Reese Witherspoon has said her latest TV project alongside Kerry Washington is a “big testament to female partnership”.
She and Scandal actress Washington star in and have executive-produced the series adaption of Celeste Ng’s acclaimed 2017 novel, Little Fires Everywhere.
In keeping with the book, the TV adaptation, currently streaming on Prime Video, is set in the late 1990s in the Ohio town of Shaker Heights.
Witherspoon said: “This show is a big testament to female partnership, there’s so much leadership here from our writers, our director… and just an incredible writers’ room.
“There’s just a lot of female leadership in this show and I think you feel it. I think you feel that powerful feeling of female camaraderie and story tellers joining up to do what we do love to and what we know how to do.”
The series begins with the home of Witherspoon’s character – Elena Richardson – burning down in a suspected arson, one of several small fires sparking a story exploring class, race and privilege.
Witherspoon said the book and series had also addressed her own personal “blind spots”.
She said: “I’m learning so much every day, I’m a 44-year-old woman who is humbled by what I learn every day of things I don’t know and perspectives that I don’t walk through. I learned so much on this show about things that were told to me when I was a little girl that are not true, about homosexuality, and race and the immigrant experience.
“I only saw it through what I was told. I didn’t have social media, I didn’t have access to incredible thought leaders in the way that I would have liked to.
“So I think I learned so much through this experience just by feeling safe talking to Kerry about the things I grew up hearing and letting all that shame about not knowing just exist, just sitting in that shame of being embarrassed about the things I was told as a little white girl growing up in the South that aren’t true and having Kerry not judge me and having our writers’ room not judge me but say this is, you know, help me, find a way to express all of that through our television show.”
The series is produced by Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine, Washington’s Simpson Street and ABC Signature Studios, which is a part of Disney Television Studios.
Washington, who plays single mother and artist Mia Warren, spoke about acting alongside Witherspoon, saying they were in it together “as sisters”.
Asked about the biggest challenge in playing their characters, she responded: “I mean it’s hard for me to think of the biggest challenge because I think for both of us they were characters we’d never played before, we were being asked to do a kind of work we’d never done before which was inspiring, but also challenging.
“I will say… what made it doable for me was to be partnered with Reese. You can be nervous about the fight but when you step into the ring and your partner is as proficient and committed and as courageous in the work as Reese is, you just feed off each other.
“So anything that was scary about these characters, it really just felt so much more possible because we were in it together, even though our characters were enemies, behind the scenes we were really in it together as sisters, making sure that we could do this dance with proficiency.”
Little Fires Everywhere is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.