The Little Fires Everywhere miniseries ignites on March 18 with the release of its first three episodes on Hulu. Celeste Ng’s best-selling novel follows the seemingly perfect Richardson family and a mysterious mother and daughter who upend their lives when they arrive in Shaker Heights. Jade Pettyjohn and Megan Stott play the Richardson daughters, Lexie and Izzy, in the series. Lexie and Izzy are polar opposites and that applies to their relationships with their mother, Elena (Reese Witherspoon), as well.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Jade and Megan about exploring the complicated dynamics of the Richardson girls. While Lexie seems to have it all, Jade notes that Lexie’s “under a great deal of pressure” to be the perfect daughter. For Izzy, she rebels against everything her mother wants, causing friction within the family. The co-stars also discuss Lexie and Izzy’s sibling dynamic and how Pearl and Mia’s arrival changes everything.
First and foremost, what stood out about your individual characters that made you want to take on these roles?
Megan Stott: I wanted to take on Izzy because she is such a complex character and has so many emotions. I think that’s very interesting, especially for a teenager, to correctly express those emotions and not overdo it and not do it in a way that doesn’t do justice to what the writers wrote and what Celeste wrote.
Jade Pettyjohn: I think that my character, Lexie, is also very complex, and it’s definitely in a different way than Izzy. I thought it was really interesting as an actor to discover what someone’s environment and mentality and headspace and life would have to be like in order for my character to be the way she is. She lives in a completely different world, in this castle, like she’s in a bubble. She has this lost empathy and she can’t really see herself or others clearly and that’s very detrimental. I thought it was really interesting to just explore how one becomes someone like that and the motives behind that and finding the humanity in the character. I really enjoyed that aspect of it.
Elena is the matriarch of this family. What can you sort of say about Lexie and Izzy’s relationships with their mother?
Megan Stott: I think they’re polar opposites. I think that Lexie is the reflection of Elena, and then Izzy is rebellious and outspoken. Elena tries so hard and she actually believes that if she can just make Izzy go in the direction that’s she wants, then she’ll live happily ever after. Izzy is rebelling because she doesn’t want to lose herself. I think that’s why they have such a complicated relationship. Also, it’s because we don’t communicate very well. Izzy doesn’t tell her mom about certain things because she doesn’t think she can, but Elena also doesn’t ask.
Jade Pettyjohn: I think with Lexie and Elena, because they’re just mirrors of each other, I think there’s comfort in that. But I think there’s also a great deal of pressure that comes from that because I think Lexie has this responsibility to be the perfect daughter. I think that Lexie has this idea that she has no room for mistakes, whereas Izzy does or she thinks Izzy’s does. All the other siblings could mess up and it would be okay, but for Lexie, she can’t because she has this responsibility to her mom to be the perfect daughter.
What about Izzy and Lexie’s relationship? Because the sibling dynamic with sisters, especially when your mother is like Elena, is a very big minefield.
Megan Stott: I think they don’t really understand each other. I think, in moments, we try really hard to be there for each other and we try to talk to each other, but it’s kind of like we’re just sitting in silence if we ever want to talk. Izzy kind of understands what Lexie is going through, and I think she tries to say sometimes, “You don’t have to be the perfect child.” But I think Lexie, from Izzy’s perspective, is just another Elena. That’s why Izzy kind of doesn’t love her sister because she thinks Lexie’s exactly like her mom because she does everything she’s supposed to and she never makes any mistakes from what she can tell. They don’t have an understanding that normal siblings have.
Jade Pettyjohn: I agree with everything that she said. I think that it’s really interesting that they have a hot-headed relationship. Megan and I talked about this when we were filming and developing the history of that relationship. It definitely feels like oil and water, but it’s also interesting because they’re completely different individuals yet they’re going through the same thing, the same pressure to be perfect. It’s just their responses to that pressure is very different.
Pearl and Mia obviously come into the picture and have a long-lasting impact on the Richardson family. What can you sort of say about they become intertwined in Lexie and Izzy’s lives?
Megan Stott: I kind of think it’s like a switch-off of children. I become Mia’s child and Pearl kind of becomes Elena’s child. I think it’s a really harsh dynamic for the teenagers who are kind of stuck in the middle between the fight of Elena and Mia. I think for Izzy, in her perspective, Mia comes into her life and the first thing she says to her is basically, “You are an artist and I believe you’re good.” That’s something that is inspiring to Izzy. I think from the beginning of their relationship they have a strong connection. She’s able to talk to her compared to her mother. For Pearl, she’s able to talk to our mother because she isn’t worried about the consequences.
Jade Pettyjohn: I think it’s really interesting when you have two people from completely different walks of life, different culture, and different viewpoints come into this town that puts so much emphasis on outward exteriors and looking perfect and acting like a certain Shaker Heights standard. They kind of shake things up. I think for Lexie, Pearl comes into the world and I think that she doesn’t really see either Pearl or Mia for a very long time until things occur in later episodes, but she sees what she can get out of Pearl and what she can get out of Mia.
The book has been adapted into an entire miniseries. What can you say about the changes from book to screen?
Megan Stott: I think the book is so incredible and so potent in its own right. I think that our fearless showrunner did such a great job of adapting it and keeping the integrity of the book, but this is a TV series and we have more hands on it. We have more space to expand our characters and emotions.
Jade Pettyjohn: I think we were really lucky to take a story that was strong in its own right and give it more time and more life to seek and explore something that Celeste had already so beautifully created.