There’s good news for people scared that HBO’s upcoming limited series “The Undoing” would be a half-hearted rehash of discarded “Big Little Lies” plots. Created and written by David E. Kelley and starring Nicole Kidman, the show turns out to have a deeply psychological core which allows for involving storytelling that’s hard to tear yourself away from.
“Choosing to unknow things is a fascinating part of human nature — when and what you choose to believe and what you choose to see,” Kidman said at the TCA panel for “The Undoing” in Pasadena, CA on Wednesday morning.
It’s a peculiar quirk of human behavior and “The Undoing” explores it for all its worth. Adapted from the Jean Hanff Korelitz novel “You Should Have Known,” Kidman and co-star Hugh Grant play Grace and Jonathan Fraser, a couple living their best lives until a catastrophic death sparks a tragic chain of events from which they will likely never recover. The trailer shown in the room at TCA characterized Grace as a woman with the ability to read people and their motivations, only to find her insight lacking when applied to her own life.
“The great thing about the series – and what really drew me to it – is that it’s so twisty and nothing is as it seems,” Kidman said. The actress added that it was difficult to elaborate, given that the assembled journalists had only been provided two episodes of the series and she wanted to avoid spoilers.
“This particular piece, the theme and the core of denial that these characters lived in and inhabited, drew me in,” Kelley explained. “The propensity that they all had to draw false narratives about who they were, who their partners were, who people in their lives were, and giving rise to delusions that have a surprising tenacity.”
“We live in a world where, let’s face it, the facts are the facts, but the story is better,” the scribe continued. “In relationships, that can be true as well.”
But whether or not the central couple’s marriage is shot through with deception, Grant isn’t ready to have the audience cast aspersions on his character just yet, rejecting the idea that he’s a bad guy. “You don’t know from what you’ve seen whether I’m nice or nasty,” the actor jokingly chided a journalist. “If you’ve seen [Episode 2], I’m not entirely as lovely as I seem in [Episode 1]. But you don’t know if I’m evil or not.”
That said, he isn’t exactly opposed to donning the black hat, as opposed to the white one. Grant described the characters he’s been playing for the last six years “consistently vile.” “Richard Curtis, who wrote all those romantic comedies I did [or a lot of them], it always used to make him laugh that people thought I, Hugh, was that nice, bumbling Englishman because he knew exactly the reverse was true,” he continued. “It’s very nice to be closer to home.”
In fact, one of Grant’s most recent villainous turns came in 2018’s critically-beloved “Paddington 2,” in a role that served as a spiritual sibling to the villain of 2015’s “Paddington,” played by none other than Kidman. Naturally, the connection did not go unnoticed.
Asked if the pair found occasion to discuss Paddington between takes, Grant assured the room that “he was very much with us” during filming.
“We talked about Paddington before almost every scene,” Kidman quipped.
And if an ever-expanding media landscape makes one contemplate giving up and watching “Paddington 2” exclusively for the rest of the year, know that if nothing else, Kelley understands and has tried his hardest to be deserving of your precious screen time.
“The public has so much to watch,” he said. “It’s a burden. Why you? Why should they tune into you? We tried to be very true to living up to that addictive quality. We know that we have to rise up to that level.”
For those willing to take the ride with “The Undoing,” the six-installment limited series directed in its entirety by Susanne Bier, debuts in May.