Big Little Lies' Reese Witherspoon on How the HBO Project Broke Her Out of Hollywood's 'Smurfette Syndrome'

Reese Witherspoon Big Little Lies

Nearly three decades of working in male-dominated Hollywood left Reese Witherspoon feeling blue. And then Big Little Lies — HBO’s seven-part dark comedy — came along.

“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set, so I had no other women to talk to,” Witherspoon lamented Saturday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “They call it ‘Smurfette Syndrome.’ Because she’s got a hundred Smurfs around her and she’s the only girl. And who gave birth to all those Smurfs, anyway? But, honestly, it’s so refreshing to get to spend time with women.”

Witherspoon’s desire to employ women both in front of and behind the camera is what led her to option Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel (she’s also an exec producer on the HBO miniseries, as is co-star Nicole Kidman). “Things have to change — we have to start seeing women as they really are,” the Oscar winner shared. “We have to see real women’s experience. Whether it involves domestic violence, whether it involves sexual assault, whether it involves motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce. We need to see these things.

“We learn from art, and what can you do if you never see it reflected?” she continued. “[I’m tired of seeing] women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends in thankless parts. I’d just had enough. So it’s a unique privilege to be able to come to other women with a piece of material that I feel deeply proud of.”

Witherspoon went on to call the Big Little Lies cast, which also includes Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz, “the greatest ensemble I’ve ever [worked with].”

Big Little Lies debuts Feb. 19 on HBO. Watch the full-length trailer below.