While HBO’s president of programming, Casey Bloys, says “never say never” to the possibility of Big Little Lies season 3, he’s not optimistic about it actually happening.
“Having approached a possible season 2 skeptically, what became clear to us was there was more story to tell,” Bloys said at the summer edition of the Television Critics Assn. press tour Wednesday. “To me, there’s no obvious place to go, or no obvious story. That said, this group is extraordinary… so if they all came to me and said, ‘We have the greatest take,’ … I would certainly be open to it because I love working with all of them.”
He then followed up with, “Who knows? It certainly doesn’t feel like it [will happen], but I’m open.”
What Bloys did have more to say on was the behind-the-scenes controversy that’s been brewing over the past few weeks, after reports surfaced suggesting that season 2 director Andrea Arnold had creative control ripped away from her and given to season 1 director and showrunner Jean-Marc Vallée.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around that subject,” Bloys said. “First, what we said is absolutely true that there wouldn’t be a second season of Big Little Lies without Andrea. We’re indebted to her. I think she did a beautiful job. She got extraordinary performances out of this cast. But as anybody who works in television knows, the director typically does not have final creative control. So the idea that creative control was taken from the director, it’s just a false premise.”
Bloys went on to say that “typically what happens in TV is that the director turns in director’s cuts, and the showrunner and producing team use that to hone it, to hone the episodes.”
“That’s what happened here,” he continued. “The other thing that I would clarify is I think there was some misinformation that Jean-Marc somehow unilaterally decided to come in and take over the process. Andrea did director’s cuts for all seven of her episodes and handed them in to the showrunner and producing team. David [E. Kelley] and the entire producing team, Reese [Witherspoon] and Nicole [Kidman]… all asked Jean-Marc to help come in and hone the episodes, which is not unusual, as Jean-Marc is an executive producer and director of the first season.”
The entire process was “business as usual,” Bloys said. “I’d be hard-pressed to point to any show that airs a director’s cut as its episode. That is the case here.”
British filmmaker Arnold was hired as the director for all seven episodes of Big Little Lies season 2, and according to an Indiewire report was given “free rein” to bring her own style to the series. But late into production, Vallée was reportedly called in to “unify” the vision for both seasons, erasing the work Arnold brought to season 2 episodes. According to Bloys, however, the vision for season 2 was never supposed to be different from that of season 1.
“We were clear with Andrea, as were the producers, that coming in, no one was looking to throw out the baby out with the bathwater,” Bloys said. “We didn’t want to reinvent the show. It’s always a challenge for a director coming in of… expressing yourself and staying true to the framework that was established.”
When Arnold turned in her director’s cuts, Vallée was called in to “shape” them into the final product that aired. And according to Bloys, Vallée is “very particular about who he works with and how he works with them.”
“Jean-Marc was not given carte blanche,” Bloys added. “He had a vision. Andrea was never promised that she would have free rein. We were clear, and she understood that we were not looking to have someone come in and completely redo things.”
Bloys also said Arnold knew from the beginning of the process that Vallée would be coming in to edit after production wrapped.