Big Little Lies premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO

By Patrick Gomez
February 17, 2017 02:04 PM
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Stephen Graybill
Xavier Collin/IPA/SplashNews

Walking onto the Big Little Lies set for the first time was a daunting task for actor Stephen Graybill.

“It was like being shot out of a cannon. I was thinking, ‘These are incredible actresses!’ That can be really intimidating,” the actor tells PEOPLE of working with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley on the new HBO limited series. “They are big names and you never know how people are going to be.”

“I thought they might be a little distant, but that theory was quickly dispelled on the first day,” he continues. “Very quickly after arriving, I found myself saying, ‘Hey, Reese. How are you?’ and I’d think, ‘Wow. They could not have been more welcoming and generous.’ ”

Graybill — a British American Drama Academy graduate and veteran of the New York theater scene who stars in Lies as Saxon Baker, a character pivotal to the secrets revealed in the HBO series — worked closely alongside Woodley and says that the actress was “unexpectedly vulnerable.”

From left: Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman on Big Little Lies.
HBO

“She has an incredible breadth of emotional availability to her,” Graybill says of Woodley. “She was able to go different ways and give the director different options: intense, crying, unsure. ”

Graybill says he appreciated the improv-friendly nature of the set.

“It was really exciting,” he says. “I’m so honored to be in this project with all of them. I’m blown away and am so grateful to have done this with such amazing people.”

Big Little Lies premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.