In a new conversation with Regina King, Reese Witherspoon discussed her sheltered upbringing in Nashville, Tennessee. In an interesting moment, the star of Little Fires Everywhere admitted she “didn’t understand what homosexuality was” before pursuing a film career in Los Angeles.
The in-depth discussion on sexuality, race, and class came as part of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series. King and Witherspoon, who have known each other since co-starring in 2003’s Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde, tackled some of the weightiest issues of the day. For her part, Witherspoon opened up about her own personal growth in the context of Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere.
While acting in and producing the 1990s-set show, Witherspoon reflected on the blinkered worldview she inherited as a teenager. She said,
“That great experience of being able to look at a time that was actually 30 years ago and think: ‘I was a teenager then. What did my mom say about sexuality, race, class? What were the things that I was told that maybe were true or not true? How was I insensitive?’ No one spoke to me about sexuality when I was a teenager. I didn’t understand what homosexuality was. My grandparents didn’t explain it; my parents didn’t explain it. I had to learn from somebody I met on an audition in Los Angeles.”
While it would be fascinating to hear from the person who had to explain to Witherspoon that gay people exist, the actress instead told a different story. Witherspoon revealed how something her grandmother said made it into the dialogue for Little Fires Everywhere. “She said, ‘Homosexuality is very rare, Reese. That’s not a thing that happens very often,'” she recalled. “And we put it in the script.”
Elsewhere, the pair put particular focus on, as Witherspoon put it, the “alignment between a lot of women of our generation, about how we do not want to leave this business the way we found it.” King also discussed her HBO show Watchmen, and all of the historical references that many Americans had never heard before. “We have this revisionist history in our country that some people just refuse to acknowledge is revisionist history,” she said.
Watch the full conversation below.
Last month, Little Fires Everywhere director Lynn Shelton suddenly passed away. Two weeks ago, Witherspoon participated in a tribute to Shelton called “Her Effortless Brilliance”.
In brighter news, Witherspoon will be reprising her role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 3, with a script from Dan Goor and Mindy Kaling. No word yet on whether King will return as Witherspoon’s Elle Wood’s rival-turned-respected-colleague Grace Rossiter.
Editor’s Note: Want to check out Little Fires Everywhere? Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Hulu now, or opt for a seven-day trial of a bundle with Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.