Nicole Kidman is bringing another compelling drama to television with her upcoming series, Expats.
The show is based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s 2016 novel The Expatriates, which follows three women in Hong Kong throughout different stages of their lives. Kidman found her way to the book through her sister, then immediately got the rights via her production company, Blossom Films.
She still needed the right director for the project, but she soon found her. As she told Vogue in a December 2023 interview, Kidman had just watched Lulu Wang’s The Farewell starring Awkwafina when inspiration struck. “I went, ‘OK, there she is — our visionary has appeared,’” Kidman said. “Now I’ve just got to go and convince her to do it. I think there was a lot of begging involved.”
Wang was compelled by Kidman’s offer but somewhat hesitant, as she also told Vogue. “I mean, Hong Kong means so much to so many people,” she said, noting her own experience of being born in Beijing and later emigrating to the United States as a child. “Am I an expat? Am I an immigrant? Which community do I really relate to more, and how would I tell the story of the intersection of all of these different communities? I think that my hesitation just came from a sense of responsibility, really — I didn’t know if I could be all things to all people.”
Wang and Kidman then brought Expats to Amazon and got an Amazon-level budget that allowed them to film in Hong Kong. Wang also had creative control, which led to a standalone episode focusing on Filipino domestic workers.
Since Big Little Lies debuted in 2017, Kidman has been a champion of telling women’s stories through television. Her other TV projects include The Undoing and Nine Perfect Strangers.
Keep scrolling for everything to know about Expats:
When Will ‘Expats’ Be Released?
Expats will premiere on Friday, January 26, with new episodes dropping weekly. The finale will air on Friday, February 23.
What Is ‘Expats’ About?
The show follows three women living in Hong Kong, one of whom is Margaret (Kidman), whose whole family has moved to the city for her husband’s (Brian Tee) job. Then there’s Hilary (Sarayu Blue), Margaret’s friend and neighbor, who is dealing with the unraveling of her marriage to David (Jack Huston) and her struggle to have a child. Finally, there’s Mercy (Ji-young Yoo), a carefree Korean American Ivy League grad whose odd jobs and aimlessness put her in contact with the Hong Kong expat community. She eventually becomes a central force in the tragedy that affects all three women.
How Many Episodes Will ‘Expats’ Have?
The limited series will have six episodes, including one 90-minute episode (which will be the fifth episode in the season).
Who Else Stars in ‘Expats’?
Blue, who plays Hilary, has been on many television shows but might be best known for playing Trina in the To All the Boys series and XO, Kitty.
Yoo, meanwhile, has mostly indie films on her resume but was in Netflix’s Moxie, directed by comedian Amy Poehler.
Huston, who plays David, is perhaps best known for his work on HBO’s period crime drama Boardwalk Empire. Tee, who plays Margaret’s husband, starred as Dr. Ethan Choi on Chicago Med on and off for eight seasons.
Why Is ‘Expats’ Controversial?
In September 2021, Variety reported the series was facing controversy over several issues. Expats was initially criticized for focusing on the minority group of rich, white foreigners. Hong Kong newspaper The South China Morning Post called the series “tone deaf,” with others describing the sets as orientalist because of the use of Chinese props.
Other critics accused Wang of ignoring the continued political situation in Hong Kong. When Kidman flew there to film Expats in August 2021, she was given quarantine exemption to enter the city despite Hong Kong’s strict COVID procedures for residents and other travelers who had to partake in mandatory two-to-three week hotel lockdowns.
In September 2021, a Hong Kong news publication claimed that Kidman and Wang had creative differences that allegedly led to an argument. Further rumors circulated that Kidman walked off set and left the production early, but an Amazon spokesperson denied the report. “Nicole wrapped as scheduled, she did not leave early,” the rep said at the time. “She always had other projects she was committed to. The production is not stalled or on hiatus, it was always going to continue shooting without her.”