“There was no world where I was not going to audition,” says Sarayu Blue of the new Amazon series “Expats.” The audition came to her through the normal channels, and once she saw it was helmed by “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang and starred Nicole Kidman, she knew she had to get the part of Hilary Star.
“It just felt pretty special immediately,” Blue says over Zoom from Los Angeles. She then set out on virtual auditions — the project cast during COVID-19 — and found herself on Zoom one night auditioning for Wang at 10:45, as Wang was overseas.
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“The whole thing was surreal,” Blue says.
“Expats,” which premiered Jan. 26 and has four more episodes yet to air, is set in Hong Kong and follows a group of expatriates living in the city. (It is based on the book “The Expatriates” by Janice Y.K. Lee.) Kidman stars as Margaret, whose young son disappears one night at a night market, and Blue is Hilary, her neighbor in a luxury high rise and friend, though when we first meet them the friendship is fractured.
“I think what’s exciting about Hilary is just how nuanced and layered she is,” Blue says. “She’s an incredibly complicated woman, and frankly, all the characters in our show are, which is what’s so exciting, and that’s something really special that Lulu and the whole team of writers bring to the table, and it was in the book. So it’s always exciting as a brown woman, as a South Asian woman, when you get an opportunity to play a woman with range and such humanness. She’s so messy, and that’s the dream right there.”
Blue had never met Kidman — “ I mean, of course I knew of her. The rising star that she was” — but describes her as a true actor’s actor who was the ideal scene partner.
“When you’re in the scene with her, you’ve got so much to play with that you just get to fire right back. And I think working with Nicole, she and I had such incredible chemistry. It just flew. It was so much fun,” she says.
The second episode, which premiered along with the first, features a scene in a noodle shop where the audience sees the two really connect for the first time, and get a sense of what sort of friendship they had in the past.
“There’s such joy in that scene. There’s such sisterhood in that scene,” Blue says, naming it one of her favorites to shoot. “There’s such a real reminiscence of why we were friends in the first place that comes alive.”
The series shot mostly in Hong Kong in 2021, a place that Blue finds herself missing ever since.
“I mean, truly a dream come true. I really do miss it all the time. My husband was there with me for all of it, but we just got to really explore Hong Kong, and really the food was so incredible, as was getting to spend time there and make such incredible friends there. That’s the gift also of getting to film in the place the story’s told. That’s so rare. We often don’t get that. And so to get to do that was really special,” she says. “It’s so central, obviously, and important to this story.”
As the rest of the series, which has been called the first must-watch show of the year, rolls out in the coming weeks, Blue says she’s looking forward to audience reactions.
“I think getting to see women that are so complicated and just so messy and flawed and really living the realities of life — and I say that not just about the leads, I say that about all of the women in our show,” she says. “And I’m really excited that we have so many actors of color in this show and such dimensional work from all of them. There’s such brilliance from these people.”
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