With all the movie stars flocking to TV in recent years, the wall that separates the two mediums has been slowly coming down, brick by brick. But on Tuesday, HBO just bulldozed the whole damn thing when it announced that perennial Oscar magnet Meryl Streep is joining the cast of Big Little Lies season 2.
While we wait for you to catch your breath, let’s break down exactly how Streep will figure in to the sun-soaked, wine-stained coastal community of Monterey. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Streep will play—spoiler alert—Mary Louise Wright, the mother of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård), whose murder served as season 1’s central mystery. The Wright matriarch and mother-in-law to Celeste (Nicole Kidman) reportedly descends on Monterey out of concern for the well-being of her grandchildren and in search of answers regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding her son’s death. So at the very least, we have some explosive verbal sparring to look forward to between Streep and Kidman, who last appeared together in 2002’s The Hours without ever sharing the screen.
Despite it’s already mammoth star power, Streep is a huge get for a show that many people thought shouldn’t have been given a second season to begin with. Based entirely on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling crime novel of the same name, BLL was originally conceived as a seven-episode anthology guided by the singular creative visions of writer David E. Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallée, and the leadership of executive producers and stars Reese Witherspoon and the aforementioned Kidman.
But as the show began steamrolling through awards season—most recently sweeping the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards—a second season seemed inevitable. When HBO announced that it was indeed moving ahead with a follow-up, the reaction was mixed. Season 1 was wrapped up in a neat little bow, and a second season risked ruining the legacy of what many people considered to be a flawless piece of pop entertainment.
But the skepticism surrounding HBO’s decision was tempered by the confirmed return of the original cast, and the news that Andrea Arnold would be taking the reins from Jean-Marc Vallée. With her sprawling coming-of-age drama American Honey, the British writer/director proved that she’s one of the most ambitious and artful women making movies today. While Vallée managed to imbue the series with his own unique perspective, it’s fitting that a female-led show has an actual woman at the helm.
Surely the presence of Arnold, Kidman and Witherspoon was instrumental in convincing Streep to return to the small screen—her last TV outing was in the 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America. But the show’s newfound urgency in the #MeToo era probably played a part in luring Streep as well.
With its overarching theme of female empowerment and the nuanced way it treats the subject of domestic abuse, BLL suddenly found itself uniquely aligned with the national conversation on sexual harassment that continues to play out in real time. Anytime they found themselves in front of a microphone during the show’s awards season march, Kidman, Witherspoon and costar Laura Dern passionately spoke about the importance of their work in this current climate.
Streep’s relationship with the #MeToo movement has been fraught, after Rose McGowan accused her of knowing about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual transgressions. Streep denied knowledge and has since done her best to position herself as an ally, donating $500,000 to the Time’s Up campaign. As the newest member of the BLL family, Streep will once again help drive the movement forward, this time by doing what she does best.