What to know about Nicole Kidman’s TV show in Hong Kong, Expats – from the Amazon Prime series’ debut at TIFF and the book it’s based on, to the cast and controversy around Kidman skipping quarantine

Expats, the Amazon Prime Video TV series starring Nicole Kidman and shot in Hong Kong during the Covid-19 pandemic, just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8.

Nicole Kidman jumps for joy behind the scenes with co-star Brian Tee and director Lulu Wang. Photo: @thumbelulu/Instagram

TIFF debuted the series’ penultimate episode “Central”, which follows the narratives of two Filipina domestic workers linked to the expat community.

A scene from Expats. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

It covers a time when the local political movement is at a point of no return. Meanwhile, a typhoon hits the city.

Expats cast member Sarayu Blue and director Lulu Wang. Photo: @thumbelulu/Instagram

Based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s internationally bestselling 2016 novel The Expatriates, the new TV show takes a non-linear approach to storytelling, so audiences can watch and experience the characters’ journeys from any of the six episodes.

A scene from Expats. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Here’s everything you need to know about the highly anticipated series …

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What’s the storyline of Expats?

Hollywood star Nicole Kidman in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, during production of TV show Expats. Photo: Winson Wong

The story is set in Hong Kong during 2014. Architect Margaret (Kidman), her husband Clarke (Brian Tee) and their three kids move from the US to Hong Kong, where they meet and mingle with fellow expatriates in the city like Hilary (Sarayu Blue) and her hubby David (Jack Huston).

Nicole Kidman in a scene from Expats. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Within their close circle, wealth is celebrated and friendships come and go. But then, a family tragedy suddenly strikes, bringing their community even closer together.

The show was confirmed in 2018, when Amazon Studios agreed to collaborate with Kidman’s Blossom Films for the production, per Deadline. “I’m so thrilled about the Blossom-Amazon collaboration,” said Kidman at the time. “The Expatriates is just the beginning of our shared goal in making delicious stories with something meaningful to say about the world.”

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Who’s behind the original book?

The Expatriates by Hong Kong-born author Janice Y.K. Lee. Photo: Handout

Janice Y.K. Lee, a Hong Kong-born author with Korean expatriate parents, studied at Hong Kong International School in the city. She then moved to the US in her teens, before moving back to Hong Kong for a few years.

Sarayu Blue in Expats. Photo: Prime Video

“The world I entered and encountered there, the world of the American expatriate, inspired the world in this second book,” she told Penguin Random House. Now, she lives with her husband and four kids in New York.

Janice Y.K. Lee, author of The Expatriates, which the series is based on. Photo: Janice Lee

Lee wrote her debut novel The Piano Teacher (2009), which landed on The New York Times bestseller list. The Expatriates also received positive feedback upon its release.

Who’s in it?

US-South Korean actress Ji-young Yoo. Photo: Ji-young Yoo
Oscar-winning Aussie actress Nicole Kidman, 56, from Moulin Rouge and Eyes Wide Shut, is taking the lead role of Margaret, of course. Meanwhile, Sarayu Blue (XO, Kitty, I Feel Bad) plays Hilary; Brian Tee (Jurassic World, Chicago Med) is Clarke; and Ji-young Yoo (Moxie) stars as Mercy.

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Sarayu Blue attends the premiere of Netflix’s To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You at the Egyptian Theatre, in Hollywood, California, in February 2020. Photo: FilmMagic

The cast list also includes Jack Huston (American Hustle, The Irishman, House of Gucci) as David.

Who’s the director?

Director Lulu Wang shared a photo of her and Nicole Kidman in late 2019. Photo: @thumbelulu/Twitter

The show is directed by Beijing-born, Miami-raised director Lulu Wang, behind features like Posthumous and A24’s The Farewell.

Where did they film it in Hong Kong?

Luxurious apartment buildings and skyscrapers in Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. Photo: Getty Images
While it’s unclear which scenes will make it to the final cut, Kidman was spotted in various districts across the city, including Hill Road in Sai Wan, Central, and The Peak, according to media reports.
Nicole Kidman was spotted out and around Hong Kong. Photo: Chaotic Hong Kong Expats/Facebook

The Aquaman actress even went shopping on Queen’s Road Central during her highly publicised trip.

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When will Expats come out?

Hollywood star Nicole Kidman during production with crew members in August 2021. Photo: Winson Wong

Expats will be available on Amazon Prime Video, though the official release date hasn’t been published.

Why was there controversy around Nicole Kidman’s visit to Hong Kong?

Nicole Kidman skipped mandatory quarantine during the shoot of Expats in 2021, in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Kidman’s arrival into the city was met with a mix of both star-struck fans and public backlash, as the Hollywood star was exempt from undergoing the then-government-implemented mandatory quarantine period during her visit.

Nicole Kidman is an Oscar-winning actress who has her own production company, Blossom Films. Photo: @nicolekidman/Instagram

The rules at the time stated that Australia, where Kidman was flying from, was listed as a low-risk country, meaning fully-vaccinated arrivals who tested negative had to undergo one week of designated hotel quarantine.

Many travellers coming back to Hong Kong during the Covid-19 pandemic were put under isolation – with quarantine periods of up to 21 days – without being allowed to open their windows, and some had to be separated from their family members whom they didn’t travel with. Stress, anxiety and trauma were some of the listed psychological impacts on individuals.

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Nicole Kidman flanked by Stephen Urquhart (left), president of Omega, visits Hong Kong for the first time to take part in Omega boutique launch in Central, in 2010. Photo: May Tse


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