HBO is claiming you shouldn't believe the hype around Big Little Lies Season 2 director Andrea Arnold's involvement in the series' most recent seven episodes. As HBO programming president Casey Bloys explained during the summer TCA tour on July 24, per Deadline, there was "a lot of misinformation" surrounding the directorial drama. So he took opportunity to "clarify a couple of things" at the TV industry event.
"There would not be a second season without Andrea," he first told reporters, according to Deadline. "We’re indebted to her. She got an extraordinary performance out of the cast." (The BLL Season 2 cast, of course, included A-listers: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.)
That being said, Bloys added that "as anyone who works in TV knows," directors don't have final creative control, and, as such, couldn't have been "taken" from Arnold.
On July 12, IndieWire wrote that HBO reportedly gave Arnold "free rein" over Season 2's prep, production, and post-production. However, creator David E. Kelly and the network later reportedly brought in Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée to edit her episodes, per IndieWire's unnamed sources.
The powers that be reportedly made this decision in order to unify Season 1 and 2's aesthetic, per Indiwire. The outlet also reiterated that after all the episodes had been shot, Vallée reportedly stepped in to edit Arnold's work to match the feel of the debut season which he helmed.
According to Vanity Fair, Bloys countered at TCAs that Arnold “was never promised she would have free rein” and there were “no surprises in terms of how this was going to work.” As he told the audience, “We were clear, and she understood that we were not looking to have someone come in and completely redo things.”
Following the IndieWire article's publication, HBO issued a statement about Arnold's BLL Season 2 involvement. Said a network rep on July 13: "There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself." (Bustle also reached out to representatives for Kelley, Arnold, & Vallée, at the time but did not receive a response.)
For those who aren't as well-versed in the process of making a TV show, Deadline reported that Bloys used his TCA address to further explain what went down with BLL Season 2:
“Typically a director turns in a director’s cut to the showrunner and producing team who hone the episode. That’s what happened here. The other thing I would clarify is that Jean-Marc Vallée didn’t unilaterally decide to take over the process. Andrea did director’s cuts for all seven episodes, and handed them into the showrunner and producing team.”
Bloys further doubled down that Vallée "didn’t have directors carte blanche" but was involved in the scripts and had dinner with Arnold prior to shooting. When it comes to BLL, this seems to be Bloys' truth.