‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Set In Shaker Heights Soon To Stream On Hulu
Actress Reese Witherspoon, who also heads the production company Little Sunshine, was an early fan of Celeste Ng’s best-selling 2017 novel, “Little Fires Everywhere,” (Penguin Press) which is set in Shaker Heights.
“[Witherspoon] and her producing partner read it and fell in love with it. They finished it overnight, which still boggles my mind, and it really resonated with them, so much that they knew that they wanted to do something,” Ng said.
Witherspoon’s company proposed turning “Little Fires Everywhere” into a limited, eight-part series, which will be streamed on Hulu beginning March 18. Witherspoon and Kerry Washington co-star and serve as executive producers.
Ng, a producer for the series, described the perspective she was able to lend during production.
“I think my role as sort of being the tuning fork. I'm not to tell everybody what to do and what note to hit, but to sort of make sure that we're harmonizing with the themes and the characters that are in the book. I think I'm sort of like the Wikipedia for their project, where they would turn to me and say, ‘what were you thinking about this character? We're thinking about doing X, and we're thinking about extending their storyline in this way. Does that feel like it would be true to them?’ I could talk to them about who I thought their character was and why I thought that storyline might work,” Ng said.
“Little Fires Everywhere” was filmed in Hollywood, causing Ng some concern.
Author Celeste Ng [Kevin Day Photography]
“I was nervous. I know Shaker had such distinct architecture. Having grown up there, I feel really strongly that I wanted the show to look right. The producers really took that to heart. They did all kinds of research when they were designing the sets. They looked at ‘Shaker (Life) Magazine’ and pictures of the houses. I even drove around parts of L.A. with one of the producers looking at houses that could have fit into Shaker Heights. I think that on the whole, they had a really great job. I didn't think it could be done, but they even brought in snow to recreate, a real “snowbelt,” Northeast Ohio winter in the middle of L.A. in the summer,” Ng said.
Reese Witherspoon (left) and Kerry Washington [Hulu]
Ng admitted turning over creative control of her story wasn’t easy.
“I was a little bit nervous going in. It turns out, actually, that was one of the things that I enjoyed the most. A screen adaptation is very different from a novel. You have to show things differently. You have to bring the characters to life differently and dramatize all of the things that might be in a character's head in a novel. You have to show all that on the screen. I learned a lot just getting to watch the writers at work reading the scripts and getting to see how they were really translating it. It turned out to be one of the best creative experiences that I've ever had,” Ng said.
Ng was particularly excited about one of the changes from the book to the series, casting one of the main characters, Mia Warren, as an African-American woman. Warren is played by Washington, known especially for her role in “Scandal.
“She is written as a white woman in the book,” Ng said. “Kerry, of course, offers the show an opportunity to explore some of the issues that are in the book about race and about class and about privilege and really bring them up to the surface. I'm thrilled that the show is going to explore those onscreen in ways that are different from the ways that I did in the book,” Ng said.
See the trailer from "Little Fires Everywhere."
“Little Fires Everywhere” begins streaming on Hulu on March 18.