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Jane Chapman

Played By: Shailene Woodley
Jane is a 24-year-old single mother who is struggling to make ends meet and has to deal with her son Ziggy being a pariah.

  • Alone Among the Couples
  • Ambiguously Bi: In the book, she admires women and men in equal measures for their aesthetic qualities, including both Madeline and Celeste.
  • Beautiful All Along: Once she cuts her hair, she's considered a lot more attractive.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jane's reaction to losing her first boyfriend. This ultimately leads to her being raped, though this horrifying event is (correctly) not depicted as being her fault in any way.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Jane becomes this after a makeover.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted: Jane got pregnant out of rape and kept the baby, but only because she was told she would likely be infertile for entire life and it may be her only chance to have a child.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Everyone says so at the Trivia Night.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Jane is only 24 but has a 5-year-old son.
  • Weight Woe: Jane used to have a fuller figure she was self-conscious of. When Perry calls her ugly, fat, and worthless during a horrifying, non-consensual sexual encounter, Jane develops an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and her body image.

Celeste Wright

Played By: Nicole Kidman
Celeste is married to the rich and successful Perry and is well-liked by all the other mothers. What they don't know is that she's a victim of domestic abuse.

Madeline MacKenzie

Madeline is the plucky best friend of Celeste. She takes Jane under her wing after Jane helps her out on the first day of school. She's on her second marriage and has to deal with her teenage daughter Abigail preferring her step-mother over her real one. Frequently butts heads with Renata.

  • Adaptation Expansion: In the TV series, she had an affair a year prior to the series..
  • The Alcoholic: She likes to drink. A lot.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Madeline when she finds out her 14-year-old daughter might be prostituting herself.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The reason she takes Ziggy's side during the bullying drama is because Jane was this to her.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The show makes her out to be the female Joe Pesci.
  • Happily Married: Jane finds herself wistful for the love Madeline and Ed so obviously share.
  • Jealous Parent: Madeline's resentment of Bonnie is less about taking her ex-husband from her and more about her influence over Abigail.
  • Large Ham: You can tell Reese Witherspoon was having a lot of fun basically channeling Bette Davis.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: A lot of her attempts to stand up for Jane come across as a power play against Renata.
  • Plucky Girl
  • Race Lift: The show gives her Native American ancestry.
  • Your Cheating Heart: In the TV series, it's revealed that she had an affair with Joseph Bachman, her assistant at the musical theater.

Perry Wright

Played By: Alexander Skarsgård
Perry is Celeste's husband. He's rich and successful, but has a violent streak and frequently hits her when no-one's looking. Despite this, he genuinely tries to be a better husband.

  • Affably Evil: Perry's a horrifically violent man, but he's also a devoted father who lives for his two boys and genuinely hates himself for beating his wife, whom he does love. However, this is never depicted as justifying his monstrous actions.
  • Domestic Abuser
  • Fatal Flaw: His repulsive attitude towards women.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Perry will attack Celeste as soon as no-one's looking.
  • Hypocrite: Demands Celeste keep their sons away from Ziggy in case he's violent and tries to choke her when she refuses.
  • In the Blood: From an outsider's perspective, it certainly seems this way.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Perry's reaction every time he attacks Celeste, a common theme for abusers.
  • Papa Wolf: Deconstructed, as he initially appears to be a loving but flawed father, but eventually shows that he is willing to harm his children in the course of his horrific violence toward his wife.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Though deep down, he knows this would be best.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Is revealed to be Ziggy's father.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: He's completely against Celeste returning back to her job despite the fact that she loves it.

Renata Klein

Played By: Laura Dern
Renata is a career-driven mother who frequently butts heads with Madeline. When her daughter Amabella accuses Ziggy of hitting her, she turns on both Ziggy and Jane.

  • Alpha Bitch: Renata comes across as this, being able to juggle both motherhood and a corporate position.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Renata's response to her daughter Amabella being bullied.
  • The Bully: Towards Jane and Ziggy. She apologizes when she realizes her persecution was misdirected.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Renata is this ultimately, considering she's just looking out for her daughter, even with her full-time job.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Renata when she realizes that Ziggy never hurt her daughter.

Harper Stimson

Played By: Kelen Coleman
Harper is Renata's kiss-up friend.

  • The Bully: Even more-so than Renata. She starts a petition to have Ziggy suspended. Her lawyer husband is even worse, threatening legal action against anyone who looks at him funny.
  • Hate Sink: Harper uses Ziggy's false accusation of hurting Amabella as a reason to alienate Jane, who has done nothing to her. Harper then tries pushing Jane's buttons in an attempt to make her snap and vilify the poor woman and her son even further. What's more, her character doesn't have a Freudian Excuse like the other antagonists. She's just bitchy for the sake of it.
  • Jerkass: A particularly bitchy mother. She is hostile to newcomer Jane.

Bonnie Carlson

Played By: Zoë Kravitz
Bonnie is the much-younger wife of Madeline's first husband, Nathan.

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bonnie reacts violently when she sees Perry's treatment of his wife.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: She is the murderer. But because she was protecting Celeste from Perry, the other women lie to protect her.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Her father was abusive. Seeing Perry hurt Celeste triggered those memories and caused her to react defensively.
  • Foil: Is Madeline's complete opposite. While Madeline is materialistic and cares more about first-world dramas, Bonnie is a New Age-type who cares about humanitarian causes. What's more, Bonnie's relationship with Madeline's ex-husband and their daughter Abigail is much stronger than it is with Madeline.
  • Granola Girl
  • Hippie Parents
  • The Pollyanna
  • Pushover Parents
  • Race Lift: Described as fair-skinned in the book, she's portrayed in the series by Zoë Kravitz.
  • Soap Box Sadie

Nathan Carlson

Played By: James Tupper
Madeline's ex-husband and Abigail's father.

  • Bumbling Dad: Doesn't have the best track record when it comes to parenting.
  • Hippie Parents: Is this with Bonnie.
  • Manchild: Seems to have outgrown the worst of this, but apparently he was an irresponsible father the first time around.
  • Parental Abandonment: Didn't show much interest in Abigail's upbringing, which leads to an uncomfortable situation later on.
  • Pushover Parents
  • Red Herring: Ed often brings up that Madeline talks about him a lot and wonders if she still has feelings for him. It turns out his real concern should have been her assistant, who she had an affair with.

Ed MacKenzie

Played By: Adam Scott
Madeline's second husband and Chloe's father.

  • Beware the Nice Ones: He threatens to kick Nathan's ass at one point.
  • Foil: Much more responsible than Nathan.
  • Hollywood Nerd: He's a programmer who usually dresses pretty frumpy, but still manages to look attractive because of Adam Scott.

Children

Ziggy Chapman

Played By: Iain Armitage
Ziggy is Jane's son. He's accused of hitting Amabella, though whether or not he really did is unknown, since no-one actually witnessed the incident.

Amabella Klein

Played By: Ivy George
Amabella is Renata's daughter. She's attacked on her first day at school and blames Ziggy for it, but it's unknown if it was really him.

Max and Josh Wright

Played By: Nicholas Crovetti (Max)
Played By: Cameron Crovetti (Josh)
The twin sons of Celeste and Perry.

Abigail Carlson

Played By: Kathryn Newton
Madeline's 14-year-old daughter. She clearly prefers Bonnie to Madeline, which has caused a lot of friction between them.

Chloe MacKenzie

Played By: Darby Camp
Madeline's youngest daughter.

Other Characters

Tom

Played By: Joseph Cross

Tom is the owner of the seaside cafe that all the mothers frequent.

Miss Barnes

Played By: Virginia Kull

The Kindergarten teacher.

  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After Miss Barnes asks Amabella to point out her attacker in full view of the children and their parents, the parents then comment on how big a mistake this was.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Didn't actually witness who hit Amabella and refuses to treat Ziggy like he did it.
  • Satellite Character: Exists because the plot requires it. Her actual character isn't given any focus, though she's among a small handful of people who are nice to Jane and Ziggy.

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