What It's Like To Be A Child Actor On 'Big Little Lies'

Twins Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti get to hang out at Nicole Kidman's house and play Jenga with Meryl Streep, so yeah, it's OK to be jealous.
Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti play Max and Josh Wright, respectively, in "Big Little Lies."
Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti play Max and Josh Wright, respectively, in "Big Little Lies."
Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Getty

At just 8 years old, twins Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti landed the roles of a lifetime: They would play Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård’s sons, Josh and Max Wright, respectively, on the highly anticipated HBO limited series “Big Little Lies,” produced by Kidman and her co-star Reese Witherspoon.

“Big Little Lies,” also starring Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz, follows five troubled mothers who get embroiled in a murder investigation in their highfalutin town of Monterey, California. By the end of Season 1, it becomes clear that the investigation is centered on the death of Skarsgård’s character, Perry Wright, who abused his wife Celeste (Kidman) and sexually assaulted Jane (Woodley).

When the show debuted in February 2017, it garnered rave reviews and critical praise, eventually earning 16 Emmy nominations and eight wins, including Outstanding Limited Series and acting awards for Kidman and Skarsgård. And although it was originally slated to run for just one season, the series was picked up for Season 2 following its Emmys success. The latest installment, which premiered earlier this month, explores the emotional trauma the Monterey Five and their children continue to face after the death of Perry. And with the addition of Meryl Streep, who plays Perry’s mother Mary Louise, the stakes are higher than ever.

In terms of their personal experiences, the Crovetti twins understand the darker sides of the show thanks to guidance from their mother, Denise, who was a Broadway actress and family therapist before she started coaching Cameron, Nicholas and her daughter Isabella full time. Denise is on set with the twins for all of their scenes to explain the mature content of the show in an age-appropriate manner.

“As an actor you need to know the part you are playing and why your character is feeling what they are feeling, so the boys knew what Perry did and what he was doing to Celeste,” Denise Crovetti told HuffPost. “It was explained in a matter suited for an 8-year-old for the first season and when they filmed the second season, they were 10, so I was able to explain even more of the family dynamics and abuse, and how being from that type of family would affect their characters.”

That being said, it’s of course not easy for her to watch her sons play out these scenarios, especially when she considers the severity of their characters’ situation. “I cry every time I watch those scenes,” she admitted, “partly because it is my boys and partly by just watching Josh and Max go through what they are going through.”

Denise Crovetti reiterated how proud she is of Cameron and Nicholas, who, like the other child actors on the show, work just as hard as their “incredible” adult counterparts with not as much recognition. “I sit behind the cameras and watch and really see some great acting,” she said. “I am proud of their ability to emote and be so honest and real.”

That’s probably why she lets them turn on “Big Little Lies” every now and then.

“The first season we weren’t allowed to watch because it was inappropriate for kids,” Nicholas told HuffPost in an interview last week. “But for the second season, we’re allowed to watch now because we’re a little bit older.”

“Our mom watches beforehand,” Cameron chimed in, “and covers our eyes for any inappropriate parts.”

Below, Cameron and Nicholas excitedly chat about working with Kidman and Streep, and further explain how their mom helps them get into character for those emotionally charged scenes.

The Crovetti twins with Nicole Kidman on "Big Little Lies."
The Crovetti twins with Nicole Kidman on "Big Little Lies."

For Season 2, you get to work with Meryl Streep. How’s that been?

Cameron Crovetti: It was awesome. I mean, she was so nice!

Nicholas Crovetti: I thought it was amazing working with all those women. Nicole and Meryl are super duper nice people.

Cameron: Yeah, it was an amazing experience. They were such giving actors, and it really helped me with my acting.

Did you know who Meryl Streep was before shooting this season, or did you have to do some research?

Nicholas: Well, at first I didn’t even know who Meryl was. My mom was like, “You’re going to get to work with Meryl Streep!” And I was like, “Wait, who’s Meryl?” And then my mom showed us “Devil Wears Prada” and then “Death Becomes Her” and we were like, “Oh, it’s so exciting to work with her!” We really loved those movies — they’re really good.

Did you watch any other Meryl movies?

Cameron: We saw “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again.”

Nicholas: We loved the movies after we watched them so we were excited to meet her.

How did you all bond, knowing she’d be playing your on-screen grandma? Did you get to spend quality time together?

Nicholas: Yes. Right when we met her she walked in and we didn’t even know who she was because she was wearing a wig and she had the fake teeth in, so we were like, “Oh, who’s that?” She sat down and introduced herself, and she brought us a Jenga set and we all played together and talked and we really bonded over that.

Was Nicole Kidman there, too?

Both: Just us!

Nicholas: Meryl had fake teeth but we had fake teeth too, so we were all talking about that and it was really funny.

How was it to act with fake teeth?

Nicholas: It was hard at first. We had to practice talking, and eating, because the first scene we did we were eating pizza, so we had to eat with the fake teeth and it all got stuck in there and it was really, like, gross. But, yeah, we worked with it. And then we had to talk — at first you’re whistling when you’re talking!

The life of an actor, right?

Both: [Laughs]

Meryl Streep as Mary Louise Wright.
Meryl Streep as Mary Louise Wright.

Of course, you also get to work with Nicole, who is another wonderful actress. Have you seen any of her movies?

Cameron: Yeah, “Paddington.” We also saw “The Others.”

That’s a scary one!

Cameron: Yeah, that was scary. [Laughs]

Did you see “Aquaman”?

Both: Yeah.

Nicholas: We were invited to the premiere and saw the movie with her. That was really fun. But when we first met her, I was like, “Wait a second, I feel like I know you from somewhere!” And then I was like, “Ohhh, you’re in ‘Paddington.’ You play the bad person!” And she was like, “Mmm hmm!”

How did you all get to know each other before Season 1?

Cameron: For the first season, she invited us over to her house to get to know her before we started filming and we met her daughters [Sunday and Faith Urban]. We’re still in touch with her. She invites us over to her house to play with her daughters. And when she went to the Emmys, she had an Emmy party and invited all of the kids from “Big Little Lies,” and, yeah, she’s amazing.

Nicole said her daughters actually have cameos in Season 2, is that true?

Cameron: They do! In the classroom scene where I say, “What about a dead father?” and we’re sitting down in a circle, Faith was sitting next to me. And they did some other scenes, yeah!

Nicholas: That was really fun.

Cameron: Yeah, so we get to talk to them during filming and hang out with them.

Nicholas: We’re still in touch with them because we go over to their house all the time and have play dates. When Nicole has parties and stuff, she invites us over and we play games with Sunday and Faith.

That sounds like so much fun. I’m sure they loved seeing familiar faces on set when they shot their cameos.

Nicholas: The first time at the school we were like, “Oh my gosh, they’re here!” And we got to talk with them and have fun with them and we’d play games and stuff. It was really fun when they were on set with us.

Faith Urban and Cameron Crovetti.
Faith Urban and Cameron Crovetti.

It’s nice that you all get to relax and enjoy the experience, because I’m sure you both know that the show touches on some dark, adult topics.

Nicholas: Yeah, everyone is super duper nice and Nicole and Meryl are the nicest people we’ve ever met and everyone on set, everyone there, is incredibly nice to us and everyone else.

Cameron: Everyone there is always in a good mood and so nice and know when to get serious to do the scene. It was a really good experience for us. Everyone was just so amazing, and we got to work with those amazing actors.

Yeah, it’s such a privilege to work opposite those actors. What did you learn by being in scenes with them?

Cameron: That first episode, in the scene where Meryl screams, she taught us that even when the camera is not on you, you should still always give to the other actors. When the camera was on her, she did her scream and she gave it her best, but when the camera wasn’t on her, she also gave it her best. So she taught us even when the camera is not on you, you should still do your best because you can help the other actors with their performances.

Yes, it’s important to always stay in character during a scene. Did she teach you that lesson when portraying Max and Josh?

Nicholas: Definitely. I remember one time when we got to the house, Meryl was all in character, so when she said hi, she was like, “Oh, hi, Max and Josh!” It was really, really funny. So we were acting in character too when we were getting ready to film the scenes. We would talk how Max and Josh would talk to each other, and Meryl was talking like how Mary Louise would talk to them.

Cameron: Yeah, even before we started filming, she was talking to us like we were Max and Josh. And for the scene where she met Ziggy for the first time, she didn’t ever meet [the actor, Iain Armitage] before that. She met him the day they did that scene together.

She probably didn’t want to meet Iain, who plays Ziggy, beforehand so the moment would feel authentic.

Nicholas: Yeah she hadn’t met him and she didn’t want to meet him because she wanted to meet him for the first time when they were filming so it would be super real.

How was it for you guys to act in that scene, when you find out Ziggy is your half-brother and you go over to his house?

Cameron: We didn’t talk to Iain when we did that scene. My mom pulled us aside, because she was an actress and helps us with our acting and all of our scenes, and she told us, “How would you feel if you actually had another brother? It’d be really emotional because you’re just finding this out.” So that really helped us with our acting. And when we see Iain for the first time in the scene, it came off pretty real.

Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley with Iain Armitage and Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti.
Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley with Iain Armitage and Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti.

Does your mom help you through a lot of the scenes that are more complicated, so you understand the scenarios you’re trying to react to or portray?

Cameron: Yeah. When we did the scene where me and my brother were fighting in [Season 2, Episode 2], our mom pulled us aside to be like, “You lost your dad and everybody else has their dad and you don’t have your dad, so you’re really sad.” And that got us really sad and emotional. And when we did that scene, we were actually fighting with each other. He hit my arm really bad that it hurt throughout the scene, but we just kept rolling. And yeah, when Nicole hugged us, we were feeling really emotional. If you watch it again, I was holding my arm because Nicky hit my arm really bad [laughs], but we just kept rolling! That really helped me with my acting.

Did you feel the same way, Nicky? Fighting with Cameron in that moment was probably hard, but you have to remember it’s just acting.

Nicholas: Yeah. Our mom pulled us aside and talked to both of us about [Max and Josh’s] dad being dead, so we just got really sad and got to fighting. And then Nicole tried to calm me, and then she pushed me on the ground. For that, we had a mat there, but it looks so real when I watch it over again. But I actually fell on a mat!

Yeah, that scene was definitely intense. Did you talk it out with Nicole, too, so you understood what was going on in that moment for the characters?

Nicholas: Yeah, definitely. She said she’s just going to push me onto the mat and it’s not going to hurt at all. And I did my own stunts for that scene.

Impressive! Even though you’re both twins, Max and Josh’s relationship is probably different from yours in real life. Is it hard to play them sometimes?

Nicholas: I think Max and Josh are somewhat like us in real life because they fight with each other a lot like normal twins. And they’re funny and nice…

Cameron: I mean, they’re like us because obviously they’re twins and we’re twins and they fight with each other like normal siblings do, but they’re different.

They also don’t have siblings but you guys have a sister, right?

Cameron: Yeah, we have a sister [Isabella Crovetti] who’s also an actor. She was Vampirina on the Disney TV show. She’s also in “Shimmer and Shine.”

Does she help you play Max and Josh, or has she given you good advice?

Cameron: She did help us with our scenes when she was on set with us and helped our mom with going over things with us.

“[Meryl] taught us that even when the camera is not on you, you should still always give to the other actors.”

- Cameron Crovetti

Do you hope there will be another season of “Big Little Lies”?

Nicholas: Yeah, definitely. There might be! We really want there to be.

Cameron: We would get to see everybody again and hang out with each other and do another season. I mean, it’d be awesome!

I’m sure you’re all really close now after being on the show together?

Cameron: Yeah, all the kids are friends and we see Ivy [George]’s family a lot because they live close to us, actually. We see Chloe [Coleman] and Darby [Camp] when they’re in town. We were in New York and we saw Iain. That was fun!

Nicholas: After we filmed the first season, we saw Iain again because we were doing a Ralph Lauren shoot and Iain was in New York filming other things. So we visited him and went all around the city.

What are your goals for the future, in terms of acting. I heard you also do gymnastics and play soccer, so are you interested in pursuing careers as athletes or actors?

Nicholas: I want to stay in acting for a little while longer, but when I grow up I want to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon.


Nicholas: Mmm hmm.

Cameron: And yeah, I want to stay in the business. I want to be a director and producer, and still act.

Well, you should talk to Nicole and Reese and get some tips on producing and acting.

Cameron: Yeah! [Laughs]