When Big Little Lies captured the pop culture zeitgeist last year, it further blurred the lines between the big and small screens. The smash hit miniseries brought A-list film talent to television - in front of and behind the camera - with unprecedented success.
This year, that success is looking to be replicated by Sharp Objects, the highly buzzed-about, eight-part SoHo miniseries starring five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams.
Like Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) and based on an acclaimed novel by a female writer, in this case, the first book by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.
Adams plays Camille Preaker, an alcoholic newspaper journalist, who returns to her small Missouri hometown to report on some missing children, where she is forced to confront some very uncomfortable truths about her own childhood.
"I believe in being uncomfortable, in working with discomfort," Adams tells TimeOut. "It can really overcome a lot of challenges if you can work through discomfort, and I would say that there's a lot of discomfort here, emotional discomfort as well as sexual discomfort."
She isn't kidding. Camille is one of the darkest characters Adams has ever played – she's probably the most severe alcoholic in television history, constantly downing vodka distilled into Evian bottles, even while driving.
"She's the kind of alcoholic that drinks to stabilise," says Adams. "She's always in a sort of hungover state, so she's always drinking to sort of maintain, as opposed to getting a buzz. It did make me very worried that she drinks while she's driving, I did not like that because it's something I'm super against."
Camille also self-harms by cutting herself, a habit that stems from her trauma-laden upbringing.
"I think this role was intriguing to take on because when people are able to see themselves reflected inside a story, it helps, and I feel like we haven't seen [someone like] Camille very often inside stories. Where she's somebody who's still trying and wants to be better and yet is constantly falling short. And I understand that. That's something I identify with."
As flawed as Camille is, we stay very much on her side thanks to Adams' stunning performance and the unmistakable impressionistic style of director Vallee, which will be familiar to viewers of Big Little Lies. Adams, who is also an executive producer on Sharp Objects, brought Vallee into the project.
"We were working on [Janis Joplin biopic] Janis together; I had met him during that process and after Dallas Buyers Club because I love the way that he handled imperfection. When this script came around and I was collaborating with Gillian and [writer] Marti [Noxon], I brought him up and they met him and they agreed that he had this really beautiful sensitivity in the way that he can tell the story of women while making them really truthful and beautifully honest."
In person, Adams comes across as remarkably open and unguarded, despite claiming to be otherwise.
"My daughter asked me, 'Do you use your struggles in your art?' And I was like, 'I do, actually'. But it's not something I talk about because I tend to be a little bit more private, I don't sort of Dr Phil my life. But I agree that most of us come from complicated pasts, whether it's a familial history or just things that we've struggled with along the way."
Prior to her involvement in Sharp Objects, Adams was already a fan of Flynn's.
"I had read everything. I circled Dark Places for a while," Adams says of the 2015 film that eventually starred Charlize Theron. "But I had just had my daughter so I was like 'Hmm, I don't think I want to go to that dark place'. Even now, playing Camille, it can be tricky."
Adams says she looked to the source material a lot while shooting Sharp Objects.
"I had a great resource in Gillian on this, the book was a huge benefit to me. Every morning I would take what we were doing and I would read the segment as it existed inside the book because she wrote such a rich inner monologue for Camille."
Co-starring with Adams in the miniseries is the great Patricia Clarkson (House of Cards) as Camille's enigmatic mother Adora, and Aussie newcomer Eliza Scanlen (Home and Away) as her wayward younger half-sister Amma. With these talents at its centre, and Flynn and Noxon behind the scenes, Sharp Objects is further proof, along with Big Little Lies, that we're seeing an upswing in female-centric entertainment.
"I feel like we're starting to work together in a way that's different," says Adams. "And I think that's key – women helping each other up the ladder and trusting in the abundance of jobs for us all."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ever since her 2012 novel Gone Girl became a publishing phenomenon and then a hit movie, Gillian Flynn has been one of the hottest writers in Hollywood.
Adaptations of her previous two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, became a foregone conclusion, and she subsequently collaborated with Gone Girl director David Fincher on an American version of the acclaimed UK show Utopia, which will screen on Amazon Prime. She has also written the screenplay for a big-screen version of the early '80s Lynda La Plante miniseries Widows, which will be released in theatres later this year.
She wrote Sharp Objects, her debut novel, while working as a television critic for pop culture magazine Entertainment Weekly.
"I wrote it largely because, at that time, there weren't a lot of novels out there that I could find featuring that kind of character," Flynn tells TimeOut. "I was looking for the female counterpart to what I saw so often in literature. I wanted to see what violence looked like, generationally. Violence and aggression among generations of women. And self-harm."
It's not difficult to see a common thread throughout Flynn's work – people doing bad things for relatable reasons.
"I've always believed there are two kinds of people in the world: People who either want to look under the rock, and people who don't want to look under the rock. And I've always been like 'What's under the rock?'"
Who: Amy Adams
What: Sharp Objects
When: Monday, 8.30pm
Where: Sky SoHo