How Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Tries to Get Race Right

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 01, 2020

Celeste Ng’s novel “Little Fires Everywhere” about two disagreeing moms published in 2017, but it was with the new Hulu series that the author was able to address ethnicity and race, according to an article published in The Atlantic on March 31.

“Initially, I had wanted to write [Mia and her daughter, Pearl] as people of color,” Ng, who’s Asian American, told The Atlantic (the character’s race is never made explicit in the book). “I thought of them as people of color, because I knew I wanted to talk about race and class, and those things are so intertwined in our country and in our culture…But I didn’t feel like I was the right person to try to bring a Black woman’s experience to the page.”

But then Kerry Washington showed up as an executive producer, and to play the role of Mia, along with Reese Witherspoon, who plays Mia’s counterpart, Elena, that race became the crux. Showrunner Liz Tigelaar, who is White, said that once race became the focal point, she set to fill her writer’s room with creatives who could relate to Mia’s kind of Blackness.

“I feel a lot of peace with this because of the voices involved, that I think anything anybody might question or write is something that we endlessly talked about in the room,” Tigelaar told The Atlantic. “We did not take a step without three people being like, ‘Wait a minute, hold on, let me think of it this way or this way.’”

While Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” diverges from Ng’s book, the author said that she’s happy with how the Wednesday night show is going, because of the people in the writer’s room. “It’s such a complicated thing to try and suss out…It’s not just a writer-by-writer conversation or [an] Is this writer allowed to write about this?” Ng said. “It’s really sort of, Can this writer do justice to it?…You are allowed to write what you want, but it is on you to try to do it right.”

Tune in on Wednesdays to catch the latest episode. View the trailer below, courtesy of Hulu: