Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy winner Nicole Kidman has established herself as one of the biggest box office draws on the planet with films ranging from “Eyes Wide Shut” to “Aquaman.” In recent years, Kidman has found herself being lured away from the big screen by television projects that have included “Top of the Lake,” “Big Little Lies” and “The Undoing.”
She’s back on the small screen with the new Hulu offering “Nine Perfect Strangers.” The short-run series based on The New York Times bestselling book of the same name by author Liane Moriarty will be available through the streaming service starting Aug.18.
Kidman plays the mysterious and ethereal Masha, a woman whose lone purpose in life is to reinvigorate tired minds and bodies. Nine stressed city dwellers show up at her boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation. How they reach that level will shock and surprise the guests.
The reason Kidman has found it easy to slip from the big screen to the small screen world has a lot to do with the directors. She has found with each TV offering there has been one director throughout the shoot much like how a film generally only has one director. The way of work has allowed Kidman to see TV as just an extension of her film world.
“It’s just a longer version. I haven’t actually done a show where you have different directors coming in and doing different episodes. So for me it’s more like that extended cinematic storytelling,” Kidman says. “At the same time, I started off in Australia doing mini-series which is the equivalent of a limited series. So I did a couple of small films, but then I went straight into mini-series which was primarily how I became really well known in Australia. So I’ve always embraced it.
“I just think now it’s such a fantastic landscape because you have these writers and directors who are willing to work in this territory.”
Another consistent for Kidman is that “Nine Perfect Strangers” comes from executive producer David E. Kelley. He was also the driving force behind Kidman’s “Big Little Lies” and “The Undoing.”
Kidman’s found that Kelley understands making a project with numerous episodes is a long and difficult process. She’s seen too many projects where the middle episodes tend to sag but has never found that while working for Kelley. That’s why she keeps agreeing to be in his projects.
The challenge with “Nine Perfect Strangers” for Kidman was finding the right way to pay Masha. This is a person who speaks seven languages and has a rich Russian-American background. She spent so much time working to perfect the speech pattern for Masha that once she found the way to play the character, she gave herself fully to it.
“I only related to them as Masha and stayed in the character. The first scene we shot was the scene where I come in the room and say, ‘I am Masha. Welcome to Tranquillum.’ I wanted a very calm healing energy to emanate all the time,” Kisman says. “I remember going over to people and sort of putting my hand on their heart or holding their hand. They would talk to me or use my name, Nicole, and I would completely ignore it. I’d only respond to Masha.
“It was the only way I could actually relate to people because I felt like, otherwise, I would be doing a performance, and I didn’t want to feel that way. And then, each person would come and do their scenes with me in my rooms, and I would create a different space for them. So it was a really weird place to exist.”
Kidman went through that experience with Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten, Tiffany Boone and Manny Jacinto.
The cast got to travel to Kidman’s stomping grounds of Australia for the filming. Except for some encounters with birds and koalas, shooting down under was a pleasure for the cast and crew.
Kidman found it especially amazing.
“It was kind of extraordinary to all be shooting there and the magical quality of the environment I think really helped us. It was like one of those things where you walk in and you go, ‘Is this real?’ And then we existed in this dream state for almost six months and then we left, and it was really kind of weird and magical.” Kidman says. “I’m a huge believer in using what you have to penetrate the show and the performance, and we were just given that.
“We were given that because of the pandemic and because we all just arrived from all different countries, all different sort of quarantine places, and we arrived and suddenly bonded and had to do this show together for six months.”