One of the true highlights of the 2017 Emmys was seeing Big Little Lies' Nicole Kidman win Best Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her role as domestic abuse survivor Celeste. In a post-show interview with Elle, author Liane Moriarty revealed Big Little Lies' domestic abuse story is based on true events, and her revelation only makes Kidman's portrayal of Celeste all the more powerful. According to Moriarty, the inspiration for abusive husband Perry, played by Alexander Skarsgård, came from one of her real-life boyfriends.
While Moriarty didn't go into any details about the relationship, it's clear given Perry's controlling and violent behavior that this person left the Big Little Lies author with some emotions to work through, and she did so by writing a story that empowers women. Moriarty told Elle about the abuse storyline,
"It came from a really horrible ex-boyfriend, who I took great pleasure in killing off. First in the book, and then it was very nice to see it happen in the series. Then Nicole took it from there."
Knowing that Celeste and Perry's story is based on even a kernel of truth adds another level of heartbreak to the plot. Moriarty didn't have to reveal the origin of the character to anyone, as it must be a difficult and intimate matter. But the fact that she did is so meaningful, as one more voice has now been added to the chorus of people sharing their stories of survival. In many ways, the author's words speak to the impact that Big Little Lies has had on creating an open dialogue about the subject of domestic abuse. Both Moriarty's book and the HBO series have been praised for their honest depictions of domestic violence and the way it affects families. Through the Perry-Celeste storyline, BLL has created a necessary discussion about a topic many people avoid talking about.
Throughout the miniseries, viewers see Celeste trying to work things out with Perry. She goes to couples' counseling, tries to shield her sons from her husband's behavior, and doesn't confide in her friends that the perfect marriage they believe she has is causing her so much distress. Both the physical and emotional toll of abuse are explored in a way that is complex and truthful. What makes the storyline so chilling are the moments of calm. Perry isn't a cartoon villain, and Celeste doesn't see herself as a victim. The characters feel like real people who could be living next door, and that's the point — this kind of violence goes on behind closed doors, which can leave those who've been abused feeling isolated.
During her Emmys acceptance speech on Sunday night, Kidman openly talked about the nature of domestic abuse, and, how even though it's a difficult subject, it must be discussed. The actor said,
"We shine a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy, and by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more. So thank you thank you thank you, I bow down to you."
The shame associated with being in an abusive relationship can be so pervasive it leaves some people feeling as if they cannot come forward. If Big Little Lies and Moriarty's story can make even one person feel understood and emboldened to speak their truth, then the series has done its job.
For Kidman, delving so deep into the psychology of Celeste and the painful realities of shooting such intimate and violent scenes was, unsurprisingly, emotionally draining. The actor explained to Elle, "It affected me more than anything I've ever done. Doing that for five months and then going home, I had to sort of keep it quiet, I was trying to be stoic about it, and be secret about it, but it penetrated my psyche."
The results speak for themselves. Big Little Lies shined a light on a subject that is rarely portrayed honestly on television or in film, and knowing that Moriarty has been affected by domestic abuse herself adds one more layer to the complexity of the story. She too is a survivor, and her work now has the chance to reach the people that need it the most.