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Big Little Lies: HBO Boss Responds to Reports of Behind-the-Scenes Drama

Big Little Lies Season 2 Episode 1 Madeline Reese Witherspoon

Was there actually bigger drama behind the scenes of Big Little Lies than there was on screen? Don’t believe the rumors, HBO’s top executive says.

“There’s a lot of misinformation around that subject,” HBO programming president Casey Bloys told reporters during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Wednesday, addressing a report that Season 2 director Andrea Arnold was sidelined after filming the season’s seven episodes in favor of Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée. Arnold “did a beautiful job” as director, Bloys emphasized. “She got extraordinary performances out of this cast.” But “the director typically does not have final creative control” on TV projects, he added, so any assertion that the show was taken out of Arnold’s hands is “a false premise.”

He also pushed back on the notion that Vallée “unilaterally decided to come in and take over the process.” After Arnold handed in her cuts of all seven episodes, he says, “the entire producing team” — including stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman — “all asked Jean-Marc to come in and hone the episodes.” The move was simply “business as usual,” he concluded, adding that they were clear with Arnold about how this process would work from the start: “There were no surprises.”

The controversy stems from a report earlier this month by our sister site Indiewire, detailing the power struggle that occurred during the filming of Lies‘ second season (which just wrapped up this Sunday). According to the report, Arnold was pushed aside after production wrapped in favor of Vallée, who took over editing of the series along with a whopping 17 days of reshoots. The change was a late effort to make Season 2 more closely match the distinctive visual style of Season 1, and the result was reportedly a “disjointed” season overseen by a team of 11 credited editors.

HBO responded to Indiewire’s initial report with a statement: “There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series. and we think the final product speaks for itself.”