The following story contains massive spoilers about Sunday’s Big Little Lies finale. Proceed at your own peril.
When it came time to shoot Big Little Lies‘ season finale, Alexander Skarsgard was thrilled to death for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it finally afforded him the opportunity to breathe in some fresh air.
As the True Blood vet explains to TVLine, after “months of shooting those very intense” domestic scenes with onscreen wife Nicole Kidman, “I kind of enjoyed getting out of the house and being with” the other actresses. “We had a lot of fun shooting that [episode].”
That’s really saying something, considering the finale revealed Skarsgard’s character Perry to be Jane’s [Shailene Woodley] mysterious rapist/baby daddy and featured his brutal death.
In the following Q&A, Skarsgard elaborates on what it was like to be cornered on that stairwell by a throng of A-list actresses, takes us behind the scenes of those graphic fight sequences between him and Kidman, and, lastly, confirms that Sunday’s twist ending was indeed spoil-shadowed in Episode 2.
TVLINE | At what point did you find out about the twist ending?
From the get-go. Because it’s a miniseries, they had all of the episodes written [in advance]. So [I had] an opportunity to read all of them before jumping in.
TVLINE | What was your reaction?
I thought it was brilliant. I was not familiar with the book. I was obviously familiar with [director] Jean-Marc [Vallée]’s work and was a big fan of his movies. I thought the writing was so interesting and so rich. It was smart and funny and dark and disturbing.
TVLINE | Speaking of dark and disturbing, did you have any hesitation about playing this character?
No, not at all. I thought it was a very well-written relationship. In terms of him being an abusive husband. It was an opportunity to at least try to play him in a way that wasn’t a stereotypical abusive husband. Someone who was genuinely struggling with his demons.
TVLINE | Did it take a toll on you?
Yes, it was tough. When you see those scenes with me and Nicole… they were very intense to shoot. Also the way we shot it felt more like theater than doing a movie or television [series]. It was all existing lights and hand-held cameras — you get to own the space. You’re not limited or restricted to certain areas. It was a wonderful opportunity to play around with it. But it also makes it very emotional to do and less technical. It was incredibly tough. But I had the best scene partner in the world. Nicole was just incredible. We got the opportunity to get to know each other before we started filming and really talk about this relationship and the characters and what we tried to accomplish with it. We all felt that it was a safe space. We all trusted each other. But that didn’t make it easy. It was still difficult to get home after a day spent filming those scenes.
TVLINE | Had Perry survived, do you think there would’ve been any chance for redemption or reconciliation?
No. It’s too far gone. In the beginning she wanted to stay, and in a way blamed herself. She saw the softer side of his personality, the innocence in him that she fell in love with. But it got to a point where there’s no way he could redeem that.
TVLINE | What was it like shooting the climactic scene with you facing off against all of the women?
That whole [party] sequence took about a week and a half to shoot; it’s a big sequence. It was interesting because it was like all of their rage was combined; they ganged up to protect Celeste. It was [akin] to hyenas taking down a bigger predator. It became very animalistic, very primal. Not to compare these gorgeous women to hyenas, by the way. [Laughs] It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To get to work with those ladies was extraordinary. They are so amazingly talented and wonderful human beings. It was so much fun to be around them.
TVLINE | In Episode 2, Jane had a nightmare that her rapist was breaking into her house. We didn’t see his face, but we saw the silhouette. Was it your silhouette?
Yes. I shot that scene with Shailene. We obviously had to shoot it in a way where I was slightly obscured. You can’t really tell that it’s me because, obviously, you ruin the show if you find that out early on.
TVLINE | Was there a concern that some people might recognize the silhouette and then piece things together before the big reveal in the finale?
Yeah, especially people that know me. A lot of friends reached out after watching that episode and were like, “Hey, wait a minute… ” But we tried to do it in a way that didn’t [spoil] it.
TVLINE | I didn’t recognize you, but my colleague Kim Roots did. She wasn’t familiar with the book but, after watching Episode 2, she walked into my office and was like, “I think they just spoiled the big reveal.” And I said, “Stop right there. Say no more.” I did not want to be spoiled. But then after watching the finale, she told me about the silhouette.
[Laughs] Wow, she knows my silhouette pretty well. I don’t even think my mom recognized me when she saw that episode.