PASADENA, Calif. — Meryl Streep's self-claimed addiction to "Big Little Lies" had the bonus of turning the Oscar-winning actress into a star of the HBO drama's second season.
"I loved this show. I was addicted to it. I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and don't know about people — about family, about friends, about how we flirted with the mystery of things," Streep said Friday. "I wanted to do it to be in that world. The world they created was amazing."
In the seven-episode season beginning in June, Streep plays Mary Louise Wright, mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman's Celeste, whose abusive husband Perry died at the end of season one.
David E. Kelley, who wrote both seasons, joked that the much-acclaimed Streep had to pass muster to get the role.
"We looked at Meryl's demo reel," Kelley told a TV critics meeting. He noted that the character of Mary Louise was created by Liane Moriarty, whose novel "Big Little Lies" was adapted for the original season.
Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon return as executive producers and stars of the drama set in Monterey, California. Returning co-stars Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley comprise the so-called "Monterey Five" circle, joined together by dark secrets.
"We had such a good time doing it and the desire to spend more time together had a lot to do with it," said Kidman, explaining the drama's return. "Also, there was an enormous demand from the audience ... It was generated by the audience, and the desire to see these people still in existence."
She noted the rarity of a series with so many female leads — let alone produced by and, this season, directed by a woman, Andrea Arnold — and the cast said the camaraderie they enjoyed last season was repeated.
Asked who proved the best storyteller in their off-camera moments, Streep's co-stars chorused, "Meryl!"
Streep modestly waved off the compliment, then added: "What happens in Monterey, stays in Monterey."
Kelley, asked about the possibility of more "Big Little Lies," said this season's satisfying closure means "that will probably be it," he said.
"That's what you said last time," a smiling Witherspoon replied.
The new season addresses unresolved issues, such the affair that Witherspoon's character Madeline engaged in. As Kelley put it, "we don't so much go broader as we go deeper" as the drama explores territory beyond that of Moriarty's novel.
It also pays more attention to Kravitz's character, Bonnie, who was more prominent in the book than she was in the first season of "Big Little Lies."
Bonnie is part of a group that has its conflicts but must contend with Perry's death, Kravitz said, this "thing that binds us together. So watching us all kind of do this dance together because of this lie that we all hold, is kind of an interesting thing to see."
For Dern's abrasive Renata, being ushered into the circle opens up a new world. The actress won an Emmy for the role.
"It's thrilling for Renata to have any friends," said Dern, drawing laughs from her co-stars.