Reese Witherspoon ‘didn’t understand what homosexuality was’ until she moved to LA

Reese Witherspoon. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner)

Reese Witherspoon had admitted she “didn’t understand what homosexuality was” until she moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue her acting career.

The Legally Blonde star reflected on her upbringing in Nashville, Tennesee, as she discussed her role in Little Fires Everywhere.

Witherspoon plays Elena Richardson in Hulu miniseries, a journalist and landlord in the Cleveland, Ohio suburbs during the late 1990s.

The 44-year-old noted that her time on the web show was a “great experience”, she told Variety for the magazine’s Actor on Actor series, and prompted her to recount her own childhood and what she was like as a person at the time.

Reese Witherspoon: ‘No one spoke to me about sexuality when I was a teenager.’

She told Legally Blonde 2 star, Regina King, that the show had her “look at a time that was actually 30 years ago and think: ‘I was a teenager then.’

“‘What did my mum say about sexuality, race, class? What were the things that I was told that maybe were true or not true? How was I insensitive?’

“No one spoke to me about sexuality when I was a teenager.

“I didn’t understand what homosexuality was. My grandparents didn’t explain it: My parents didn’t explain it.

“I had to learn from somebody I met on an audition in Los Angeles.”

An executive producer for Little Fires Everywhere, Witherspoon added that a line in the script was inspired by a conversation she once had with her grandmother, Dorothea Draper.

“We incorporated some of the conversation I had with my grandmother afterwards,” she explained.

“She said: ‘Homosexuality is very rare, Reese. That’s not a thing that happens very often,’ and we put it in the script.”

Witherspoon was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1976, and was raised in Nashville as an Episcopalian. She has spoken in the past about her traditional upbringing that was defined by Southern sensibility.

Mulling over this, she said that she sought for her character Richardson to say the line “because that’s what was said to me in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1994”.