Meryl Streep signs up for "Big Little Lies" season 2 because sometimes good things happen

Steep will join fellow Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman when the critically acclaimed show returns

Published January 24, 2018 5:21PM (EST)

Meryl Streep accepts the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 8, 2017.   (Reuters/Paul Drinkwater)
Meryl Streep accepts the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 8, 2017. (Reuters/Paul Drinkwater)

Narratively speaking, we didn't need a second season of the beautiful, award-winning yoga-pants-and-murder HBO series "Big Little Lies." Indeed, the show had already exhausted its source material (Liane Moriarty's eponymous book) and it was only ever billed as a limited series. And yet, it turns out we're getting more of this very good thing. Moreover, the second season of the show, starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, will further spoil us by adding national treasure Meryl Streep to its already deep and talented cast when it returns in 2019.

In her return to HBO — she had a significant role in the network's 2003 adaptation of "Angels in America" — Streep will reportedly play the mother-in-law of Nicole Kidman’s character and mother of Alexander Skarsgård's character. In another surprise bit of casting, Skarsgård will return at some point during the season's second run, despite his character's death (yeah, spoilers).

It's an interesting move, and not just because Streep — one of America's most honored actors, man or woman — has a very shallow history on the small screen. In the fast rise of the #MeToo movement and the industry response best typified by the "Time's Up" initiative, Streep has been somewhat of an outspoken and unifying figure — despite her long history and previous support for disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. Regardless of some pointed questions asked by critics — Rose McGowan included — she's at least considered a central figure in the top-tier industry response to the crises brought to the fore by #MeToo.

Though it was never intended to be so, "Big Little Lies" itself has become attached to that Hollywood reaction as well, primarily for its sometimes brutal and graphic depictions of domestic abuse. As well, stars Witherspoon, Kidman, Dern, Woodley, Skarsgård and Zoë Kravitz have all either been instrumental to the development of the "Time's Up" movement, or have at least spoken up about the issues it addresses. It's not too much to frame Streep's attachment to the series, which dives deep into issues of woman's identity, self worth, rape, trauma and gender power imbalances, as somewhat of a meeting of the minds.

The three-time Oscar winner joins a show that has already collected eight Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes (Kidman and Skarsgård each took home both an Emmy and a Globe for their respective roles). While the ratings were good, if not great, for the expensive series co-produced by Witherspoon, the fact that HBO has brought it to full series and funded Streep's casting shows how much faith the network has in the title.

Despite the fact that "Big Little Lies" has collected a great number of positive reviews and industry awards, it still has some difficult ground to navigate in its second season. Critics have, quite fairly, noted its lack of racial inclusiveness — Kravitz is its sole major non-white cast member — and its concentration on uber-wealthy coastal elites (all but one of the central characters appear to be multimillionaires or are married to multimillionaires). Certainly, series creator David E. Kelly and Witherspoon will have another season to address these racial and class issues — one that will be brightened by Streep's presence.

By Gabriel Bell

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