The idea for Little Fires Everywhere came from personal experiences for the film’s two female actors and producers, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. In a recent interview with Emmy magazine, the actors said that in order to prepare for their roles as mothers in the new Hulu series, Mia Warren and Elena Richardson, respectively, looked to their own mothers for inspiration.
According to E! News, Witherspoon told the magazine that she did not understand why the idea had not occurred to her and her co-workers until they were very close to beginning production. “I was like, ‘I’m playing Betty!’” — “I’m Playing My Mother”
The former cast member of Big Little Lies plays the role of Elena Richardson, an affluent and fastidious mother of four who is thriving in the cookie-cutter neighborhood of Shaker Heights, Ohio, in the limited series that consists of eight episodes. When she becomes involved with Mia Warren, who lives in Washington and is an artist as well as a Black single mother doing multiple jobs to make ends meet, her life undergoes a dramatic transformation.
Mia and her daughter Pearl, who live in the largely white suburbia of the 1990s shown in the film Little Fires, are subjected to and see racial tensions, which brought to mind Washington’s own mother’s experiences growing up in a similar environment. According to Washington said in an interview for Emmy magazine, “it was intriguing to see how people would try to make sense of this really clever, articulate, accomplished professor saying she was from the South Bronx.”
In a previous interview with Variety, the actress from Scandal mentioned the following: “Her response to the question “Where are you from?” was either “New York City,” “the Bronx,” or “the South Bronx,” depending on the borough she was in at the time. By how she responded to that question, she was able to influence both how you perceived her and how comfortable she felt interacting with these Upper East Side mothers.”