There's a certain type of television pedigree to expect for a David E. Kelly, Liane Moriarty and Nicole Kidman project, so of course, buzz has been high for Nine Perfect Strangers since its initial announcement.
Based on Moriarty's best-selling book of the same name, the series "takes place at a boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation as nine stressed city dwellers try to get on a path to a better way of living. Watching over them during this 10-day retreat is the resort's director, Masha (Kidman), a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies. However, these nine 'perfect' strangers have no idea what is about to hit them."
Aside from Kidman, the series also stars Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten, Tiffany Boone and Manny Jacinto.
Ahead of the series premiere, S&A spoke with Hall, Cannavale, Jacinto, Weaving and Gregg to discuss the series, filming during the pandemic, themes of the series and more:
What first drew you to this project, as the Kelly/Moriarity combination is such a success already. Also, how was it working with this talented ensemble cast and filming during COVID?
Bobby Cannavale: Well, I heard about it through Melissa McCarthy. She texted me and she was like, "I think you should read this thing because I think I'm going to do it. And I'd love it if you did it and blah, blah, blah." And she's got great tastes and I've worked with her before and she was right, I had never played a character quite like this. And then of course, as you mentioned, it's got great pedigree, Liane and David were very successful with Big Little Lies. The book is fabulous and the adaptation was just, they've just went hand in glove, I thought those two. And I've worked with David before and he's just a master at writing complicated contradictory characters. So, I read the scripts and I thought, "Well, this character in particular is very interesting because he's a very dark character."
Manny Jacinto: We were so fortunate. Originally, we were supposed to film in LA, but because of the situation we packed up and went over to Byron Bay, Australia and it's such an isolated beach town, and that's absolutely beautiful. So we got to shoot a project that was about paradise...in literally paradise...which helped a lot. And at the end of the day, we didn't have this looming danger of COVID that could be possibly stopping our production, compared to productions in Los Angeles. It was still there, but we didn't have to look over our shoulders constantly all the time.
Melvin Gregg: The opportunity to work with great creatives is always an opportunity that I'm willing to take. It just got better throughout the process. Early on, when I was cast for the project, Melissa and Nicole, they were the only ones attached. So throughout the rest of the casting, every time I heard a new name, I was like, "Oh my God. This is crazy, it's surreal." Being able to work alongside these people, it was a great learning opportunity. And it was just a great experience, because everyone was a great person.
Talk to us about your character and sort of tease how they are when they first enter the resort and their trajectory as the series presses on.
Regina Hall: In Nine Perfect Strangers, this is a wellness retreat. Everyone, including Carmel, is going to somehow feel better. I think Carmel suffers from very low self-esteem and self-worth. She's divorced and has her two children and her husband has actually left her for a younger woman. And so I think that feeling of really just some sense of jealousy and self-loathing, I guess. So Carmel comes to meet friends and maybe start a new chapter in her life. And then of course there are things that will be revealed that are much darker that come out about everyone, including Carmel, and the reasons that they all are there and especially her.
Cannavale: I think when we find him at the beginning, he's a weird contradiction in that, he's volunteered to be at this place and yet he does everything he can to not participate, and he fights it all the way. And I think he's probably when we find him at the lowest place he can be, I think he's at the bottom of his rope. So I thought it'd be interesting to see how this guy claws out of that place, if he can claw out of it. And there's something I thought there might be some comedy to mine there and that kind of desperation. And I knew that it was going to be funny because all my scenes are with Melissa.
Jacinto: I think the biggest thing that Yao is dealing with his pursuit or his day to day is how does he balance his devotion for Masha and the principles of Tranquillum, which he really truly believes in, how does he balance that with his love and his grounded sense of affection for Delilah? It's really playing that line of danger and safety, and at the same time, he has to keep it together in front of all these nine perfect strangers.
Samara Weaving: Ben and Jessica don't start on the best foot, and it has to get worse before it gets better. I think it might be surprising how many twists and turns [there are]. You think it's going one way, and it's just going to keep you on your toes.
All the characters in the series are coming to this resort on an expectation to be transformed and to be healed and to say the least, we've gone through a lot of transformation through this trying year that we've been through. What are some ways that you think you've transformed both personally and as an actor during this period of time?
Hall: I think that there are just certain times in life that are difficult and it takes a little space and time to actually be able to know how you've transformed. I think in the middle of it, it's very hard to see and it kind of takes space to actually understand what the changes are, and more importantly, why it was necessary to occur. I think it's still in process, seeing what's happening. And I think for me it's the same way. I've had a lot of transition in the past year and a half, and I look forward to seeing what it was all for and how it connects to, I think, the next chapters of our life. I mean, I hope mine is being able to give more and being more connected to service than receiving. So, let's see where it lands us all. Hopefully, we're all better people because of it.
Jacinto: With COVID, with the pandemic, we have been forced to spend a lot of time by ourselves, alone, really a lot of self-reflection, and I think what I've been able to get out of it is, I've been able to analyze what I really want out of my career. What do I really want out of the roles that I want to take on? And also what my stamp is going to be once I pass this life. Yeah. I've really been able to reflect on that, and almost have a calmer sense, not to be morbid, in regards to the end of that life.
Cannavale: It just reemphasized a lot of things for me. I've always thought that being able to do this, first of all, as a profession is a very privileged thing. It's very highly competitive as we know, and it's a tough one to break into. So, I'm always really thankful that I get to go to work at all. But, during the pandemic, it became really, really apparent how much we need each other. People need to be around other people.
And this is a collective enterprise, creating art of any kind, but especially creating visual art like this. It takes a very large village. And so it wasn't lost on us when we showed up to work, just how grateful we all were to be at work. There is something about going to work that we need to do in order to feel some sense of normalcy. And so after four months of lockdown, that was really reemphasized for me hard when I showed up the first day of work and all these people, you just saw it in their eyes, how grateful they were to be able to go to work.
The first three episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers drop this week on Hulu with new episodes airing every week.