The five women at the centre of HBO’s new seven-part miniseries Big Little Lies are very different from one another. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is the outspoken, sociable mother of two. She takes Jane (Shailene Woodley), the reserved new girl in town, under her wings.

Nobody knows how Jane – an out-of-work single mum with one song – ends up in an upscale town like Monterey, California. But her reasons are hinted through a series of flashbacks of her running frantically on the beach.

Celeste (Nicole Kidman) looks like she has the perfect life with a good-looking husband (Alexander Skarsgard), twin boys and a nice house by the beach. However, she can’t tell anyone – not even her best friend Madeline – that her husband physically abuses her.

Madeline has her own emotional baggage. She can’t seem to get over her ex-husband who is now in a happy relationship with new wife Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz).

Laura Dern plays Renata, a successful career mum who accuses Jane’s son of bullying her daughter. She then starts a feud with Madeline who is protective of her new friend.

Madeline has no qualms making enemies when the occasion calls for it. As she says on the show: “No, I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets.”

So, what brings these women together? “Parenthood is a great equaliser, and socioeconomically, it sort of brings these five disparate women together in a way that they clash, but they also understand and discover similarities about each other,” Witherspoon said.

Kravitz, 28, shared her excitement to be a part of an ensemble cast that includes Kidman, Witherspoon and Dern.

“We (Shailene and her) were like, ‘I can’t believe they want us!’, ” Kravitz said, adding that playing a mother as a “new and beautifully interesting territory”.