he and Madeline will be dealing with some trouble with the law for a while, at least. So I think that if Ed is going to stick with this marriage, which it looks like he’s ready to do, it’s gonna take a lot of strength, particularly when he finds out everything that happened.

GD: Definitely. Just last question, Adam, when we spoke a couple years ago you said you’re a big fan of “Survivor.” You’re still watching?

AS: Oh yeah, for sure.

GD: Who do you like in “Winners at War”?

AS: Jeremy, probably. I think this is an incredible season, maybe the best or one of the best. It really is unbelievable. I think I’m pulling for Jeremy but I think everyone else is well aware that Jeremy could easily win. I worry about him. What about you? Who are you pulling for?

GD: I love Tony and Kim. They’re probably my favorite players coming into the season. I think if I had to put money on a winner I’d say Sophie, who’s looking at a good spot.

AS: Because she’s just gliding by and no one’s targeting her?

GD: Yes, I think that, she’s got an idol and she also seems quite aware of what’s happening. She’s well-connected with quite a few of the people still in the game. We’ll see.

AS: Who do you think on Extinction is gonna get back in?

GD: That’s a good question.

AS: I was pulling for Tyson. I’m bummed out that he’s out.

GD: Tyson’s great. Natalie maybe? Maybe Natalie comes back. She’s quite fit and things. Tough to know what the challenge is gonna be. Could be someone who’s not voted out yet either. Could see a Kim, Boston Rob. Yeah, great season.

AS: Yeah, I could talk about that for hours.

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