Reese Witherspoon is here to fill your “Big Little Lies” void. The actor and producer, who starred in two seasons of the compelling HBO drama, is back in front of the camera as executive producer of “Surface” on Apple TV+ (first three episodes streaming Friday, then weekly).
The lavish psychological thriller, which was created by Veronica West (Hulu’s “High Fidelity”), centers on Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a San Francisco resident who has a catastrophic head injury after falling from a boat in what appears to be a suicide attempt.
Sophie makes an effort to recover and piece her memories back together with the help of her therapist (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and attentive husband James (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She starts to suspect that she isn’t being told the whole truth about what happened to her or even who she is after a mystery man from her past (Stephan James) shows up.
Witherspoon, 46, describes the script as having “Big Little Lies”-like qualities. “It’s a wealthy neighborhood, but there’s a secret hidden behind it all. You don’t know who to believe, and it’s disconcerting as a spectator.
Each episode ends with a scene that makes you think, “Oh my god that is entirely not what I expected.” Ava DuVernay’s 2018 sci-fi adventure “A Wrinkle in Time” and Season 1 of Apple’s “The Morning Show” co-starred Witherspoon and Mbatha-Raw, who are working together once again on this project.
The British actress was intrigued to Sophie’s challenge of being essentially a “blank slate,” with a past that only becomes increasingly clear as the eight-episode first season continues. According to Mbatha-Raw, “It was a fascinating place to start, to feel like I was constructing Sophie as the audience was experiencing her too.”
“I was particularly interested in the show’s central question, “Is it generous to shield people from the murky aspects of their history, or is it actually a selfish act?” There was a lot to think about.” Despite having played professionally for 17 years in films including “Fast Color” and “Beyond the Lights,” Mbatha-Raw, 39, is making her directorial debut with “Surface.”
She attributes her invitation to Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine, her production business. In terms of empowering women, Witherspoon “definitely walks the talk,” according to Mbatha-Raw. “Since I’ve been working for a while and have learned so much in the process, this was really an opportunity to expand my voice.”
After earning an Oscar for her portrayal in “Walk the Line” in 2005, Witherspoon became dissatisfied with the parts she was receiving and launched a successful career as a producer, specializing in films with strong female characters.
Since then, she has collaborated on successful streaming programs with A-list celebrities including Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”), Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”), and Kerry Washington (“Little Fires Everywhere”), who also produced them. Witherspoon claims, “We’re simply catching up.”
Throughout my career, there were numerous occasions when I wasn’t given a voice in the decision-making process; instead, I was given instructions on where to go, what to do, and how things would turn out. The 2014 drama “Wild,” in which she portrayed author Cheryl Strayed and received her second Best Actress Oscar nod, marked a turning point.
A draught of Strayed’s 2012 autobiography was submitted to Witherspoon, who then shopped it around to production companies. “I asserted, “I’m not altering a word.” I want the complete range of her experiences as a woman to be captured on camera; I don’t want it to be neutered,” “From Witherspoon
It’s a movie that transformed my life: “Creating the movie, seeing it come to life, and then seeing how viewers responded to it was one of the most significant, formative moments of my career.” Along with “Surface,” Witherspoon also worked on the murder mystery “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which debuted earlier this month and has already made $44 million at the box office.
Witherspoon chose Delia Owens’ 2018 book for her Hello Sunshine Book Club just weeks after its publication, despite the fact that she doesn’t appear in the movie. “Crawdads” has been a longtime passion project for Witherspoon.
The success of that film, in Witherspoon’s words, “makes me feel that people are yearning for genuine, authentic storytelling with women at the centre.” Even though we make up half the population, we aren’t depicted in as many movies. Making more movies like this is also a wonderful message for our business.”
Witherspoon has more than a dozen projects as a producer and an actress that are in various stages of development, including one that she “can’t really talk about” in which she “reprises a character I played a long time ago.”
Also in development is a third “Legally Blonde” film, co-written by Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor. I’m still holding out hope that ‘Legally Blonde 3′ will come together well,’ Witherspoon admits. “I enjoyed the nostalgia piece they placed in it. It’s just like ‘Top Gun,’ where they waited a long time to do another version.
So, without a doubt, that inspired us much when it came to what we wanted to accomplish with Elle Woods and ensure that we maintained all of the same touchstones that were significant to people (back) then.
“I protect these characters because I feel like they are my friends. I would never produce a weak or subpar adaptation of their story.