Nicole Kidman didn't hold back for her latest role, in the much anticipated HBO series, Big Little Lies.

"I was pretty beaten up physically. It was tough. I'd go home and be bruised all over, and my neck and parts of my body were really damaged because I had thrown myself into it to such a degree."

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The scenes with Alexander Skarsgard, who plays her abusive husband, are heartstoppingly disturbing.


"It wasn't Alex's fault, but we couldn't get stunt people to do those things and it had to be very authentic," she tells

"We both were really in those scenes. It's a very volatile relationship; they inflict pain on each other and there is an enormous amount of danger. At the end of a day's shooting I'd go home and sit in the bath and cry."

Kidman is all too familiar with the subject of domestic abuse due to her work with UN Women.

"I've talked to a lot of women who have gone through this kind of relationship. The huge underlying factor in these relationships is the shame, which is why they keep it secret."

In contrast to her role as Celeste Wright in Big Little Lies, Kidman's marriage to Keith Urban is one of love and compassion.

"Keith and I always say that we are just so lucky to have each other. In this world, to be able to come back to that love and that strength is so nourishing and powerful.

"And I am coming up an eleven year wedding anniversary, twelve years together, and that's a big thing. And that is through absolute commitment and kindness, the desire to protect and help each other," she says. "That's what our relationship is."

Shot in Monterey, California, as well as parts of Los Angeles, Kidman was able to have her family with her during filming, which was of comfort. Daughters Sunday, 8, and Faith, 6, were on hand at home when she'd come off set.

"Like any mother, I might be going through something but I'm not going to dump it on my kids. My job is to make their lives as comfortable and loving as possible."

Naturally, her kids are curious about the show where they were, at times, present on the set.

"Oh, my eight year old desperately wants to watch it, and I am like, 'No, no, you are not seeing it. Maybe when you are 18!' And she's like, 'Oh, is it inappropriate?'" She laughs. "And I am like, 'Yep. It's inappropriate!'"

The Australian author of the book the show is based on, Liane Moriarty, insisted that Kidman play Celeste. In fact, releasing the rights to the book was contingent on her being cast in that role. Perhaps Moriarty saw in Kidman some parallels.

Kidman says, "Celeste is very complicated. She presents herself as one thing but is actually something else, but she can't express it. She doesn't talk a lot because she is holding so much in, holding her secrets in because she feels like she has to protect her family.

"She feels that if the truth came out, everything would be shattered."

Each of the women in Big Little Lies has something to protect, something to conceal. Starring opposite Kidman in the principal roles are Reese Witherspoon, who plays her closest friend, and Shailene Woodley, her new friend. It also stars Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.

"I've been friends with Reese for a long time, so we didn't have to rehearse that relationship. But now I'd say that Laura is also one of my best friends. Shai is just a light, and Zoe I have known since she was little." (Kidman was engaged briefly to Zoe's father, Lenny Kravitz, in 2003).

The relationship between the women in the story is at the core of the film.

"I am lucky. I am one of those women who was raised by women, so I feel very comfortable with women. I have a sister, I have aunts, and I have a mum who is very strong and opinionated. I have one son and three daughters, so I have an enormous amount of female energy in my family.

Laura Dern, from left, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of Big Little Lies. Photo / AP
Laura Dern, from left, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of Big Little Lies. Photo / AP

"I am still best friends with my next door neighbour, Annette, and I have known her since I was three-and-a-half. We are both 49-years-old now. That's incredible and I have other friends like that." She smiles.

"Keith is always saying, 'It's amazing that you have all these girlfriends'."

It's interesting that, at this stage of her life, she would venture into such emotional and physically gruelling territory.

Kidman offers, "My husband always says I am not a people pleaser because I say what I think, and I don't choose roles that are going to please. I think I was just raised that way. I was raised by pretty left-wing parents who always said, 'Stand up for what you believe. Don't try to conform or fit in.'" She laughs.

"I think because I have been so tall since I was very young, it made me feel that I was always different."

With an important milestone birthday approaching, how will Kidman celebrate the big 5-0?

"I get enough attention, so I am happy to have a small thing. I want a birthday cake, please," she laughs, "and I would just love to be able to get into bed with my kids and my husband and snuggle. We'll order takeout and watch a movie. That is what I'll do and that for me is a great birthday."

- Big Little Lies premieres Sunday at 8.30pm on SoHo.