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May 22, 2017

‘Big Little Lies’ and the Best Counselor on Television

Big Little Lies, the edgy HBO mini-series that connects moms of first graders and the darkness that can lurk behind everyday life, is the place to find the best counselor on television, according to many in the profession.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 12.44.11 PMThe buzz about Dr. Amanda Reisman, as portrayed by Robin Weigert, gained so much traction before the end of the show’s airing that New York magazine’s Science of Us human behavior site ran an article exploring the phenomenon.

“It’s not only that she’s good—it seems like a portrayal of a pretty advanced therapist,” Alice Hawley Long, a licensed marriage and family counselor in Birmingham, Alabama, said in the Science of Us article. “She’s not using the stereotypical tools—she’s not just saying, ‘Oh, and tell me how that makes you feel’ and those kinds of things over and over.”

The seven-episode television series, created and written by 10-time Emmy Award winner David E. Kelley, features Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. The show provides a behind-the-curtains look at a “perfect” world centered in a fictional Monterey, California, community. And, if the title sounds familiar, Big Little Lies is based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same name.

Weigert discussed her role as Dr. Reisman in five of the show’s episodes in an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture entertainment news site.

“The therapist is not as much a figure in the book; she’s very much a figure in the mind of Celeste [the character portrayed by Nicole Kidman],” Weigert said. “The fully elaborated character is more in the script by David Kelley, so it’s very interesting to see what he made of her. They’re very believable therapy sessions to me—I thought she was very well-conceived.”

The show’s therapy sessions focus on a domestic violence story arc and range widely in tone and intensity. Weigert talked about them in an interview with Out magazine.

“There’s a big difference, for example, in how I played the scene where I’m gently taking Nicole through her defenses, and then once we’ve gained that ground, there’s a much more proactive approach,” Weigert said. “Honestly, one can imagine there may have been therapy scenes in between the ones on film, because so much ground has been covered between one and the next.”

In that interview, Weigert also revealed elements of her background that helped her to play a counselor. Her father was a psychoanalyst, his mother was a psychoanalyst and head of the Washington Psychoanalyst Institute, and Weigert herself has experience in working with a counselor.

Big Little Lies is available on demand on HBO and will be available on DVD in August.

Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO.

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