Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern discussed the highly-anticipated second season of "Big Little Lies," as well as the act of embracing more opportunities in a lively panel discussion on Wednesday at The Wing in New York City.
Streep, who joins the star-studded cast in the upcoming season, which premieres June 9, extended praise to her co-stars for the efforts they put forth in bringing the compelling story to the screen.
Kidman and Witherspoon, who both star in and executive produce the show, spoke on the phone about deciding to bring Liane Moriarty's 2014 novel to television within 24 hours of reading the book.
"I am of a generation that waited to be asked to dance, and I think I still am in that position," Streep said to Witherspoon and Kidman during the discussion.
"But I’m so admiring of you for getting out in front of stuff, for being on the balls of your feet and looking for material," she continued. "And that’s the world we live in now, and the world deserves to hear from you and you and all of us in that way.”
After Streep learned that there was a part for season two written with her in mind, and the character even had Streep's legal name, Mary Louise, she was on board.
"I said 'yeah, I'll do it.' And they said, 'don't you want to read it?' And I said 'no,'" Streep said, also explaining that she thought the first season of the show was, "the greatest thing on TV."
The cast members didn't expect to even have a second season in the first place, as didn't realize what a success the first season would be.
"In my narrow-minded perception -- and perhaps cellular perception that perhaps comes with some sexism -- I thought, 'well, women will watch the show,' which is not okay!" Dern shared. "Because men loved the show, frat boys loved the show, teenagers loved the show. Because we all want authentic human stories. We all want to see brokenness in humanity and try to find empathy for each other."
"I was misguided in not understanding how desperate we all are for true content in every possible way and medium," she added.
"For a long time, in movies and television, women would be singular in a story, and they would represent something, a love interest," Streep said. "The complications of individual women -- and I think part of the appetite for the second season of this had to do with the fact that we were seeing people that were not emblematic."
Kidman said she had a lot of people tell her not to pursue a second season and leave the project as the success it was, but something a male friend said to her stuck with her.
He said, "''Those women deserve their stories to be told beyond what was just that first season,'" the actress shared. "And I was so touched by that, and I went 'yeah, that's what we've actually got to fight for now.'"
The cast said they all felt a tremendous privilege to be able to tell such impactful stories through their characters, especially as some are mothers themselves.
"It isn't afraid of the mess and the really harsh contradictions that are in mothering, in parenting," Streep said about the show.
"How in your life, before you have children, you're warring with yourself," she continued. "But then your warring with yourself and with what you hope for your children, what you see them struggling with and the challenges of trying to be healthy -- but not clear a path, trying to make things possible but not give them stuff."
Kidman says her character, Celeste Wright, who is a victim of domestic abuse, has a very particular story, and emphasized that it is, "her story."
"It's very specific," Kidman explained. "Hopefully it's incredibly real, and there's an enormous amount of truth in there, which I was adamant that when we started this series. She wasn't a superhero, she wasn't coming out of this going 'I'm healed. Off I go. Let's go.' So you're going to see the path and navigating that path and what that means."
"Hopefully with that, we reach out to building conversations because it will be controversial," she added on the upcoming season. "There will be hopefully discussion, and it will create more awareness and hopefully change."
Witherspoon hopes this push for change extends to making more roles for women in Hollywood as well.
"When I think about what women have to contribute to film, it's just infinite, and it's just beginning to open up," she said. "It's really beautiful."
Kidman shared that she is grateful to finally "have a say."
"I've been an actress since I was 14, and so much of my life I haven't had a say," she said on her producing duties on the show. "I've been able to go in and contribute in terms of a performance, but I've never got to go, 'what about if this scene ended this way?' or 'what about if this is actually what was being thought through'...Just to be heard is amazing."
The second season of "Big Little Lies" premieres June 9 on HBO.