‘Nine Perfect Strangers’: The Cast Did Not Like Having to Lie Still in Fake Graves

Between that and Nicole Kidman staying in character on filming days, the upcoming Hulu show did not offer a conventional atmosphere.
Nine Perfect Strangers -- “The Critical Path” - Episode 102 -- As healing begins, the guests begin to doubt the retreat’s unconventional methods. They came for massages and relaxation, not to face their own mortality. Masha (Nicole Kidman), shown. (Photo by: Vince Valitutti/Hulu)
"Nine Perfect Strangers"
Vince Valitutti/Hulu

Not many people enjoy being reminded that, one day, they will die. Even fewer people (probably) enjoy lying perfectly still while insects crawl near their body.

So for one particular sequence, it makes perfect sense that the cast of the upcoming Hulu show “Nine Perfect Strangers” was less than eager to stay in the moment the way their characters are asked to do.

“When you’re surrounded like that, by all that dirt, it’s extremely confronting,” Bobby Cannavale said. “I will tell you that whenever we cut camera, every single person got out of those holes pretty quickly. Nobody brought me water in the hole.”

Speaking on a virtual panel Friday afternoon as part of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, Cannavale’s fellow cast members Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, and Regina Hall all discussed the experience of filming the adaptation of Lianne Moriarty’s book.

Kidman’s character, Masha, is the resort director, creating a 10-day experience for the nine visitors to the remote wellness rejuvenation center. It’s her that makes them do a visualization exercise in fake graves, surrounded by all that dirt. But it was a different kind of commitment of Masha’s that led Kidman to make a distinct performance choice.

“I walked in as Masha and I never related to anybody in any other way,” Kidman said. “I only related to them as Marsha 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.’ And then I was able to stay in that place.”

“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 said. “They would talk to me or use my name Nicole, and I would completely ignore it. I’d only respond to Masha.”

The show (like its fellow “resort gone wrong” counterpart “The White Lotus”) was filmed in isolation under careful health protocols. Kidman described how that sense of removal also helped fit into the overall atmosphere of the show.

“The magical quality of the environment I think really helped us,” Kidman said. “We existed in this dream state for almost six months, and then we left. And it was really kind of weird and magical. I’m a huge believer in using what you have to penetrate the show and the performance. We had all just arrived from all different countries, all different quarantine places, and suddenly bonded and had to do this show together.”

“Nine Perfect Strangers” premieres August 18 on Hulu.

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