‘Expats’ Duo Nicole Kidman And Lulu Wang On The Emotional Toll Of Bringing Novel To Life

‘Expats’ Duo Nicole Kidman And Lulu Wang On The Emotional Toll Of Bringing Novel To Life

The stars and writer-director of the Prime Video limited series Expats sat down Sunday at the Deadline Studio at Prime Experience. Based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s bestselling novel of the same name, Expats revolves around the lives of a group of expatriates in Hong Kong — more specifically, it’s story of three women from different backgrounds linked by a tragic event, grief, loss and complicated family issues.

Appearing on our panel Sunday were star/executive producer Nicole Kidman, actors Ji-Young Yoo, Sarayu Blue, Jack Huston and Brian Tee, and creator/writer/director/executive producer Lulu Wang.

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Watch the conversation here, and scroll down for a photo gallery of the event.

Kidman, who has become as prolific a producer through her Blossom Films as she is an actor, also just received the prestigious AFI Lifetime Achievement Award over the weekend, something celebrated by all her Expats colleagues as we began our studio session with them on the sidelines of Amazon’s FYC event. As a producer, Kidman knew exactly the formula that makes for a compelling series.

“I mean this was a labor of love and then when Lulu came in she was like, ‘I’m ready, but the way to do it is I need to be able to control the whole thing and know exactly what I will have, the agency and the ability to do that.’ And that’s what we do as a production company, hopefully, is to supply that support. And so a lot of it is just that, and then you cast incredible actors, and that’s it, the job’s done,” Kidman said, making it sound a lot easier than creating a show shot on this scale in Hong Kong.

For Kidman it is also a highly emotional role, playing a woman whose young son vanishes while under the watch of a babysitter, played by Yoo. She said it was Wang who determined the role she would play. “She said, ‘No, you’re Margaret. You will be Margaret.’ And that’s what I mean by you give the project over to the director and they shape it. … And it’s so much about a marriage that is under duress but is a good marriage and that was sort of the kernel for me in terms of the grief, because so much of this is when you see these marriages, a lot of them are destroyed, but this is a marriage that isn’t destroyed.

Wang, director of acclaimed feature films like The Farewell, shared just why she wanted to make this property her television debut, and especially getting to collaborate with Kidman.

“Nicole and I started off, and as soon as you meet you know she’ll just go deep, and she said, ‘This is a show about women, it’s a show about grief, let me tell you about my own grief, let me tell you about my father,’ and we just talked, we talked about our own mothers, and it was a show by women, for women’,” Wang said about the experience of the six-episode series, one that offered a chance for diversity as well. “And that’s it, an opportunity I couldn’t turn down to have that kind of creative freedom to put who we wanted behind the camera as well as in front of the camera, to create an ecosystem and a process that was really healthy for the creatives. That’s why I said yes. In addition there was the incredible source material, the book by Janice Y.K. Lee, and the themes that come from the novel.”

Yoo, who plays Mercy, and Blue, who plays Hilary, explained the arcs of their characters and the way they became so interlinked, complications and all. Tee, who plays Clark, Margaret’s husband, and Huston, who plays David, husband to Hilary but also having an affair with Mercy, both explained the complexity of the key men in this story revolving around the three women.

Huston, grandson of legendary director John Huston, had worked with Wang on her first feature film but had a particularly challenging physical requirement put on him by his director for Expats. “That was our first conversation: ‘There’s two stipulations. One is you have to put on 30 pounds. The other one is you have to be fully naked.’ That is naked with 30 (extra) pounds on your body, and I was like ‘Well only for you, Lulu’,” he said, laughing.

For more Deadline Studio at Prime Experience content, click here.

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