Little Fires Everywhere, recently nominated for five Black Reel Awards, is now streaming on Showmax. Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestselling book, the eight-part drama series follows the intertwined fates of the Richardsons – a picture-perfect, privileged white American family – and their new tenants, enigmatic African-American mother and daughter Mia and Pearl Warren.
The series is led by Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies, Walk the Line, Wild, Legally Blonde) and Golden Globe nominee Kerry Washington (Scandal, Django Unchained).
Reese plays Elena, a tightly-wound mother of four teens (a character not unlike Big Little Lies’ Madeline – but, oh, she does it so well), whose perfectly tailored world is disrupted by the arrival of Kerry’s character, Mia, a struggling artist and mother to teenager Pearl.
Though the two women share the fundamentals of motherhood – raising, protecting, and ultimately, learning to let go – their experiences couldn’t be more different. One of the most powerful moments comes during an altercation between Elena and Mia, when Elena bitingly says, “A good mother makes good choices.” And Mia comes right back at her with, “You didn’t make good choices. You had good choices.”
The cast also includes People’s Choice nominee and Teen Choice winner Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, The Affair), reuniting with Reese for the first time since 1999’s Cruel Intentions; two-time People’s Choice nominee Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy); two-time Teen Choice nominee AnnaSophia Robb (The Act, Bridge to Terabithia); Critics Choice nominee Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married); and young star Lexi Underwood, whose performance as Pearl New York Times calls “excellent,” saying, “The scenes between Mia and Pearl, both the tender and the angry ones, are the show’s highlights.”
Little Fires Everywhere was recently nominated for five Black Reel awards, including Best Limited Series, Actress (Kerry), Supporting Actress (Lexi), Directing and Writing.
As a producer, Reese has an eye for gems, from the Oscar-nominated movies Gone Girl and Wild to the Emmy-winning HBO series Big Little Lies, all of which were produced by her production company, Sunshine Pictures. When Reese read Celeste’s novel, she immediately sent it to Kerry, who read it in record time and agreed to bring in her own company, Simpson Street, to partner on the production.
Asked how she and Reese feel to be producing this project, Kerry laughs. “It makes me feel… busy,” she says. “To other people, ‘producer’ sounds like a fancy title, but to us, it sounds like work. We put in the work. We’re roll-up-your-sleeves kind of producers.”
Their first step was bringing in a diverse team. This included writers like Black Reel winner Attica Locke (When They See Us), Writers Guild of America nominees Liz Tigelaar (Nashville, Brothers & Sisters) and Shannon Houston (Homecoming, The Looming Tower), and Scandal executive story editor Raamla Mohamed, as well as directors Lynn Shelton (Glow), Nzingha Stewart (Grey’s Anatomy), and Emmy-winning Californication cinematographer and Good Girls director Michael Weaver.
“It was really important to us that the filmmakers and the storytellers behind the scenes were just as representative as the ones in the book,” says Reese. “There’s four different mothers in this piece, all mothering under different circumstances”
And, Kerry adds, “Having to navigate those differences impacts them and their families, their kids, their friends.”
The aim, for Reese, was to show the spectrum of what motherhood can be for different people. “There’s all kinds of different mothers out there,” she says. “This is not news to us. But we haven’t really seen that explored on film, and I think people will really see parts of themselves and parts of other people. It’s a great show for people to watch and discuss with each other.“
Little Fires Everywhere has an 80% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian calls it “moreish, searing, excellent”, while CNN says it’s “one of those rare multi-generational dramas where the arcs involving the kids are every bit as good as the adults.”
Check out the full list of Black Reel nominees here. The two most-nominated shows, HBO’s Watchmen and Insecure, are both only available to stream on Showmax in South Africa. Other nominees on Showmax include A Black Lady Sketch Show, Ballers, Big Little Lies, Euphoria, Godfather of Harlem, Power, Ramy, The Good Fight, and Westworld.
Watch the trailer below: