Brian Tee, Jack Huston: 'Expats' are traumatized, trying to heal

"Expats," starring Brian Tee and Nicole Kidman, premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
1 of 5 | "Expats," starring Brian Tee and Nicole Kidman, premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

NEW YORK, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Chicago Med actor Brian Tee and Boardwalk Empire alum Jack Huston say all of the characters are traumatized, but doing their best to move on from their grief in their new Prime Video drama, Expats. The series premieres Friday.

Posthumous and The Farewell filmmaker Lulu Wang created the six-episode series based on Janice Y.K. Lee's novel, Expatriates.


It follows seemingly perfect couple Clarke (Tee) and Margaret (Nicole Kidman) -- Americans living in Hong Kong -- whose lives are turned upside down by the disappearance of their toddler.

Sarayu Blue plays Margaret's best friend, Hilary, and Huston plays Hilary's husband, David, who is cheating on her with Mercy (Ji-young Yoo), the young former nanny Margaret blames for the loss of her youngest child.

"He wants them to be the family they were. It's such a journey," Tee told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"Everyone deals with such trauma and tragedy in so many different ways. With grief, there are so many different stages and they are all mixed up and out of order and kind of blend," he added. "He's going through so much emotion, yet still trying to hold it all together."

Clarke also blames himself for the tragedy that befalls his family since it was his job that brought them to Hong Kong.

"That's what makes this character, for myself, so compelling," Tee said. "It was because of him that they moved to Hong Kong and it was because of him that they were expats. Had he not taken those steps forward, would this have happened?"

Tee, who is married with a 9-year-old daughter in real life, said he found it easy to relate to Clarke.

"He was the one character I connected with on a personal level because we have so many similarities," he said. "Clarke is a father doing his best to be a father and lead with love. Personally, that's what I try to do."

Huston, who worked previously with Wang on Posthumous, was eager to work with her again on Expats.

"When I got the call, I said 'yes' before even reading it. I was right there. There's nothing you enjoy more in this business than working on something or with someone -- or many people in this instance -- that you really love and respect," Huston said.


"That's when you say, 'It's not a job any more,' and you just feel grateful because you really get to explore something and take on a character and go deep. The conversation was never not exciting and interesting -- off camera, as well as on camera."

Huston described David as "a perfectly flawed man," haunted by a mysterious past from which he's been running for most of his life.

"You realize he could be a little bit of a villain. But then you realize he's going through his own [expletive], as we all are. Humans are flawed. We make mistakes," Huston said. "He's suffering like everybody in this show, and that's sort of the brilliance of it. It shows it from all different perspectives."

David feels like an outsider, which is one of the reasons why he is drawn to Mercy, an emotionally damaged woman who is seeking a fresh start in a new land when the series begins.

Yoo calls Mercy a "complicated girl who has heard a lot in her life that she is not deserving of love and she won't amount to anything."


"I like to say that Mercy -- when presented with two options -- will probably pick the worst one because she doesn't really believe she'll get a good outcome," Yoo said.

"So, I'm very protective of Mercy. That was one of the first things i felt -- like i almost needed to shelter her and keep her safe because she just feels injured, and a lot of the show is her learning to heal."

Blue noted Hilary's appearance as a "put-together, well presented woman" belies her insecurity and depression.

"She is very controlled and seems really sure of herself. She's in these neutral, tightly, perfectly tailored suits and high heels. She's got it all down to a 'T' and I think that we really just watch the unraveling of Hilary," Blue said.

"She's at a real culmination point with so many people in her life and you just watch it all fall apart and how she treads that experience."

At the opening of the show, Hilary's marriage to Davis is suffering.

"Their relationship is fractured and, unfortunately, her closest friendship is also fractured and, by the time we meet Hilary, it's already at a breaking point -- all of it," Blue said.


Mercy is dazzled by her employers' beauty and wealth, and hopes their sphere of success will eventually expand to include her.

"She believes she is cursed and that bad luck follows her," Yoo said.

"She sees Margaret and the Wu family and Clarke and hopes that she can get some sort of good luck through osmosis if she sticks around, that things will turn up for her," she added.

"When tragedy hits, I think it just further confirms what she's believed her whole life about herself. Margaret becomes this point of deep regret and also longing."

Hilary and Margaret, who live in the same apartment building in Hong Kong, enjoy a very close friendship until Margaret's child disappears and she starts blaming others for their role in the tragedy.

"I've seen a lot of friendships. I've been a part of friendships that have fallen apart and it is a part of life as we grow and grow up," Blue said.

"One of the things we really see Hilary do in the show is grow up. it's so cool to see a 40- year-old woman grow up. That is actually life, although it is rarely given space for."

Wang said she was a fan of the book because it depicted the "texture" of different characters and beautifully conveyed a sense of time and place.


"It felt like a world I wanted to be in and to learn more about and interrogate," she added.

"Ultimately, I wanted to make a show about resilience -- the hope that we all need to hold onto ourselves in order to cope with whatever we've been through or will go through."

Nicole Kidman attends 'Expats' premiere in NYC

Star Nicole Kidman arrives on the red carpet for Prime Video's "Expats" at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City on January 21, 2024. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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