How Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington Channeled Their Own Mothers in Little Fires Everywhere

Reese Witherspoon discuss the inspirations behind their characters on the Apple+ series "Little Fires Everywhere"

By Cydney Contreras Mar 20, 2020 11:00 AMTags

Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are drawing inspiration from their own lives for their new show Little Fires Everywhere.

In a new interview with emmy magazine the two stars reveal that as they read and prepared for the new series, which was inspired by Celeste Ng's book of the same title, they began to realize they were channeling women they're very close to: their own mothers. "I don't know why it never occurred to us until we were almost into production," Witherspoon tells the publication. "I was like, 'I'm playing [my mother] Betty!'"

Upon coming to the realization, they decided to lean into it, rather than seek new sources of inspiration. After all, their mothers knew what it was like to raise teen girls in the '90s. 

For Washington, her mother Valeria also offered some insight into what it meant to be a woman of color in the '90s. She explained her mother, a professor, would have different answers depending on the person who asked her about where she's from. It would either be, "I'm from New York," "I'm from the Bronx" or "I'm from the South Bronx."

Photographic Evidence Reese Witherspoon and Ava Phillippe Are Actually Twins

"It was interesting to see how people would try to make sense of this incredibly smart, articulate, accomplished professor saying she was from the South Bronx," Washington explains. 

John Russo/Emmy Magazine

As for how the book impacted their real lives, Witherspoon said it helped her to process her daughter Ava Phillippe leaving for college. She shares, "It's so difficult to articulate what motherhood means, and there are so many passages in the novel that did... My daughter was applying for college back then, so it hit me like an arrow in the heart."

Fans can read the full interview when emmy magazine hits newsstands on March 24. Little Fires Everywhere is available to stream on Hulu.

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