Coming to terms. Reese Witherspoon admitted that she wasn’t always aware of the concept of homosexuality.
During a virtual conversation with Regina King for Variety’s Actor on Actor series, the Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde costars discussed Witherspoon’s experience on Little Fires Everywhere. The chat soon led Witherspoon, 44, to recall how a particular scene from the Hulu series echoed her own childhood being raised in Tennessee.
“That great experience of being able to look at a time that was actually 30 years ago and think: ‘I was a teenager then. What did my mom say about sexuality, race, class? What were the things that I was told that maybe were true or not true? How was I insensitive?’” the Big Little Lies actress explained.
“No one spoke to me about sexuality when I was a teenager. I didn’t understand what homosexuality was,” she continued. “My grandparents didn’t explain it. My parents didn’t explain it. I had to learn from somebody I met on an audition in Los Angeles.”
Witherspoon said Little Fires Everywhere featured a conversation inspired by the one she had with her grandmother after learning about homosexuality. “We incorporated some of the conversation I had with my grandmother afterward. She said: ‘Homosexuality is very rare, Reese. That’s not a thing that happens very often,’” the Morning Show actress recalled. “And we put it in the script. (My character) Elena says it because that’s what was said to me in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1994.”
In Little Fires Everywhere, Witherspoon’s character Elena Richardson struggles to accept her youngest child Izzy’s (Megan Stott) attraction to girls. Though Izzy’s sexuality was alluded to in Celeste Ng’s book, it was never explicitly mentioned.
Little Fires Everywhere executive producer Liz Tigelaar revealed why the TV adaptation chose to further explore the sexuality narrative. “After I read the book and was thinking about ways I wanted to adapt it, I asked Celeste, ‘Did it ever occur to you that Izzy could be gay?’” the 44-year-old told Entertainment Tonight in April. “And she said, ‘Yes, I felt that way, but it felt like a whole other story,’ that she didn’t really have room for.”
Tigelaar added, “Every teenager wants to rebel for the sake of rebelling, but I think what it added with Izzy was it felt like there were very real stakes and it made Mia (Kerry Washington) become this life raft where it was the only place she really felt safe.”