Amazon Prime’s Nine Perfect Strangers will absolutely keep you on your toes and firmly on the edge of your seat — just as we have come to expect from anything written by Aussie author Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies).
Filmed on location around Byron Bay (at a time when film and television production around the world was paused due to the pandemic), Nine Perfect Strangers takes viewers into the world of Tranquilum — a very exclusive health and well-being Oasis run by the enigmatic Masha (Nicole Kidman). The series explores the insatiable desire of people to “get well” along with the people who will exploit their vulnerabilities for their own personal gain.
Michael Shannon, Bobby Cannavale, Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Luke Evans, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Asher Keddie and Grace Van Patten each star as the strangers — who all come laden with their very own specific baggage.
For the Marconi family, parents Napolean (Shannon) and Heather (Keddie) and their daughter Zoe (Van Patten), the retreat offers the chance to heal from the tragic suicide of their son (and Zoe’s twin) and find some alignment as a family once more.
In an interview with The Latch ahead of the show’s premiere, Keddie and Van Patten spoke of the responsibility they felt in portraying characters who had experienced something so sensitive and deeply personal.
“I felt very strongly about trying to translate her [Zoe’s] grief and what she was going through on-screen because Liane Moriarty did such a beautiful job writing about it in the book,” Van Patten said.
“It felt like a priority of mine to try to do Zoe justice, especially from the book, and I found it very challenging to get into that headspace because it is so emotional.
“It took a lot of reading about the subject matter and what she went through and also just talking about it with Michael (Shannon) and Asher, who played my parents, and really finding out and deciding about their family dynamic and who they were before this traumatic event and how they changed after and how they really kind of disconnected as this family.
“I thought it was such a beautiful, but tragic story. So I really felt obligated to try to translate that on the screen.”
For Keddie, whose character, Heather, is “stuck” in her grief and (in the actress’s words) “deeply triggered” by her husband’s relentless cheeriness in the face of tragedy, she knew that taking on such a role came with immense responsibility.
“I knew taking on this role it would be ‘how am I going to imagine the unimaginable?'” Keddie explained.
“I can only hold the thought in relation to my own child in my mind for about two seconds,” she said. “So I knew going into the shoot that the investment it would require was really important. And, of course, I wanted to commit to it and deliver it as authentically as I possibly could, even though what I was imagining beyond imaginable, and I haven’t had that experience.
“So the responsibility was really big and I’m nervous about it because I do want it to be relatable. It’s important that drama like this — that touches on themes and tones that are very difficult — is authentic and relatable. So, I hope it is. We did our best to commit to the truth of it, and I felt really grateful that I was working with Michael and Grace in the sense that they wanted the same thing.”
Added Van Patten, “I think media has the power sometimes to shine a light on mental illness and things that our society that society is afraid to talk about. And I really hope this does spark a conversation and destigmatises the topic of mental illness, I really do.”
The theme of health, mental or otherwise, courses through the veins of Nine Perfect Strangers, as the retreat guests blindly place their faith in Masha, regardless of how unorthodox or questionable her practices become. While viewers may first have the opinion that everyone should run for the (extremely verdant) hills, Van Patten explains why it makes so much sense that they continue to stay — after all, trauma can be the ultimate bonding agent.
“It felt so relatable to me like, of course, don’t we all want to be a little bit better tomorrow than we did yesterday?” she said.
“It’s just such a common goal for everybody. And I thought it was so beautiful to read — all these different people with different problems and traumas and losses come together and connect, whether or not they’re dealing with the same thing, they’re all dealing with something. And you don’t need to be dealing with the same thing in order to connect and form relationships with somebody.”
She continued, “I think it just shines a light on our culture’s obsession with wellness and self-transformation and self-improvement and wanting these easy fixes and blindly trusting these wellness gurus to to to fix us. It’s just a fascinating topic and I was so intrigued by that.”
“It’s really it’s complex,” Keddie added. “And I’m really glad that it is, but I also think it’s really exciting television. I think it’s very unpredictable and progressive and hopefully ignites lots of questions about oneself and as an audience member and conversations with each other too — as opposed to feeling like we have to deal with things so individually because that makes people feel alone.
“I really like that this show looks at connection and actually how important that is in our lives.”
Nine Perfect Strangers premieres on Amazon Prime Video on August 20, 2021.