Why Big Little Lies Left Out Bonnie’s Backstory, According To The Creator

Bonnie singing in the finale

Throughout the past year or so, it's become clear that TV is the place to work for actors. With so much great content being produced, even bonafide movie stars have taken to the small screen for their next jobs. Case in point: HBO's Big Little Lies, which is produced by and starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. The dark comedy has been critically acclaimed for its fantastic performance, as well as its nearly spot on adaptation of the novel of the same name. But one aspect of Liane Moriarty's novel was noticeably missing: the backstory of Zoe Kravitz's Bonnie. Now creator David E. Kelley has explained why Bonnie's history of abuse wasn't shown onscreen.

Ahead of the upcoming Emmy nominations, David E. Kelly spoke with THR about the process of crafting Big Little Lies for the small screen. Regarding the lack of Bonnie's backstory in the series, Kelly explained his choice, saying;

Filmically, we wanted to go out without dialogue. I think the last 10 minutes or so of the series, no one was saying anything. We were doing it all with the camera, and there's only so much you could do with the camera. We couldn't fill in the backstory of the character you're talking about. We ultimately all felt we didn't really need it. The pieces were there. The character, the actress playing the character knew her backstory, and as long as we were truthful to it, we could honor the book without being maybe, per se, faithful to the page.

This is a pretty interesting choice, to be sure. The ending for Big Little Lies was extremely powerful, even if it didn't allow Bonnie to share her story with both the audience and the other women.

In Liane Moriarty's novel, Bonnie ends up saving Celeste (Nicole Kidman) by pushing Perry to his death. But the characters get to have an epilogue of sorts, where Bonnie reveals that she grew up in a similarly abusive household. As a kid, Bonnie witnessed her father's violence toward her mother. Seeing Perry's attack on his wife brought up all of her childhood trauma, which helped explain Bonnie's motivation in killing Perry.

And although the TV adaptation didn't explicitly include Bonnie's history of abuse, audiences could certainly figure it out. Throughout Perry and Celeste's interactions at Trivia Night, Bonnie is shown noticing their erratic and troublesome behavior. She watched them throughout the night, and eventually followed the couple to their final confrontation. Throughout it all, the audience can tell that Bonnie knows the signs of abuse, although its unclear exactly what her history is. And while Bonnie's backstory wasn't explicitly shared on screen, Big Little Lies' season finale was extremely powerful due to its lack of dialogue. So it probably is all for the best.

You can watch Big Little Lies on HBO's streaming services, and Zoe Kravitz is currently in theaters starring in Rough Night.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.