All the action in Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, takes place at the seemingly serene retreat, Tranquillum House, but it isn’t long until a nefarious twist unfolds.
It seems that mysterious wellness guru Masha (Nicole Kidman) has invited this specific group of nine people to her spa for a much-needed time of healing and transformation, but just how she plans to go about that renovation isn’t in the fine print of the contracts they signed.
In addition to Kidman, Nine Perfect Strangers stars Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Melvin Gregg, and Samara Weaving as the strangers who come together for the wellness experience.
In the interview below, Monsters and Critics spoke to Weaving and Gregg about their roles as married couple Ben and Jessica Chandler, who are having marital troubles that developed after they won the lottery, and are hoping their time at Tranquillum House will help them mend their relationship.
Monsters & Critics: This is set in a spa. What are your personal spa experiences like?
Melvin Gregg: I’ve never had a spa experience quite like this. I have never even gone to a resort or a retreat or a spa.
Samara Weaving: I’ve had a massage, but I’ve never had the desire to go on a wellness retreat. My mom goes to one every year. She goes to a 10-day meditation retreat with silence for 10 days.
M&C: You play a married couple that won the lottery, but you’re actually at the spa because you’re having issues. Why is the money causing problems?
Melvin Gregg: When you don’t have money, you feel like money is the answer to all of your problems, so a lot of times you find purpose in the means to get money. In his case, he was working on a food truck. That’s what he enjoyed doing. He earned money. He was able to pay his expenses and that was his purpose, but now, why work, I’m rich? So, he lost his purpose, his place in life, his reason.
Samara Weaving: I think a lot of reasons. Jessica’s quite desperate to make things right between the two of them, but she’s quite unaware of what that will entail. For so long, she thinks the two of them will work it out together, but I think a lot of it has to do with her, especially, doing work on herself, which is essentially affecting both of them.
M&C: Initially what drew you to your character? What was it about your characters that sparked interest?
Samara Weaving: I never played anyone like this before. When I read the book, I really liked how the end described her and her mentality, and then David E. Kelly took that and changed it quite a bit. The body dysmorphia and researching that and representing that was really interesting and delicate to do. With that comes the comedic aspects and being able to work with all these brilliant people.
Melvin Gregg: The opportunity to work with so many amazing people definitely made it an amazing experience. It was an opportunity I was open for. Then, having to find the character. Ben’s uncertainty was exciting for me. It was a challenge to find who Ben was and discover him, his problems, his insecurities, all that stuff.
M&C: Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy are, obviously, very big stars, but they are also producers on this. What was it like to work with them from that point of view? Not just as actors, but they have a say so in what’s going on.
Samara Weaving: They were incredible leaders. It was really inspiring. There was a whole team – Nicole, Molly Allen — all these incredible female producers who took charge. It was awesome. I liked it.
Melvin Gregg: I agree. It was great. Everything flowed properly. There were no issues in anything. Everything flowed like a well-oiled machine.
M&C: You said you have not done spa visits, so when you go to a wellness spa like this one, there is no caffeine, no dairy, no telephones. What is it that you would miss the most?
Samara Weaving: Some of them, like the one that my mom goes to, they don’t watch TV. I feel like I’m going crazy if I couldn’t watch movies and stuff every night.
Melvin Gregg: The interaction, the socializing with people would be hard for me. I’m socially awkward.
M&C: You hadn’t worked together previously. How did you establish your husband-wife relationship coming into the project?
Samara Weaving: We would go out and hang out and get to know each other. It was interesting because we were all quarantining together for two weeks in a hotel. Me and my partner could kind of see other people in the hotel and then we all came out and saw everyone else. We were all hugging, and we felt an attraction because we hadn’t seen anyone.
Melvin Gregg: Just kind of hanging out getting to know one another. I got to know Sam, so we could both be comfortable to explore our characters. We got comfortable asking questions.
M&C: There are several scenes in this where all the characters are together at the same time. Does that make for a really long day of filming?
Samara Weaving: They were long days but they were fun because I just love watching everyone else.
Melvin Gregg: Sometimes you’d get lost just like listening and paying attention, and forget it was time for you to interact because it was like you were watching a play. But it was great because when the cameras cut, everyone was so cordial, telling jokes and laughing and just having a great time.
M&C: I was told by actors on a show where they do a dinner every week that what they do is they ask to have cucumber on their plate so that when they’re eating, they don’t get stuffed with calories. Do you have any tricks like that, so you don’t end up getting too full and feeling uncomfortable after all the takes?
Melvin Gregg: You just need to be mindful of what you’re eating.
Samara Weaving: Bobby ate like a loaf of bread a day!
Nine Perfect Strangers is currently streaming on Hulu.