She first paid tribute to fellow Little Fires executive producer and director Lynn Shelton, who passed away in May from complications of a previously unidentified blood disorder. “We’re grieving for Lynn Shelton, our executive producer, who directed four of the eight episodes, whom we tragically lost very suddenly. We’re grieving for her family, for her friends, for her colleagues, and for her films that we’re not going to get to see, all the work she was still yet to do,” said Tigelaar.
“We’re also grieving with the country for the life of George Floyd, all the black men and women who’ve been murdered simply for being black, said Tigelaar, turning her attention to current events. “Today, we really just wanted to have a conversation. I think, now more than ever, whose stories we tell and who tells these stories, it matters more than ever.”
She continued, “To talk about these stories and Little Fires and these characters, whether it’s a white, liberal woman who doesn’t see herself as racist at all, or a queer black single mom whose art is her passion and her voice, or a Chinese illegal immigrant, who’s having to fight for custody in a country she wasn’t born into, just to have her own daughter with her. These are all characters that get to be the jumping-off point for conversation. It starts in dialogue that really helps us examine our own blind spots and our own biases and our own shortcomings, and hopefully expands and broadens our worldview.”
Tigelaar was joined by Little Fires writers Attica Locke, Raamla Mohamed, Amy Talkington, Nancy Won, Harris Danow, and Rosa Handelman to highlight the importance of representation in media and of having a diverse writers room.
As many people of color can relate, Mohamed came onto the project assuming that she would be the only Black writer. “Even thinking about it, it gets emotional,” she said as she recounted the day she arrived in the writers room and met Locke and Shannon Houston, who was able to be a part of the pre-recorded conversation. “I just realized it was like ‘Oh, I’m not going to have to like spend 75% of my time speaking from, you know what I mean? Or just like having to be like the black voice that people are, like, ‘Okay, are we doing things right in the way we’re supposed to?’ It was great… we’re also very different and we have different experiences.”
For Won, “The amount of energy in me, not having to be the sole not-white person, not having to be the sole woman, and like constantly checking myself and monitoring myself. ‘Am I being too loud? Am I being too aggressive and bitchy and all that kind of stuff, not having to manage my room persona as much as a woman and as a person of color just gave me so much more energy to be creative and to talk and just to feel more relaxed.”
She added, “I think that is a big part of trying to be a creative person. But in this completely political atmosphere that, as a person of color and as a woman, you’re constantly taking the temperature and who am I pissing off? Who am I losing? And all that managing of yourself is just exhausting and not having to do that was amazing.”
The writers went back-and-worth reflecting on various episodes from the miniseries and what message they hope viewers takeaway.
“I think that becoming a better person, becoming a more thoughtful person, becoming a more empathetic person takes work, I understand, and it’s something that I’m continually trying to do,” Danow acknowledged.
Using Reese Witherspoon’s character Elena for reference “to a certain extent, she comes by her worldview honestly, she was born into it,” he said. “But when she’s confronted with it, she is overly defensive and doesn’t for a second, take the moment to reflect upon it. That’s natural when people are attacked and called names, their first reaction is to be defensive, no matter what the subject is. But I think you can contrast that with Izzy (played by Megan Stott) and that scene with Mia (played by Kerry Washington) when Mia calls her out, like, ‘You’re not the exception just because you think you are,’ her first reaction is to pout.”
“But then, as Mia continues to say ‘You can’t challenge people without being challenged and back,’ or something like that, I think she understands to stop and listen and to reflect… there are all these assumptions that we all have about everything. What I would hope is that people watching this show are more willing to not have a knee-flex defensive reaction, but to really think.”
All episodes of Little Fires Everywhere are currently available on Hulu.