The Intricate Tapestry of Expats: Women Storytellers Weave a Rich Narrative

From Nicole Kidman to Lulu Wang, Exploring the Collaborative Vision that Brought Depth and Authenticity to the Prime Video Series


In the world of Expats, the highly anticipated Prime Video limited series, authenticity and emotional resonance reign supreme. Based on the international bestseller by Janice Y. K. Lee, the show follows the intertwining lives of three American women – Margaret (Nicole Kidman), Hilary (Sarayu Blue), and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo) – as they navigate the complexities of identity, privilege, and motherhood in the tumultuous landscape of 2014 Hong Kong.

At the helm of this meticulously crafted narrative is a formidable team of creative visionaries, led by creator, director, writer, and executive producer Lulu Wang, whose critically acclaimed film The Farewell set the stage for her distinctive storytelling style.

Despite the larger scale of Expats compared to The Farewell, Wang’s vision remained unwavering: to evoke the same intimate atmosphere and emotional depth that resonated with audiences. To achieve this, she assembled a trusted ensemble of department heads from her previous project, forging a collaborative environment where every element – from production design to cinematography – worked in harmony to immerse viewers in the lives of these three women.

“The series was an interesting dissection of privilege, class, race, colorism—about diaspora, really, and expanding the conversation about identity,” Wang shared in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

In front of and behind the camera, Expats is a celebration of women at the top of their craft. For casting directors Julia Kim and David Rubin, intentionality was key, striking a balance between authenticity and inclusivity. “Especially since we’re talking about communities that are largely underrepresented on our screens and don’t even have the opportunity to audition,” Rubin explained.

From powerhouse Nicole Kidman to veteran actress Sarayu Blue and breakout star Ji-young Yoo, the rich source material and complex emotional depths of each character attracted a diverse array of talent. Wang’s vision for Mercy, in particular, resonated deeply: “It was important that we had somebody that was doing this thing called adulthood but at the same time having vulnerability and childlike naïveté. And so, when we saw Ji-young, she had all of that in her eyes and was able to bring all of those layers. You could just feel the complexity in her eyes.”

Beyond the performances, Expats’ visual world is a tapestry woven by meticulous design choices and masterful camerawork. Cinematographer Anna Franquesa-Solano employed a deliberate distance from the camera when capturing the expat community, contributing to the sense of isolation and perceived perfection that enveloped their lives.

Production designer Yong Ok Lee, meanwhile, immersed herself in the painstaking task of recreating the authentic Hong Kong experience, from replicating noodle shop tiles in Los Angeles to swapping every light bulb in a real night market. Color and materials in the apartments conveyed the characters’ privilege, highlighting the stark contrast between the two communities and culminating in the series’ penultimate episode, where the color yellow became a symbol of hope during the landmark umbrella movement.

Through this collaborative tapestry of talent and vision, Expats emerges as a richly compelling exploration of the human experience, inviting viewers to navigate the complexities of identity, privilege, and the universal bonds that unite us all.

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