Big Little Lies has all the makings of good TV. Sex, scandal, money, murder — it's glamour, grit, and drama all wrapped into one. Throw in an A-list cast (Reese Witherspoon! Nicole Kidman! Shailene Woodley!) and the only thing that would make it better is some juicy real-life inspo. So, is Big Little Lies based on a true story? Well, not exactly, but it does have some IRL roots.
A mix between social satire and murder-mystery, the HBO series follows a group of rich suburban moms whose perfect lives are forced off-track by a dark and deeply unsettling who-dun-it. It's based on Liane Moriarty's 2014 best-seller of the same name, and though her book is mostly fictional, Moriarty has said there were some sparks of real-life inspiration. In an interview with The Guardian, she said she drew from at least two personal accounts: a friend's story about finding bite marks on her young daughter's arms, and a radio interview in which a woman recounted the abuse her father had inflicted on her mother and how it affected her childhood. That gave way to the themes of abuse in the book. As Moriarty told The Guardian:
"[One] was a girlfriend’s story about finding bite marks on her kindergarten daughter’s forearms. She kept asking her: 'Who did this to you?' Finally the little girl admitted she’d done it to herself, which is admittedly comic, but what stuck with me was the drama of finding evidence of harm on your child.
But the real impetus, the hardest thing, and one I think I haven’t mentioned to anyone yet, is a radio interview I heard in which a woman was talking about how her father had abused her mother, the trauma of it. Towards the end of the interview, she described returning home as a grown woman and going to hide under the bed when her parents began to argue. Everything that that signified about the kind of childhood she’d had spoke to me. I wound up using that scene in [the] novel."
So the traumatic core of Big Little Lies comes from a somewhat truthful place, but where it ventures into fictional territory is when that backstory results in murder. HBO's take seems to follow a similar storyline as the book, though according to Variety, both the killer and the identity of the victim are unknown — at least four episodes in. From the sound of it, the series is more faithful to Moriarty's novel than any real-life facts, but that doesn't mean it won't make for one hell of an addictive show when it premieres on HBO this Sunday, Feb. 19.