This is a blend that works neatly:
Start with two Australians – novelist Liane Moriarty and actress-producer Nicole Kidman …. Have David E. Kelley write a mini-series from a Moriarty novel … Then load up on other stars.
That worked for HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” In the first of its two seasons, “Lies” won the best-miniseries Emmy, plus seven others, including ones for Kidman and two of her co-stars.
And now the combination returns with Hulu’s “Nine Perfect Strangers” (shown here), starting Wednesday (Aug. 18).
For Kidman, a mini-series – telling a full story, then ending it – seems ideal. “I did a couple of small films,” she told the Television Critics Association, in a virtual press conference, “but then I went straight into mini-series, which was primarily how I became really well-known in Australia …. It’s such a fantastic landscape.”
Now – after a long detour into being a movie star – she’s back there. She did “Top of the Lake,” with six episodes … “Big Little Lies,” with seven each for two separate stories … “The Undoing,” with six … and now “Strangers,” with eight.
The story has people arriving at a “wellness” retreat. Most are clinging to secrets, which doesn’t help. “After this last year-and-a-half, (we’ve learned that) masking thinks doesn’t make them better,” Melissa McCarthy said. “At some point, you have to get them out.”
But even the spa leader (Kidman) is bearing secrets. She calls herself Masha, has a Russian accent and an elusive nature … which Kidman stuck to. She didn’t meet most of the actors until her first scene.
“I walked in as Masha,” she said, “and I never related to anybody in any other way …. I wanted a very calm, healing energy to emanate all the time.”
In theory, this job should have had that effect on the actors. In July of 2020, with the world in chaos, they reached Austalia, quarantined for 14 days, then went to gorgeous Byron Bay, in New South Wales.
“The magical quality of the environment really helped us …. You go, ‘Is this real?’” Kidman said. “And then we existed in this dream state for almost six months.”
Well, dreams can become nightmares – including when Masha had them in holes in the ground. “Whenever we cut camera, every single person got out of those holes pretty quickly,” Bobby Cannavale said.
Nature conspired against the cast, he said. Birds kept interrupting dialog.
And those sweet koala bears? “Most of them are infected with chlamydia,” Regina Hall said.
One Australian study showed that about 40 percent have the disease. Still, McCarthy said, they seem happy: “They’re docile only because they’re high as a kite from eucalyptus.”