Nine Perfect Strangers is a miniseries about concealing the truth. The thrilling new drama, based on Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name, explores the lengths that people will go to in order to mask their insecurities and underlying trauma with fabricated personas.
Set in the present day, Nine Perfect Strangers follows nine individuals – Melissa McCarthy’s Frances, Michael Shannon’s Napoleon and Luke Evans’ Lee, among others – who gather at Tranquillum House, a wellness resort run by the mysterious Masha (Nicole Kidman).
Here, the group embark on a 10-day retreat to heal their internal wounds and transform their lives – but it isn’t long before the guests discover that Masha and her world-famous resort are hiding secrets of their own.
Ahead of the series’ launch on Hulu in the US and Amazon Prime Video in the UK, TechRadar sat down with star Manny Jacinto, who portrays Masha’s loyal assistant Yao, to discuss how Nine Perfect Strangers examines the notion of facades and why we utilize them. We also chat about the love triangle involving the characters Masha, Delilah (Tiffany Boone) and Yao, and how it ties into the show’s exploration of deceit.
From the outset, Tranquillum House is deceptive in its appearance. The resort’s location – a secluded, natural environment – and its employees seem perfect to the guests upon their arrival.
The fact that the facade works so well is due to Yao’s, and other Tranquillum employees’, devotion to Masha. As Jacinto – who was drawn to the role by the prospect of working closely with Kidman – explains, Yao’s unwavering faith in Masha is the result of the pair’s meeting years prior. But being part of Tranquillum’s inner circle doesn’t mean Yao’s own problems have simply vanished as a result of being Masha’s closest confidante.
“Yao is devoted to Masha almost to a fault,” Jacinto says. “He has an incredible amount of loyalty towards her vision, what she wants to accomplish and to Masha in general. Yao is the calmer, glass half full aspect of Tranquillum’s main trio [Masha, Delilah and Yao] but he’s still trapped in this conflict of who he is and what he stands for.”
So, on the surface, Yao may seem like a composed individual. Underneath that serene exterior, though, an internal battle rages between his allegiance to Masha’s ambitious plans and Delilah, who he’s in a supposedly committed relationship with.
It’s the emergence of this love triangle that puts a strain on the trio’s relationships with one another as the series progresses. As Jacinto reveals, though, the process of adapting their complex dynamic from page to screen was made easier by collaborating extensively with his co-stars before production began in July 2020.
“I remember doing my homework on Yao before filming started,” Jacinto says. “And then I had a conversation with Tiffany that changed my view of Yao about how he interacts with Delilah. Meeting with Nicole altered my perception further. Yao’s trying to figure out how to juggle the woman he loves and the woman he’s devoted to, so that created a lot of subtext and layers to Yao and who he represents.”
Do unto others
While Yao wrestles with his own internal issues, he still wants to help Tranquillum’s guests to overcome their inner demons.
In a miniseries that, in essence, acts as a microcosm of humanity’s negative aspects – narcissism, impertinence and being self-absorbed, to name three – Yao’s desire to alleviate guests’ suffering comes from a genuinely kind-hearted place. In that sense, Yao is a symbolic representation of the good parts of human nature: characteristics that still exist but, in an increasingly divisive and cynical world, have become a rarity.
For Jacinto, the opportunity to explore the positive and negative traits of being human, and the impact that they have on how much of our authentic selves we exhibit, was complex and interesting to tackle.
“I had to figure out why Yao was so devoted to this,” he says. “And it’s all rooted in the pursuit of self-improvement. Whether they [Tranquillum’s guests] see it or not, Yao is there to guide them through it. He’s gone through his own dark past and he can see what the benefits are with improving yourself personally. He can see himself in them and that they want to get better, so that’s how I approached Yao as a character and anchored him in the idea of wanting to enlighten people and help them find what they’re searching for.”
Nine Perfect Strangers doesn’t just offer viewers a thrilling ride by unraveling the mystery of its setting and Masha herself – it’s designed to provoke viewers into a little bit of self-reflection.
Through its relatable, flawed characters, and the gradual removal of the personas that they display at the start of the show, Nine Perfect Strangers provides viewers with the opportunity to question whether they portray their most authentic selves or regularly hide behind a facade. Its eclectic cast of characters, location and story may be fictional, but there’s a truth to its overall message about being more honest with each other.
Nine Perfect Strangers is available to watch now on Hulu in the US and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.