9 Things To Know About Nine Perfect Strangers

Stars Nicole Kidman, Bobby Cannavale, Melissa McCarthy, and others break down what you need to know about the series based on Liane Moriarty's book.

by | August 17, 2021 | Comments

Nine Perfect Strangers, Hulu’s star-studded adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel, follows a group of people from various backgrounds who visit a wellness center called Tranquillum House for what they believe to be a 10-day restorative retreat.

But this is not a vacation they will soon forget. Run by mysterious and ethereal Masha Dmitrichenko (Nicole Kidman) and her minions including Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone), the resort offers the promise of restoration and healing. But at what cost?

As the characters and the audience begin to question Masha’s motives, the situation becomes complicated, and it grows harder for guests to leave Tranquillum House before check-out.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke to the series cast and rounded up nine things you need to know about Nine Perfect Strangers before it premieres August 18.

1. It’s Not a Horror Series

Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Hulu)

Despite the premise set up with that logline — “All is not well” — series director Jonathan Levine said this is a show that “really transcends genre.”

“I certainly thought about horror and certainly thought about thrillers,” he said during the show’s Television Critics Association summer press tour panel. “But at the end of the day, even though we’re playing with those tropes, I think, for me, it was about character and about these beautiful people that you kind of empathize with and fall in love with.”

Still, he said, “We certainly were playing with the audience’s expectations and using genre as a vehicle to tell this story and to keep it compelling.”

2. But It Is a Show About Pain

Regina Hall in Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

The series discusses pain, but the emotional not what you’d find in a slasher flick. Regina Hall’s (pictured) Carmel Schneider is a divorcee who hopes things like losing weight will help her issues. Melissa McCarthy’s Frances Welty is a novelist experiencing setbacks in her career and personal life.

“Doing the show made you think a lot about what you do to cover up your problems,” McCarthy said at TCA, adding that “at some point, you have to get it out. So it’s like you’re already in the midst of being miserable and suffering, so make a change. And that’s so much what I think this show is about.”

3. The Guests Aren’t All Strangers to Each Other

Melvin Gregg, Asher Keddie, and Michael Shannon in Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

Michael Shannon (above right) and Asher Keddie (above center) play husband-and-wife Napoleon and Heather Marconi, who are at the wellness center with their daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten) after experiencing a loss. Melvin Gregg (above left) and Samara Weaving play married couple Ben and Jessica Chandler, who have mastered the façade of perfection.

Both families are experiencing emotional strains in their relationships. At one point, during a trust exercise, Heather’s grief consumes her so much that she considers diving off a cliff.

“That was really poignant for me, actually, for the character, because it really spoke to the bigger question in the show,” Keddie told Rotten Tomatoes. “And that moment, when she is quite literally on the precipice, I think she has reached a point in her life where she actually just doesn’t know how to connect anymore.”

Van Patten added that “when you see Zoe, she has really pushed down a lot of her emotion and trauma and has been living in her parents’ trauma more than her own.”

When Zoe encounters Masha at Tranquillum, her instinct is to run, but there’s nowhere to go.

4. Fleeting Fame Is Also a Theme

Bobby Cannavale, Luke Evans, Nicole Kidman, and Melissa McCarthy inNine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

In addition to Gregg and Weaving’s social media celebrities and McCarthy’s novelist, Bobby Cannavale’s former athlete Tony Hogburn has reached that stage in his career where people feel like the recognize him — but they don’t know why.

In this case, Tony would rather you don’t know who he is.

“Part of that is the wardrobe,” Cannavale told Rotten Tomatoes. “I think this guy has physically transformed himself. He’s gained all this weight. And he does not want to be recognized.”

Cannavale describes the character as “pretty aggressive,” but “it’s behavior coming out of desperation.”

“Whether he realizes it or not, I think he’s trying to wake himself up,” Cannavale said. “I think he’s so numbed by these drugs and by how his entire life and those relationships have been clouded over by that, I think any kind of provocation will stimulate him in the right way.”

5. The Show Plays with Social Media’s Perceptions of Perfection

Melvin Gregg and Samara Weaving in Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

Weaving’s Jessica is beautiful but also lacks self-esteem and confidence. She is addicted to her phone, which she (like everyone else) must relinquish upon check-in. It pains her that she can’t Instagram a beautiful breakfast spread at the retreat.

Weaving told Rotten Tomatoes that she herself has “always had terrible anxiety” that she has managed through medication and therapy.

“Anxiety is such a mental state,” she said of playing Jessica. So she tried “to see how that could manifest physically. So I gave her a scratch and some ticks and rapid eye movements and things like that.”

She also “did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people who suffer from body dysmorphia.”

6. Tranquillum Seeks Out People Who Feel Like They’ve Exhausted All Other Options

Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

Why would Jessica and Ben, who roll up in a fancy sports car, go here when they could just try couples therapy? Or when they could spend their time relaxing at a Hawaiian luxury hotel with Wi-Fi?

“I think they’ve done all of this stuff,” Gregg told Rotten Tomatoes. “Their life is a vacation and they tried couples therapy, but nothing is working … but she feels like the problem is bigger. So we need you need to take more extreme options.”

Jacinto added, “There comes a point in all our lives where you just reach this point of desperation where you need help. You can’t find it in your spouse or in your family. So you need someone to tell you that everything’s gonna be OK. And, when someone is that vulnerable, there can be abuses of power and abuses of trust.”

7. The Show Explores Wealth Inequality

Nine Perfect Strangers cast members

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

Much like HBO’s The White Lotus, Nine Perfect Strangers examines the excesses and expectations of wealthy people and how some lose sight of the humanity of the staff members catering to their whims.

“Diving into it more and maybe thinking about it after the project, you can’t help but sit back and think: How much money do these people have to spend?” Jacinto tells Rotten Tomatoes. “But, I mean, I’m sitting there judging them when, at the end of the day, I am such a sucker for self-improvement and for wanting to be better.”

Both series embed lower-income characters into the facilities’ guest lists, and those characters express a degree of imposter syndrome, in which they openly remark on their worthiness to be guests. And while The White Lotus draws strict lines around its predominantly white guests and ethnically diverse staff, Nine Perfect Strangers offers more of a mix on both sides of the equation.

8. Jacinto Is Here For Your The Good Place Comparisons

Manny Jacinto and Tiffany Boone in Nine Perfect Strangers

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

The actor, who rose to fame playing the delightful simpleton Jason Mendoza on The Good Place is aware that this is yet another series where a bunch of unsuspecting individuals arrive at a utopia lorded over by a character played by a tall acting icon (in the NBC comedy, it was Ted Danson). But in this version, Jacinto’s Yao is in on it all. How do you play someone who knows all the secrets but can’t tell anyone?

“I think it’s finding an anchor in regards to what my character wants,” he told Rotten Tomatoes. “With Yao, all he wants to do is serve and help people. As long as he serves that purpose, he’s not going to reveal the possible risks that that purpose might entail.”

9. Kidman Stayed in Character the Whole Time

(Photo by Vince Valitutti/Hulu)

“I sort of found the accent due to putting together her whole life story and made it a Russian-American mix,” Kidman told reporters during the TCA panel. “The first scene we shot was the scene where I come in in the room and say, ‘I am Masha. Welcome to Tranquillum.’ And then, I was able to stay in that place.”

She adds that “I wanted a very calm healing energy to emanate all the time. So, I remember going over to people and sort of putting my hand on their heart or holding their hand.”

She also said she wouldn’t respond when people called her “Nicole,” and she’d have people run scenes with her in her rooms, but “I would create a different space for them. So it was a really weird place to exist.

“It was the only way I could actually relate to people was that way,” she said, “because I felt like, otherwise, I would be doing a performance, and I didn’t want to feel that way.”

Nine Perfect Strangers premieres August 18 on Hulu.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

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