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For ‘Expats’ Nicole Kidman & Lulu Wang, Female Focus Was Key To Series

When actress-producer Nicole Kidman and filmmaker Lulu Wang set out to produce Expats, a miniseries adaptation of the novel The Expatriates, for Prime Video, they were committed to building both an acting ensemble and a writers room that would bolster the female-driven vision behind the project.

Speaking via satellite from Nashville, Kidman joined Wang and castmates Sarayu Blue and Ji-young Yoo at Deadline’s Contenders Television and revealed that she was immediately struck by the novel’s focus on its female characters and shined light on subjects that a diverse array of women face but receive little public discourse or attention.

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“The themes of the show and the way in which it’s women, complicated women, but it’s very diverse and it’s very interesting and it’s very interconnected and the way we’re all interconnected. And I loved that it was a global show and that it was very, very relevant,” said Kidman. “So all the things that you go, ‘Okay, this is something worth fighting for.’ ”

RELATED: Contenders TV – Deadline’s Full Coverage

Kidman revealed that she immediately zeroed on Wang to lead the effort after viewing her 2019 film The Farewell. “I saw The Farewell and was completely enraptured by it,” she recalled. “I saw it and went, ‘There she is. There’s our creator, so we have to pursue her.’ And I did. Subsequently, she then took the piece and said, ‘Okay, here’s the book. Now I want to make it mine. There’s huge aspects to each storyline that I want to change and grow.’ And she is the voice of all of us. She was to put together a fantastic writers room and it’s a very, very strong female vision and female voice.”

Wang appreciated the freedom she was given to shape and mold the source material. “I have to thank Nicole and Amazon for being so incredibly supportive and just saying ‘Yes, take the book blank canvas, do whatever you want to do with it,’ ” she said, assembling an all-female writers room that included the book’s author Janice Y. K. Lee.

“This is a show about, as Nicole said, perspective, so many different perspectives,” said Wang. “So I didn’t necessarily approach the writers room thinking, ‘Okay, it has to be all women.’ I was really just thinking, ‘Well, what are the interesting perspectives that I can’t really speak to in this world?’ And I wanted Janice, who wrote the book, because she lived this experience. There’s no one better to turn to and go, ‘Hey, is this okay?’ Or ‘If you were to expand these characters that you wrote, how would you do it?’ So it just felt like an invaluable resource.”

“A writers room, is a dinner party: It’s all about the chemistry and you don’t really know how it’s going to work out until everyone’s together,” added Wang. “And we were really lucky that we had great chemistry.”

With Kidman at the head of the ensemble, Wang was looking for actors to add balance, contrast and perspective. Crucial was the casting of Ji-young Yoo as Marcy, the complicated young woman who anchors the miniseries’ early narrative.

“We opened the show with Mercy’s perspective and we learned that she’s the perpetrator, but in many ways you learn that she’s just a kid and also a victim,” said Wang. “We needed somebody who had both the vulnerability as well as this mask, right? ‘I’m an adult, I’m a grownup. I’ve got my life under control. I’m buying $8 lattes. I can definitely afford it.’ She can’t. She definitely can’t. And so when we saw Ji-young, she brought all of that… This incredible vulnerability that was so beautiful and tender and we just thought, ‘God, that’s it. That’s what we need.’ ”

Wang was also willing to take a risk on Blue, who’s been primarily been cast in comedies, in a challenging dramatic role. “I worked with Aquafina on The Farewell. I love comedic actors and I often feel like that’s the range that you need. You need that lightness. You need someone who has great timing, and Hillary’s a tough role, not the two women who are directly connected with the incident of the main mystery. And so we needed someone who could bring that a really dynamic presence to the screen as the person who isn’t directly affected, but her life is still turned upside down by this incident.”

Kidman explained that along with her passion for the particular story Expats was telling, she was gratified by the opportunity the project provided to push other talent forward. “I’m happy to do it, grateful to have the ability to be supported doing it, and to have whatever success I’ve had to then be able to go, ‘Okay, how do we now help others to have the light shine on them so that they can have extraordinary paths and careers?’ ” she said. “That’s just one of the things that I’m really committed to.”

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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