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Expats: Everything you need to know about Nicole Kidman's harrowing new series

Nicole Kidman's sister played a key role in bringing this compelling adaptation to the screen.

Nicole Kidman's highly anticipated project, Expats, is set to premiere on Prime Video on January 26, and this compelling exploration of family dynamics, tragedy, and the human experience already has people talking.

Created by Lulu Wang and filmed amid the Covid pandemic, the series ventures beyond the typical true-crime drama, opting instead to deeply immerse viewers in the lives of its characters across multiple timelines and six compelling episodes.

Here's everything you need to know about the series.

Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee as Margaret and Clarke in Expats, parents struggling after their son goes missing. Photo: Prime Video
Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee as Margaret and Clarke in Expats, parents struggling after their son goes missing. Photo: Prime Video

What is Expats about?

The six-part series unfolds against the vibrant backdrop of Hong Kong in 2014, capturing the essence of the city's bustling expatriate community.

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Architect Margaret, portrayed by Nicole Kidman, sets out on a life-changing adventure with her husband Clarke (Brian Tee) and their three children, relocating from the US to Hong Kong.

As they navigate this cultural transition, the narrative intricately weaves with the lives of other expatriates, including Hilary (Sarayu Blue) and her husband David (Jack Huston), exploring the complexities of relationships and the shared experiences of individuals in a foreign land.

Expats delivers a gripping exploration of expatriate lives in the heart of Hong Kong. Photo: Prime Video
Expats delivers a gripping exploration of expatriate lives in the heart of Hong Kong. Photo: Prime Video

In a departure from conventional true-crime dramas, Expats intentionally dedicates initial episodes to character introductions and the immersive depiction of life in Hong Kong. Only after establishing a profound connection with the the series' characters does the show unveil its focal point: an earth-shattering family tragedy, the disappearance of a young boy named Gus, the year before.

The missing boy also happens to be the youngest son of Margaret (Kidman) and Clarke (Tee). The repercussions of his disappearance extend beyond the family circle, impacting Mercy (Ji-Young Yoo), a Korean American twenty-something living in Hong Kong who feels a sense of responsibility. And Hilary (Blue), Margaret's former best friend, finds herself grappling with marital turmoil in the aftermath of Gus' disappearance.

Screen adaptation of The Expatriates

Prime's Expat draws inspiration from Janice Y.K. Lee's acclaimed novel, The Expatriates, and in fact, it was Nicole Kidman's sister, who played a crucial role in bringing the series to life. While living as an expatriate in Singapore, Kidman's sister discovered Lee's novel, and convinced of its potential, suggested it to Kidman.

Recognising its compelling storytelling, Kidman secured the rights for her production company, Blossom Films... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Who stars in Expats?

In the upcoming series, Nicole Kidman portrays Margaret, Ji-young Yoo takes on the role of Mercy, and Sarayu Blue stars as Hilary. Margaret's husband, Clarke, is played by Brian Tee, while Jack Huston stars as Hilary's husband, David.

How does Expats differ from the book?

The Prime Video series does take some creative liberties, tailored for a television audience, differentiating itself from The Expatriates.

Notably, the portrayal of Hilary, played by Sarayu Blue, as a character of Indian origin (instead of an American as she is portrayed in the book) adds depth to her storyline. This decision opens avenues for a profound exploration of Hilary's background, including a powerful exchange with her mother, portrayed by Sudha Bhuchar.

Saraya Blue as Hilary in a still from Expats.
In a creative departure from the book, Expats features Sarayu Blue portraying Hilary as a character of Indian origin. Photo: Prime Video

The series also spotlights the Filipino supporting cast far more than the book, providing a meaningful portrayal of their daily lives. These creative liberties, along with expanded character arcs and cultural nuances, create a distinctive narrative that sets Expats apart from its literary counterpart.

What are people saying about Expats?

Director Lulu Wang, known for her impactful work on The Farewell in 2019, says she has always wanted to explore the intersectionality of class and race and gender.

Speaking to The Guardian she said, “Hong Kong is so great, because it’s this intersection of very different walks of life, and you get to see all of the nuances. And I just wanted not to vilify anybody, but really just take the audience through a journey on which you might sympathise with someone and then they’ll do something that you disagree with, or you might hate them, but then come around to loving them. We’re at this moment in time where everything is so polarised, people are either heroes to be worshipped or they’re cancelled, so I wanted to show that these characters are all human and that everyone, regardless of their circumstance, is fighting their own battle, which in their world is a huge one.”

Expats premieres on Prime Video with its first two episodes on Friday, January 26 and it will air weekly thereafter.

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