Big Little Lies, The Undoing and beyond: How Nicole Kidman became the queen of prestige TV

Katie Rosseinsky
·3 min read
Sky Atlantic
Sky Atlantic

Is there a Hollywood star who has embraced the era of peak TV as whole-heartedly as Nicole Kidman? We don’t think so.

The actress’s latest prestige mini-series The Undoing, her latest collaboration with Big Little Lies showrunner David E. Kelley, premiered on HBO and Sky Atlantic earlier this week. Clearly not one to rest on her laurels, Kidman has now revealed her next TV project: an adaptation of Things I Know To Be True, a play by Andrew Bovell, which will stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Like so much of Kidman’s recent TV work, Things I Know To Be True unpicks familial relationships, although it seems that the story will strike a different note to the twisty, cliffhanger-laden likes of Big Little Lies and The Undoing.

The play follows an Australian family, the Prices, as parents Fran and Bob and their four grown-up children make a series of life-changing decisions. With elements of physical theatre used to map out how the characters relate to one another in the show, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the story translates to the small screen.

Nicole Kidman's latest series The Undoing also features a script by David E. Kelley (Sky Atlantic)
Nicole Kidman's latest series The Undoing also features a script by David E. Kelley (Sky Atlantic)

As well as serving as an executive producer on the series, Kidman will star as Fran. “I’ll never forget the experience I had watching Andrew’s play in Sydney, having one of those transcendent theatre experiences,” she said in an announcement. "Andrew’s play is exquisite and his scripts for the series are just as good.”

Kidman’s reign as the Queen of prestige television kicked off back in 2017 with a double whammy. She made her HBO debut as domestic abuse survivor Celeste in Big Little Lies, serving as an executive producer on the show alongside co-star Reese Witherspoon. Her devastating performance, which later earned Kidman an Emmy, was arguably the most talked-about part of the year’s most talked-about show.

She followed it up by re-teaming with her Portrait of a Lady director Jane Campion, donning fake teeth and a wild grey wig to appear in the second series of Top Of The Lake opposite Elisabeth Moss.

Kidman with Big Little Lies co-star Meryl Streep
Kidman with Big Little Lies co-star Meryl Streep

Kidman’s working relationship with Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty has proved particularly fruitful in terms of small screen work. She and Witherspoon reportedly received around $1 million for each episode of the show’s second series, with additional producing fees on top. She’s currently at work on an adaptation of the Australian writer’s latest novel Nine Perfect Strangers, which she will executive produce and star in; she and Witherspoon have also snapped up the rights to another of Moriarty’s novels, Truly Madly Guilty, and plan to turn it into another mini-series.

Then there’s her first-look deal with Amazon. Things I Know To Be True is the third TV collaboration between Kidman and the streaming platform, following The Expatriates and Pretty Things, based on novels by Janice Y.K. Lee and Janelle Brown.

What’s most refreshing about the imperial phase of Kidman’s TV career, though, is how she’s used this plethora of projects to support women behind the camera. Back in 2017, the actress revealed that she’d promised herself that she would work with a female director every 18 months (this might not seem like a lot at first glance, but in Hollywood terms, it’s pretty radical).

After teaming up with The Night Manager director Susanna Bier for The Undoing, she’s now set to work with Lulu Wang, whose heartbreaking and hilarious debut feature The Farewell picked up a Bafta nomination earlier this year, on The Expatriates and with Reed Morano, who directed the chilling opening episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, for Pretty Things. Kidman’s TV ascendancy seems to be creating a ripple effect for other women in the industry. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

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The Undoing's gloriously OTT melodrama is perfect for winter nights