Nicole Kidman stars in "Nine Perfect Strangers." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Nicole Kidman said she remained in character as a wellness guru for the six months the cast and crew quarantined in Australia while filming the new Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers.
The eight-episode show, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, premieres Wednesday. The story centers around Kidman's Masha at the Tranquillum wellness retreat.
"I walked in as Masha, and I never related to anybody in any other way," Kidman said during a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "I only related to them as Masha."
Masha picks nine people to attend Tranquillum, each coping with different issues, such as grief, weight loss or marital discord.
Kidman, 54, said she didn't feel she could switch between herself and Masha, so chose to remain in character even while off the set.
"It was the only way I could actually relate to people," Kidman said. "I felt like, otherwise, I would be doing a performance, and I didn't want to feel that way."
The guests at Tranquillum are also trying to figure out Masha while they undergo her therapy. Masha speaks with a Russian accent and reveals more about her past as the series continues.
"I found the accent due to putting together her whole life story and made it a Russian-American mix," Kidman said. "She speaks seven languages, just in case you didn't know."
Kidman said her first scene was the one in which Masha introduces herself to her nine patients. Kidman said she aimed to give her co-stars peace as Masha, and ignored any co-star who called her Nicole.
"I wanted a very calm healing energy to emanate all the time," Kidman said. "So I remember going over to people and putting my hand on their heart or holding their hand."
Melissa McCarthy, 50, plays Francis, an author struggling to create another hit. The actor said she continued thinking about Masha's fictional lessons after cameras stopped rolling.
"It makes you think of very big questions," McCarthy said. "What will be changed when you're gone? Who will care? What have you left behind? Have you made something better?"
One line Masha says stood out, McCarthy said. Francis tells Masha she's trying to avoid suffering and Masha replies, "You're already suffering."
"When you mask your problems, masking things doesn't make them better," McCarthy said. "At some point, you have to get them out."
Nine Perfect Strangers filmed in Australia under COVID-19 safety protocols. Kidman said quarantining the cast and crew together contributed to the feeling that they were really at Tranquillum.
"We existed in this dream state for almost six months," Kidman said. "It was really kind of weird and magical. We all just arrived from all different countries, all different sort of quarantine places, suddenly bonded and had to do this show together for six months."
The other eight strangers are played by Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Luke Evans, Samara Weaving, Melvin Gregg, Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie and Grace Van Patten. David E. Kelley adapted the book. He and Kidman also worked together on the adaptation of Moriarty's Big Little Lies for HBO.
McCarthy and Kidman shared stories about their visits to spas with treatments far less successful than Masha's. McCarthy said one prescribed a painful bath in grapefruit extract, which burned long after she got out.
"I'm now in a room, trying to not gracefully get out of a bath very fast and having some amount of modesty," McCarthy said.
Kidman recalled a cold bath that had the opposite of its intended effect. She was locked in a tank of cold water, pounding on it to no avail.
"That, to me, was absolute torture," Kidman said. "They still wouldn't let me out, and I had to lie in the sort of slightly dirty salt water for two hours."
New episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers premiere Wednesdays on Hulu.