Little Fires Everywhere Interview with Celeste Ng

April 20, 2020 - Abbe sits down with Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng to discuss her thoughts on the Hulu adaptation of her novel.

On this episode of The Adaptables, in anticipation of the finale episode of the Little Fires Everywhere adaptation on Hulu, Abbe sits down with author Celeste Ng to discuss how it felt to see her novel, Little Fires Everywhere, adapted for TV.

Reese and Kerry embody her characters, watching the house burn, trusting a team of women to tell her story, Joshua Jackson’s dad energy, and more.

An adaptation is like a cover song. You know the melody, you love it, there's something about it that reaches you. But then you get to hear another band or another artist put a different spin on it, put a different sound to it and you hear it it in a whole different way and different parts of it jump out at you. So for me, that's part of the fun, is just to get to see how different people look at it through a different lens.
—Celeste Ng

Discussion breakdown:

-How did the book end up in the hands of Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, and writer and showrunner Liz Tigelaar? (1:15–2:15)
-What role did Celeste have in adapting her book for the screenplay? (2:15–3:15)
-What part of the process did Celeste find most interesting? Celeste reveals she had a cameo! (3:12–4:08)
-How it felt to watch a novel so based on the interior lives of women brought to life by a team of women (4:09–5:30)
-Trusting this team of people to tell the story (5:30–7:04)
-A moment when Celeste felt like “Ok wow, this is really happening.” (7:05–8:04)
-On reaching a broader audience with the adaptation and welcoming readers to the book after they’ve seen the TV show (8:04–8:57)
-Some of Celeste’s favorite book-to-screen adaptations (8:57–10:14)
The scenes from Little Fires Everywhere that Celeste was most excited to see (10:14–11:59)
-Something from the book that Celeste was personally looking forward to seeing come to life (12:00–13:54)
-*AD* On Second Thought (13:54–14:30)
-Celeste on seeing Reese and Kerry embody her characters and how it made her see them differently (14:30–15:56)
-How the HBO adaptation of Big Little Lies made Celeste see Reese Witherspoon as Elena Richardson (15:57–16:56)
-Recreating the stifling setting of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the ‘90s (16:57–19:00)
-What does this story gain from being set thirty years ago? (19:00–19:54)
-Celeste on growing up in Shaker Heights in the ‘90s (19:54–20:38)
-The necessity of including questions of race and privilege in Celeste’s work and the casting of Kerry Washington in the onscreen adaptation (20:38–23:30)
-The ‘90s setting of Little Fires Everywhere as seen through the lens of modern-day cultural phenomena like the Black Lives Matter movement (23:30–25:18)
-The house on fire: Celeste on starting with a bang (25:18–26:16)
-Why the show leans into the mystery angle and those episode-ending cliffhangers (26:16–26:57)
-The differences in the ways that stories are told on TV vs. in novels (26:58–28:43)
-Exploring mother-daughter relationships (28:43–30:00)
-Will moms and daughters watch this show together? (30:00–31:31)
-The POC authors Celeste Ng thinks everyone should read (31:32–33:07)
-What Celeste is reading now (33:07–34:09)
-How does Celeste balance reading with watching TV? (34:10–34:59)
-Exploring the sensitive topic of abortion in Little Fires Everywhere (35:00–36:44)
-The response to Little Fires Everywhere from adoptive kids and parents (36:45–38:16)
-Celeste on Reese and Kerry as Elena and Mia (38:17–40:07)
-Celeste’s cameo at book club in Episode 2 (40:20–41:20)
-Did Celeste get to see her story in a new way on screen? (41:20–42:28)
-How will book purists react to seeing the Little Fires Everywhere adaptation? (42:28–43:16)
-Celeste’s excitement on seeing the changes to her story and seeing it come to life visually (43:16–45:14)
-Where are the Richardson children and Pearl now? (45:15–45:52)
-Joshua Jackson as Bill Richardson and that tighty-whitey shot (45:54–47:02)

The Adaptables is a podcast from Read it Forward and Penguin Random House that dives into your favorite book-to-screen adaptations. This season, we’re watching the Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Join hosts Abbe Wright and Emma Shafer as we interview authors, insiders and Celeste Ng, herself, about what makes an adaptable great, why watching and reading are important self-care rituals, and the many other books and shows we are binging and loving right now. Because at The Adaptables, we love to watch what we read. (Warning: there will be little spoilers everywhere.)

Send us an email or voice recording to AdaptablesPod@Gmail.com. What did you think of the episode? Are you watching the show? Is Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere a successful adaptation of the book?

Follow @ReadItForward on Twitter and Instagram, follow Celeste Ng on Instagram and Twitter at @pronounced_ing, tweet your thoughts on the Little Fires Everywhere adaptation on Hulu and other adaptations you love. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

NEXT UP: We’ll recap episode eight, the finale, with Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk.

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