Big Little Lies: HBO Female Driven Series, Starring Witherspoon and Kidman

“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set,” Reese Witherspoon said, talking with her female co-stars of HBO’s Big Little Lies at the TV Critics Association press tour.

“They call it the Smurfette syndrome,” she joked of being the sole woman surrounded by men. Then she quipped: “Who gave birth to all these Smurfs?”

Witherspoon decided to take action on the project herself, alongside her former producing partner Bruna Papandrea and co-star Nicole Kidman.

Based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name, Witherspoon and Kidman, who both serve as exec-producers and star in the seven-part limited series, optioned the book rights through their production companies. They became interested in the story because it offered roles for many diverse women.

“I saw myself in different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom at 22, I was a mom at 40… I’ve been divorced, I’ve been re-married.” Witherspoon said, speaking of the varying characters, played be herself, Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern. “They showed every spectrum and color of a woman’s life. It was incredible to have so many parts for women in one piece of material.”

“I’m passionate because things have to change,” Witherspoon said. “We have to start seeing women on film as they really are… We need to see real women’s experiences… The constant incredible talent of women playing wives and girlfriends, I had enough.”

When Kidman read the book, she related to the female characters, though the comic drama adapted by David E. Kelley centers on a larger-than-life premise: three mothers of kindergartners whose perfect lives unravel to the point of murder.

“This piece is about women helping each other and women supporting each other, which was very important,” Kidman noted. “It’s about women coming together and making something happening very quickly, with friendship being the core of it.”

Kidman added, “We were excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way, and yet entertaining.”

Witherspoon said that “the constant question for me is, how am I discovering something about a woman on film that I’ve never seen before? With this piece, I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women at every age, every color talking about motherhood. That is the common denominator. Motherhood is the great equalizer. Parenthood is a great equalizer.”

Kravitz also was excited to play a mother, something that’s a stretch from real life. “I hadn’t played a mother yet. And I’m not a mother yet, so it felt like new and beautifully interesting territory,” Kravitz said.

Both Witherspoon, 40, and Kidman, 49, were delighted that their co-stars Kravitz, 28, and Woodley, 25, wanted to join the project.

“It’s a unique opportunity working with these two beautiful and amazing and incredibly talent young women,” Witherspoon said. “I couldn’t believe you signed on. We were really excited.”

Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who helmed all 7 episodes, was responsible for bringing the cast together. Witherspoon was ;ess interested in rehearsal and more interested in getting everyone together for dinner–and wine.

“We see each other as humans,” Witherspoon explained, “We are on this journey as women. ”

“I’m at the stage in my life when I want to work with people that I really like,” Kidman said. “This is the perfect combination.”

“It’s so refreshing to spend time with all of these women,” Witherspoon added, “I really feel more strongly than anything I’ve ever done, and this is the greatest ensemble experience I’ve ever had.”