Hulu dramedy features a talented cast
They may be “Nine Perfect Strangers” but their lives are anything but.
In the so-named Hulu dramedy series from David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies”) and John-Henry Butterworth (“Ford v Ferrari”) that begins streaming Wednesday, Aug. 18, they’re all guests at Tranquillum, a high-end California health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation to stressed-out city dwellers seeking a better way to live. All come with baggage, literal and figurative.
Among them are Frances (Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”), a novelist licking her wounds after being dropped by her publisher; Tony (Bobby Cannavale, “Boardwalk Empire”), a divorced father of two with a substance problem; Carmel (Regina Hall, “Black Monday”), a stay-at-home mom with self esteem issues; Lars (Luke Evans, “High-Rise”), just off a bad break-up; Jessica and Ben (Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg), a couple going through a bad stretch; and Napoleon, Heather and Zoe (Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten), a family struggling with a tragic loss.
Running Tranquillum is Masha (Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”), a Russian who is equal parts spiritualist and authoritarian, who tailors her therapies to each individual client – no matter if they like them.
“She is an enigmatic person,” explains Jonathan Levine, who directs all eight episodes. “She is a woman of many contradictions, she’s mysterious, she’s enthralling, she’s all these different things. And what’s so beautiful about what Nicole does is these inherent contradictions may feel real and feel lived in.
“I think what’s also really interesting about this character is you don’t know if she’s your antagonist or your protagonist for a very long time. And I think that only Nicole can pull that off. It’s this sort of push-pull of identification with the audience and you’re always kind of unsure of her motives and yet there is this humanity at the core of her that I think sort of transcends her motives.”
The series, which is based on the book by Liane Moriarty (“Big Little Lies”), was filmed in Australia when the pandemic made it impossible to shoot in Los Angeles. That made for an ideal situation for Weaving, a native Aussie who embraced the chance to work in her homeland with a talented cast and crew.
As Jessica, she plays a social media influencer with a number of issues, some of which she is aware.
“She struggles with body image and how others perceive her,” Weaving explains, “and she’s also an influencer and I think gets a lot of her self esteem from her followers and her social media presence. And I think that along with a plethora of small problems kind of add up to make a giant bag of problems for Jessica and her husband. And they go to Tranquillum to sort of seek help and therapy and try to figure it out.”