Reese Witherspoon is stepping back from Pale Blue Dot, the Fox Searchlight sci-fi pic from Noah Hawley that she had intended to produce and star in. The project, which came together in February, is based on a spec by Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi and tells the story of a female astronaut who, upon returning to Earth from a mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality.

Witherspoon’s exit, confirmed today, only fuels the rumors the the long-gestating potential Season 2 of HBO’s Emmy-winning limited series Big Little Lies is getting closer to reality. Earlier today, our sister publication TVLine reported sources saying that the network is eyeing a spring 2018 production start.

Sources say that the cast has not been locked yet to return but talks are underway. There also is a search for a new director as Jean-Marc Vallée, who helmed every episode of Season 1, is not returning. Between BLL and HBO’s upcoming series Sharp Objects, which he is still working on, Marc Vallée has done two big TV shows back-to-back. Segueing to another installment BLL would be taxing also would not work for him schedule-wise, sources say.

Yesterday, Deadline reported that Apple landed the hot morning show drama series project executive produced by and starring Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston with a two-season order. Production on that would most likely start after the Big Little Lies Season 2 shoot.

The drumbeat for a second season of Big Little Lies has grown since the first installment of the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel cleaned up a the Emmys, winning eight in all including Best Limited Series (Witherspoon earned a statuette as an executive producer) and Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for star/exec producer Nicole Kidman. Shailene Woodley and Alexander Skarsgard also starred and Jean-Marc Vallée directed.

Moriarty, Witherspoon, Kidman and Vallée all hinted backstage at the Emmys that a Season 2 was a strong possibility. The main obstacle had been the lack of source material as the novel was a one-off. But sources says Moriarty — who had acknowledged she had been approached by HBO and the producers about a second season — has written a short novella that picks up the story and envisions what happens next with the main characters.

As Deadline reported after the Emmys, David E. Kelley, who adapted Big Little Lies, was looking at the material, mulling a possible take, and that everyone was encouraged.

Deadline’s Anita Busch contributed to this report.