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Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are drawing inspiration from their own lives for their new show Little Fires Everywhere. In a new interview with Emmy magazine the two stars reveal that as they read and prepared for the new series, which was inspired by Celeste Ng’s book of the same title, they began to realize they were channeling women they’re very close to their own mothers. “I don’t know why it never occurred to us until we were almost into production,” Witherspoon tells the publication. “I was like, ‘I’ m playing [my mother] Betty! ‘”

The lead characters are Elena Richardson who lives with her family in Shaker Heights, Ohio and Mia Warren who is a single mother to her fifteen-year-old daughter pearl. Their lives clash with each other and twist the perception they have of their situation.

Elena Richardson is played by Reese Witherspoon and Mia Warren is played by Kerry Washington. Both of them are also producers for the show. However, their hostile on-screen relationship doesn’t follow them into their real life.

Upon coming to the realization, they decided to lean into it, rather than seek new sources of inspiration. After all, their mothers knew what it was like to raise teen girls in the’ 90s.

For Washington, her mother Valeria also offered some insight into what it meant to be a woman of color in the ’90s. She explained her mother, a professor, would have different answers depending on the person who asked her about Where She’s from. It would either be, “I’ m from the South Bronx.”

“It was interesting to see how people would try to make sense of this incredibly smart, articulate, accomplished professor saying she was from the South Bronx,” Washington explains.

As for how the book impacted their real lives, Witherspoon said it helped her to process her daughter Ava Phillippe leaving for college. She shares, “It’s so difficult to articulate what motherhood means, and there are so many passages in the novel that did. My daughter was applying for college back then, so it hit me like an arrow in the heart.”

Witherspoon said that she loves how the responsibility is shared between them and how it makes it easier to handle. Washington, in turn, said for Witherspoon that one can’t trust people in this business but she completely trusts her.

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