Finding sympathy while playing the character you love to hate

How Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern learned to like her alpha mom character in the new HBO miniseries Big Little Lies

Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern plays Renata Klein in HBO’s Big Little Lies.


Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern plays Renata Klein in HBO’s Big Little Lies.

In the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, Laura Dern plays Renata Klein, the Queen of Monterey, California, whose idea of a fabulous summer vacation is joining the board of Paypal.

When Renata is pitted against a fellow alpha mom, played by Reese Witherspoon, murder, naturally, ensues. The Oscar-nominated actor spoke to Metro about finding sympathy for “the character that you love to hate.”

What was it like to film in a beautiful beachfront home?
So. Gorgeous. When they showed the first episode at a premiere this week, when people saw me on my deck, they laughed. They think they know that person. The richest one. The most powerful. And the minute you set that up she becomes the character that you love to hate.

How did you find sympathy for her?
It’s interesting to see how men and fathers interact in the world, and no one’s judging their parenting based on their career or lack of career. But they are judging a working mom.

Your costar Shailene Woodley said that when Donald Trump won, she had already grieved his win. Were you surprised?
I was as devastated as I have felt in my lifetime. I had done what a lot of my friends did and that was to ensure my children that (Hillary Clinton’s win) would be the only outcome. And I was right, because 3.4 million more people voted for her. She did win people’s vote. Having worked on the film Recount for HBO, I went through a lot of research to play a woman who was notorious for helping voter suppression and voter fraud. It exists every time we have (an election), but if you’re going to add another country’s involvement, it means the system is broken and your voice may be overlooked. How do you explain that to your kids?

A recent study found that Americans ranked busy people, like your character, as high status. Do you see a shift in how people look at work/life balance?
As Americans, we hurry ourselves to make it all happen as fast as possible. Art doesn’t work that way. The great artists that inspired me are the ones that take time and let things gestate.

If you had known as a child that you would grow up to be in a Star Wars movie, what would you have thought?
I was raised by actors, and I wouldn’t have dreamt it up. It never occurred to me until I was on set and I looked around. I was literally in shock and I was eight years old seeing Star Wars for the first time.

Big Little Lies premieres Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO Canada.

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