Big Little Lies star Nicole Kidman is on publicity duties for the highly anticipated second season of the HBO hit series she co-produced with co-star Reese Witherspoon. It's here that she confessed she's eager to head back to the Nashville home she shares with her musician husband, Keith Urban, and their daughters, Sunday, 10, and, Faith, 8.
It's clear from the get-go that, despite all her successes and the opportunities that continue to come her way, family comes first for Nicole, who turns 52 on June 20. "My agent just told me about a big film I was offered and I said, 'I don't even want to read it, because it's going to fall into the dates my daughters start their next school terms,'" she says firmly.
"They love coming with me on set, but I love keeping them in the school system, so we work around it. It puts a lot of stress on me if I have to fly back and forth a lot, but I'm willing to do it. And then, in our summer break, we try to go back to Australia for as long as possible."
When Big Little Lies returns, Nicole's character Celeste is navigating life as a widow raising twin boys following the death of her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård).
School's back after a summer apart for the "Monterey Five:" Celeste, Madeline (Reese), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Renata (Laura Dern), and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). And they all continue to struggle with the secret they share now that Celeste's mother-in-law, Mary Louise (newcomer Meryl Streep), has stayed on to help with her grandsons and ask plenty of questions about Perry's death.
"It's a fantastic dynamic," Nicole says. "You have this very truthful relationship of a daughter in-law and a mother-in-law and the way in which they are now having to navigate their grief and loss as a family."
She smiles widely when asked about her own mother-in-law, Marienne Urban. "I just love Marienne, and every time I look at her, I say, 'Oh my God, Sunday looks so much like you!'" she enthuses. "Keith looks so much like his mother too, so that's lovely."
While the series had more than enough star power in its premiere season, Meryl only adds to that wattage for season two. And luring her into the fold began with a text from one Oscar winner to another.
"I've known Meryl for years," Nicole explains. "But she signed on to do this without reading a script, because she wanted to support us as women. She bet on us — and as soon as she did that, it gave validity to having a second season."
Meryl, who turns 70 on June 22, also acknowledges in an earlier interview that she was already a big fan of the original series of Big Little Lies.
"This exploration of abuse — where it comes from, why it continues and how people survive it — led to all those questions in the air and really fed a hunger from an audience that was ready for it," she says of the series' global reach and important message.
Yet despite its popularity, the show has its detractors. Nicole recalls how some male reviewers have not been so kind, with one saying the series was worse than 2015 movie Fifty Shades Of Grey.
"So, in terms of my character and the abuse, I was like, 'Please watch the whole show,'" Nicole says. "You make it as a whole, and the beginning, middle, and end are in those seven, eight, or 10 hours.
"It's a massive ask and a lot of times you're not even given the final episode, or the last two episodes. So, that's one of the quandaries of television and reviewing television, taking it out of the male/female thing."
Even so, Nicole is proud that the show has opened doors for women in front of and behind the camera. This season, director Andrea Arnold takes over from Jean-Marc Vallée.
"It's interesting having a woman," Nicole says. "We all talk about the male gaze and the female gaze. Obviously, this is a female gaze, because now we have a woman behind the camera, but it's the way she enters into all of us — you'll see!"
Nicole adds that this series has also paved the way for other female-driven projects.
"It's an exciting landscape to be part of," she says.
"It's also lovely, at this stage of my life and career, to be doing something I've never done before: working with a group of women who are so smart, all contributing to the show's success."
Whether that run continues with a third season of Big Little Lies is too early to say, she insists. "There's no plan for it," Nicole says, choosing to focus on season two. "It was a long shoot for us and an enormous amount of work.
"I will say not to compare it to the first one [series], because artistically it's a wonderful thing to just take something and go."
Nicole adds, however, that the success of the first season allowed risks. "We go, 'OK, let's jump off the cliff,'" she says, but season two "is its own entity and, hopefully, it will be taken in that way. It was definitely made with an enormous amount of love."
When it comes to juggling her own busy life, Nicole says love is very much a factor, and she depends on one special person in particular. "I don't think I'd be able to do anything I do without Keith and that nourishment and the open arms I come home to," the star says softly.
"When he first saw season one, he loved it and immediately predicted, 'You have a hit show!' I know how busy he is, but he clears his schedule and takes the time to watch it with me, because he knows what it means to me. That's everything."
When home in Nashville, Nicole says the Urbans are avid ice-hockey fans, following the local Predators team, and — not surprisingly — they share a love of music, too.
"I love going to listen to music," she says. "Also, Keith will sometimes go and play a secret gig at a local club. I love that he still does that; that it's his roots — where he came from."
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.