How “Palm Royale” is “Big Little Lies” in the 1960s

How “Palm Royale” is “Big Little Lies” in the 1960s

"The longing that we had to do 'Big Little Lies' was definitely centered around female ensemble and sisterhood, and that is very much the case with this show," Laura Dern tells EW.

Laura Dern will not not be rich — at least on television.

It's Renata's amazing piece of dialogue in Big Little Lies, but it could also be the tagline for Palm Royale, the new Apple TV+ series that Dern is co-producing with Jayme Lemons. Like Big Little Lies, Palm Royale is a series about a community of wealthy women who are trying to make their mark in a world determined to ignore them — and their greatest commodity is their secrets.

Dern notes that there's plenty of parallels between the HBO show and her new 1960s-set series, whic is also based on a novel, Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel.

"The longing that we had to do [Big Little Lies] was definitely centered around female ensemble and sisterhood, and that is very much the case with this show," she reflects. "As producers, I know Nicole [Kidman] and Reese [Witherspoon] wanted to create opportunities where people who never get to work together can come together, and there is diverse storytelling and gender equity... All those things are true, but what excited us about this world and this time is, under the guise of high comedy, to satirically look at how life and culture and politics are so cyclic that we're right back where we were then. The very things we were fighting for then, we're still fighting for now."

<p>Apple TV+</p> Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern on 'Palm Royale'

Apple TV+

Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern on 'Palm Royale'

Adds Lemons: "[Showrunner] Abe Sylvia reimagined [the book] in a way that is even more layered and reflective of what our society is like today. It's a commentary on what social politics are in America, but also so delicious and such a dessert of a show. It's a treat for all the senses — your brain and your eyes."

Like a Slim Aarons photograph brought to life, Palm Royale follows Maxine Simmons (Kristen Wiig), a woman desperate to work her way into the high society set of Palm Beach and the coveted titular country club. With the wardrobe of her comatose in-law, Norma (Carol Burnett), Maxine makes a run at finding her place, but she'll find no one is as they seem, including feminist Linda (Dern), queen bee Evelyn (Allison Janney), and mixed-up Dinah (Leslie Bibb).

<p>Apple TV+</p> Kristen Wiig and Josh Lucas in 'Palm Royale'

Apple TV+

Kristen Wiig and Josh Lucas in 'Palm Royale'

Wiig's Maxine feels like a mash-up of some of her most beloved SNL characters, frosted with a more grounded touch. Wiig tells EW that channeling her comedic skills into something more real was absolutely the driving force behind her performance. "We really wanted to make sure people were rooting for Maxine and that she was likable," she says. "It was a fine line between doing very unlikeable things, but at the same time, she's a caring, hurt person. I loved having those two sides and knowing that the show had sad moments and really funny moments. You've got to make sure everything still feels like the same show."

Besides that, it was an opportunity for Wiig to work with one of her idols, Carol Burnett. "I've been watching her as long as I have been alive," she says. "I adore her so much, and it was definitely a career highlight for me."

For her part, Burnett spins the first third of the show in a catatonic state, and she jokes that it was the perfect job for her. "It's my favorite role that I've played," she quips. "I was in a coma for three or four episodes. It was nice, just lie there and get paid. I'm very good at sleeping."

<p>Apple TV+</p> Carol Burnett on 'Palm Royale'

Apple TV+

Carol Burnett on 'Palm Royale'

Dern teases Burnett's role more fully, hinting that there's more to Norma than meets the eye. "Norma controls her world with how she manipulates the truths she holds and moves chess pieces around the board," Dern adds. "She's how Palm Beach lives and dies. She's the keeper of secrets."

It's those secrets that attracted the star-studded cast, the notion of playing women who look beautiful and serene on the surface, yet are barely holding it together. "They're wonderfully complicated people with moral challenges," says Janney. "She's held together with duct tape and glue."

Adds Leslie Bibb: "I got all these Slim Aarons books and kept them with me. Those pictures are all so beautiful, and then underneath I'm like, 'This is all a charade. It's a facade.' They're doing beautiful things in beautiful places, but underneath, there's cracks and fissures. It's not unlike if you look at Instagram. These women are hanging on by a thread, and they're fearful that it's all going to be taken away. And if it's taken away, what will I have and where will I be?"

<p>Apple TV+</p> Allison Janney on 'Palm Royale'

Apple TV+

Allison Janney on 'Palm Royale'

Dern hopes that audiences draw modern parallels, like Bibb's reference to Instagram, and she notes that the show's satirical approach is designed to make those truths hit even harder. "We wanted to make sure there was no preaching, but we were saying everything we wanted to say," she says. "In a way, the comedy in it... allows you to be even more shocked than if it were intentionally dramatic. You're caught up in this hilarious moment, and then it gut punches you."

Ultimately, the show works on a principle of reverse psychology, showing the need for sisterhood via the distrust that simmers throughout this version of Palm Beach. "Women are better together," reflects Bibb. "You need a sense of community. In a subversive way, by showing us not doing that, the show is getting across the point that that's what you need to go forward. The irony is that we all want to belong to something."

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