Cultural Mosaic Unveiled in ‘Expats’ With Lulu Wang’s Vision And Ruby Ruiz’s Global Breakthrough Acting Alongside Nicole Kidman

Ruby Ruiz as Essie and Nicole Kidman as Margaret. Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

With its release on the horizon, Expats stands poised to captivate audiences with its portrayal of human complexities set within a culturally diverse milieu.

In the bustling world of entertainment, anticipation brews as the debut of Expats, a groundbreaking series by director Lulu Wang, approaches on January 26, 2024, on Amazon Prime Video. This much-anticipated show orbits around a monumental family tragedy, spanning multiple timelines across six episodes, delving into women’s lives within Hong Kong’s diverse expatriate community.

Nicole Kidman as Margaret and Brian Tee as Clarke in Lulu Wangs Expats. Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

Wang, known for her poignant storytelling in The Farewell, meticulously crafted Expats to avoid the clichés of true-crime dramas, opting instead for a slow-burn narrative that immerses viewers into the lives of the characters. At the heart of the series are three compelling characters, portrayed by Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, and Ji-young Yoo, each navigating a personal turmoil against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s vibrant culture.

Kidman, who is also the show’s executive producer, catalyzed its creation after being captivated by Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel The Expatriates and Wang’s previous work. For Wang, taking on this project was initially fraught with hesitations, grappling with the responsibility of portraying the intersection of diverse communities within Hong Kong, given her background of being born in Beijing and immigrating to the US at a young age.

Amelyn Pardenilla as Puri and Sarayu Blue as Hilary. Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

Embracing the complexity of the narrative, Wang assembled an all-women writing team (including the novel’s author) to breathe life into the characters and their backstories. Notably, Wang’s vision extends beyond the main characters, dedicating a feature-length episode to Filipino domestic workers, illuminating their lives often overshadowed by the expats.

“It was just incredibly important to me because I felt that was my way into the story,” Wang shared with Vogue US, speaking of Filipino domestic workers. “I had made The Farewell about my grandmother, and so many of these women felt like my family and my grandmother, these women who spend their entire lives servicing other people. I felt like I knew these women so intimately. It was about bringing dignity to them. I wanted to show the story through their eyes and really understand who they are as people—not just in relationship to the expats.”

Filipino Representation

Renowned for her acclaimed performances in Filipino cinema with films like Iska, Ekstra, Ma’Rosa, and Third Is My First, veteran actress Ruby Ruiz is on the brink of a significant leap in her career. Filming during the pandemic, Expats emerged as a platform for Ruiz to step onto the international stage, playing the role of Essie, a nanny for Kidman’s character, Margaret.

Amelyn Pardenilla as Puri. Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

The veteran actress believes that Expats is a must-watch for the global Filipino community. “I think that it is a must that Filipino diasporas around the world, not just overseas migrant workers, that they watch Expats because they can identify with the plight of Essie… the sacrifices, hard work to earn a living away from home,” Ruiz exclusively shared with Vogue Philippines.

Ruby Ruiz as Essie and Nicole Kidman as Margaret. Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

Ruiz also spoke fondly of her experience on set with Lulu Wang and Nicole Kidman.  “My most memorable experience with her [referring to Wang] was on my first shooting day in Hong Kong. When she was giving me directions, she always spoke from her heart and had a music-like rhythm in her head whenever she directed scenes. All I had to do was listen. The entire experience was magical,” she said. “There was one scene in particular with Nicole Kidman and I, where all I had to do was listen and react to her. Such a quiet moment for Margaret and Essie and yet the scene’s subtext was screaming with intensity and raw emotion.”

As Expats sets the stage for its debut, the series marks a significant milestone in Ruiz’s career, symbolizing the growing recognition of Filipino talent on the global stage. With the series poised to captivate audiences, the convergence of Wang’s impactful storytelling and Ruiz’s international leap promises an exciting chapter in the realm of entertainment, offering viewers a glimpse into the multifaceted narratives and performances that transcend borders.

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