Actor Reese Witherspoon and writer Cheryl Strayed are teaming up again, this time behind the camera. Nearly a decade after Reese portrayed Cheryl in the movie Wild, the creative duo are bringing their talents to Hulu for a limited series called Tiny Beautiful Things.
While Tiny Beautiful Things is only set to last for a few episodes, there’s already been buzz about the show coming back for another season, and episode one hasn’t even aired yet! Still, many who will be tuning in to the series aren’t sure if it will be a Wild sequel or if it’s even about Cheryl’s life.
Keep reading to find out the true story behind Tiny Beautiful Things.
Is ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ based on a true story? Yes and no.
Tiny Beautiful Things on Hulu isn’t wholly based on a true story. The series, which streams on Hulu on April 7, 2023, follows Kathryn’s character, Clare, navigating her career as an advice columnist with her tumultuous marriage to her husband, Danny (Quentin Plair), and raising their teen daughter, Rae Kincade (Tanzyn Crawford).
Those who follow Cheryl’s career will recognize the Hulu series’ title. Tiny Beautiful Things is the same title as the author’s 2012 book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. The book was a collection of essays by Cheryl when she worked as an advice columnist on The Rumpus, an online literary magazine.
Cheryl worked anonymously at The Rumpus for several years under the pseudonym “Sugar.” As Sugar, Cheryl offered blunt advice to writers about love, life, and anything in between. The advice column also acted as a relief for Cheryl, as the writer used many of her personal experiences to help the writers who sought her perspective.
Despite Cheryl pulling from her life to advise Dear Sugar, she stressed at the Television Critics Association in January 2023 that Tiny Beautiful Things isn’t centered around her personal life. However, the writer admitted at the event that Clare needed to have similar struggles to Cheryl, including grieving the loss of her mother. Cheryl’s real mom, Bobbi Lambrecht, died when Cheryl was still in college.
“We knew Clare isn't going to be [me exactly], but many of her experiences had to be mine,” Cheryl explained, per Glamour. “She had to have a mother who died young of cancer, who got married young and then divorced. She had to grow up in a rural environment, as I did. Those are the things that made me, and those are the things that made Clare. So those are the pieces that come from my life.”
Cheryl Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” column has had many iterations.
Before Tiny Beautiful Things came to Hulu, Cheryl had found multiple ways to get the word out about “Sugar.” After several years as an advice columnist, Cheryl came forward as the person behind Sugar, which kicked off her podcast, “Dear Sugars.” The “Brave Enough” author co-hosted the podcast with her friend Steven Almond, who was the originator of Sugar.
In 2016, the advice column found a broader audience when Nia Vardalos created a stage play called Tiny Beautiful Things. The Big Fat Greek Wedding star played Cheryl’s version of the advice columnist.
Then, a decade after Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar’s release, Hulu picked up Cheryl’s book for a TV series adaptation.
Each iteration of the advice column has pulled at fans’ heartstrings, and Cheryl believes it happens because of how relatable the issues she discussed in the column were and still are today.
“The most powerful lesson I’ve learned over and over again in writing the Dear Sugar column is how very connected we are,” Cheryl said at the TCAs. “Our lives are original, but our experiences are so very universal—we love, lose, grieve, triumph, and transform our lives in similar ways.
She continued: “We’re profoundly connected, even when we feel alone—and perhaps most deeply when we feel alone. I hope that the show reminds people of that truth. I hope that as they watch the show, they laugh, cry, and remember that for all of us, every day, no matter what stage of life we’re at, that broken is a beautiful place to begin.”
Tiny Beautiful Things premieres on Hulu on Friday, April 7.