It Starts On The Page: Read ‘Expats’ Episode 5 Script “Central” By Lulu Wang

Editor’s note: Deadline’s It Starts on the Page features standout limited or anthology series scripts in 2024 Emmy contention.

In Prime Video’s limited series Expats, based on the novel The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, creator Lulu Wang shines a light on an expatriate community in Hong Kong with a focus on three women, Margaret (Nicole Kidman), Hilary (Sarayu Blue), and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo), whose destinies are intertwined. Two of them, Margaret and Hilary, represent the expat experience where money is no object and nothing would get resolved at home without the aid of their domestic workers.

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While showing the importance of their contributions, the nannies and housekeepers themselves are featured minimally throughout the first four episodes until they take center stage in the penultimate Episode 5, “Central,” dedicated entirely to their point of view. This is a different approach than a more traditional upstairs/downstairs perspective seen on series like Downtown Abbey.

Episode 5, written and directed by Wang, reveals who the support staff are as persons outside of their domestic duties, telling the stories of Essie (Ruby Ruiz), Puri (Amelyn Pardenilla) and the other incredibly hard working women who often sacrifice their dreams for their employers.

In a forward to her script, Wang explains why Episode 5 was her entry point into the entire series and who she is dedicating it to.

We open with a pop song under the rain. If life is 10,000 joys and 10,000
sorrows, then CENTRAL, the penultimate feature-length episode of “Expats,”
was created to encapsulate the joy of life. This episode was my entry point into
the entire series. It’s a dedication to so many women I know – the givers, the
caretakers, the dreamers and brokenhearted who have sacrificed so much and
still somehow manage to find moments of exuberance and delight despite the
wounds they carry.

The opening pop song features Puri, a character we’ve up to this point only seen
in the background, as one of the expat’s live-in housekeeper. Here, she’s the star
as she sings and laughs in Tagalog with a choir of other Filipina women from her
community. The episode then goes to Essie, another overseas Filipina worker
who lives with Nicole Kidman’s character, Margaret. We also follow a Hong
Konger through her marital struggles, student protestors fighting for the future of
their home in the Umbrella Movement, the concerned mother of a protestor, and
the Australian pastor of an international church.

“Central” is carried by the monumental performances of our multinational, multilingual ensemble cast – Ruby Ruiz, Amelyn Pardenilla, Maggie Li, Will Orr, Bonde Sham, Flora Chan, and Blessing Mokgohloa. If the expat community is an insulated bubble, this episode shows us how sheltered they are, by thrusting our audience into the much larger world, as if to say, this world was right here all along – perhaps we just weren’t looking.

The episode ends with a 70’s ballad titled “We’re All Alone,” as we watch all our
characters move on with their lives, some with a sense of acceptance, others not
so much. If the overall series explores individual pain, this particular episode is a
reminder that we are ALL residents of grief and loss, none of us are immune and
therefore, none of us are truly alone. Someone recently said to me, that a broken
heart is an open heart, if you allow it to be broken open rather than sealing it shut
from pain. With the endless rain, the sounds and textures of the city, the
countless threads of life everywhere you look, this episode was written in that
spirit – of breaking open.

Read the script below.

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