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How Reese Witherspoon’s love of books is her secret weapon

Her media company, Hello Sunshine, is rapidly changing the stories we see told on screen.

How Reese Witherspoon’s love of books is her secret weapon
[Illustration: Bratislav Milenkovic]
THE WORLD’S 50 MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES
16 Hello Sunshine
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Female protagonists are proliferating across big and small screens, in shows such as the forthcoming Daisy Jones & the Six, a 13-episode series for Amazon, and films like the upcoming Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Legally Blonde 3. These projects are all courtesy of Reese Witherspoon’s four-year-old media company, Hello Sunshine, which has become a uniquely powerful engine for women’s perspectives in the entertainment world. (Hello Sunshine also produced Big Little Lies for HBO and The Morning Show for Apple TV Plus last year.) The company places an emphasis on books: The titles Witherspoon selects for her affiliated book club, which grew to 1.2 million followers in 2019, are often the basis of film or TV projects that the company produces or she appears in herself. For example, Witherspoon and Kerry Washington will star in Hello Sunshine’s adaptation of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere for Hulu. (Hello Sunshine’s in-house social team has been able to tantalize fans with live chats and behind-the-scenes footage for months in advance.) Nearly all of Witherspoon’s book-club selections have gone on to become New York Times best sellers, which has helped the company forge partnerships with publishing houses—along with a deal with Audible to publish three women’s memoirs as audio exclusives. “I can sit with [someone] who has a story, and whether that’s a feature film or an Instagram post or a podcast, we have a way to bring that story to life,” says CEO Sarah Harden. The company is launching a kids and animation division later this year.

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WATCH: How Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Harden built Hello Sunshine into the media brand of the future

A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.