Reese Witherspoon on Little Fires Everywhere and women's power partnerships

Reese Witherspoon on Little Fires Everywhere and women's power partnerships
Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) in Little Fires Everywhere.

Reese Witherspoon is talking about how much power there is in partnership - specifically between women. And frankly, it couldn’t be a more apt conversation to be having.

The actress, 44, and another Hollywood power hitter, Kerry Washington, have teamed up to star in and produce Little Fires Everywhere, the Amazon Prime Video series based on Celeste Ng’s acclaimed 2017 novel.

Like the book, the TV adaption is set in the late 1990s in the quiet Ohio town of Shaker Heights, where author Ng grew up.

It begins with the home of Witherspoon’s character - Elena Richardson - burning down in a suspected arson, one of several small fires sparking a story that explores class, race, privilege and motherhood.

Scandal star Washington, 43, stars as mysterious artist Mia Warren, whose world collides with the ordered Shaker Heights existence in much the same way a painter’s oils mix with water.

“I think the themes of motherhood drew me to the material and the idea of getting to explore different kinds of mothering in one piece was really appealing,” explains Witherspoon virtually via a Zoom interview.

“Also getting to work with Kerry on this project was really a beautiful experience to be able to - just, thinking about being able to have conversations about things that are part of our everyday life that we are now making art about. I feel very grateful to have a partner like Kerry, to be able to have discussions and conversations,” Witherspoon explains.

“One thing Kerry said to me in the very beginning of our creative journey together was, we have to be able to have difficult conversations with each other. And I think about how little that is possible when people stop talking and get quiet. And it was a beautiful time, to have this group of diverse women all having conversations in a safe, soft place”.

Throughout their careers, both Witherspoon have always championed female empowerment.

As a mother-of-three, Witherspoon reflects on the conversations she’s had with her 20-year-old daughter, Ava.

“I think it’s important we are telling stories that our daughters and other people’s daughters are going to grow up and see a better, more accurate reflection of what the female experience is,” she says emphatically.

I was just talking to my daughter this morning about what she sees on film and how she sees more female storytellers, female directors and female screenwriters and that she feels emboldened to speak up because she’s hearing women finally being honest about their experiences.

"And that if we don’t have that real genuine expression of the female experience, women will continue to be silenced, will not live in to their full potential and full power.

“You hope by creating television shows that see women as flawed and real but they are still, their lives matter, every single person who has their story told, all the different perspectives that are represented in our work, people who watch it realise ‘Oh that is a moment in time for me to walk in those people’s shoes and feel something I would have never felt, never experienced’. I think of it as gifts to another generation.”

Their upcoming peer group will also have the Time’s Up and Me Too movements - both global movement against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry - as a frame of reference.

Witherspoon says numerous conversations were massive eye openers for her, adding: “I had no idea that so many people were having harassment issues, discrimination issues, it really opened my eyes and made me even more incentivised to work with other women.

“I was already doing it a little and then I doubled down, there’s so much power in partnership and it’s time for women to stop seeing scarcity, see abundance in what happens when women pair with each other and partner - it’s just really magical”.

A little bit like Little Fires Everywhere.

  • Little Fires Everywhere is available on Amazon Prime Video now

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