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Filipino actors shine on Prime Video series 'Expats'

NEW YORK, January 25 ------ A new Prime Video limited series is shining a spotlight not just on two amazing Filipino actors but on a whole group of unseen overseas Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong.  “Expats,” a six-episode thrilling drama with a dash of social commentary, is based on a novel by Janice Y. K. Lee and was brought to life by award-winning filmmaker Lulu Wang where Hong Kong and its diverse people play a major role in the film.    


That’s why when Academy and Emmy award-winner Nicole Kidman bought the film rights to Lee’s book “The Expatriates” and approached Wang to create the series, the result is a compelling masterfully written story that reflects reality in Hong Kong’s world of expatriates and the Filipino domestic help employed by them intertwined in this story that explores the intersection of race and class. “It's a show about Hong Kong and so it wouldn't have been authentic if I didn't incorporate all of the incredible Filipino domestic workers and other people as well,” Wang said. “It just felt really important to show the caretaking and what it actually takes the domestic work to run a household and why so many expats want to move to Hong Kong for these privileges of being supported and served by these incredible women."  “Expats” follows the story of three American women living in Hong Kong in 2014 Margaret (played by Kidman); her best friend Hilary (Sarayu Blue), and Mercy (Ji-Young Yoo).  


Their lives were permanently entangled after a tragedy happened in a Hong Kong market that changed them forever. “It was just really about exploring power dynamics, you know, the intersection of people from different walks of life and they're all there for different reasons, some of them by choice some of them not by choice and so it was just about exploring all of the nuances of these relations,” Wang said. 


When “Expats” premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on Sunday, Kidman, on the red carpet, generously shared the spotlight with a cast of multicultural women, including two amazing Filipino cast members, Ruby Ruiz and Amelyn Pardenilla, who both played pivotal roles in the series. Ruiz portrayed Essie, Margaret’s Filipina nanny who takes care of her employer's children like they were her own. "It was so beautiful, incredible journey. To be part of 'Expats,' I feel so lucky and blessed.” Ruiz said. "I didn't even realize in the beginning how humongous this project is and working with Nicole Kidman, one of the most memorable, one of the most unforgettable experiences, she's really a great actress.”  With a compelling story masterfully crafted by Wang herself, the series calls for top-tier actors to play different roles including the domestic helpers, Wang found exactly just that in her Filipino actors. “Well, Ruby is incredible.” Wang said, “As soon as I saw her audition, I knew she was the one  and I knew she was the heart and soul that we needed for this series.” Wang also felt the same for Pardenilla. "Amelyn is a singer, she's not an actor or not a professional actor and now she is an incredible actor. And it was her first time being on screen and that was really exciting.”   


It's her first acting job, but Pardenilla is no stranger to Hong Kong’s migrant worker community. She was, after all, a real-life OFW who earned a living as a singer in Hong Kong in her not-so-distant past. “May mga pangalan na ‘to, pero hindi mo mafi-feel, hindi ka talaga ma-iintimidate kasi napaka-humble nila, napaka-accomodating. Nag-aadjust din sila sa akin kasi first time ko mag-act so talagang ina-ano niya ako, kaya natin itong scene na ito.” said Pardenilla. Even the lead actors have high praises for these amazing Filipinas. “Wonderful!” Kidman said when asked about the Filipino women. “They’re exquisite in the show and I’m so happy to have them be celebrated, discovered, loved, enjoyed, so I just want people to watch it, thank you for your support!” Brian Tee who plays Clarke Woo, Maragret’s husband, added: “Ruby, she’s like a legend, I know it! Absolutely, I love them both, I mean they graced us with their talent, they elevated our entire series, so I’m just blessed to have national treasures of the Philippines here with us.” Even Kidman’s TV son Philip Woo is played by Filipino-Puerto Rican-American actor Bodhi del Rosario, who is known for his roles in the TV series "911" in 2019 and "Station 19" also in 2018.  


Filipino fans can look forward to Episode 5, a special extended episode that highlights the life of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.  “Lulu fought hard for the representation of all these women, and even though we have one episode which is primarily through the eyes of the domestic workers, that’s just, it’s fascinating,” Kidman said.  For her part, Ruiz said, “Sana panoorin natin ang 'Expats.' Hindi palagi na nabibigyan ng boses ang mga unsung heroes natin, na mga OFWs, ito na 'yun. Eto na yung pagkakataon so sana tangkilikin natin itong 'Expats.'”  The first two episodes of "Expats" will stream on Amazon Prime Video on January 26, while the rest of the episodes will be released weekly. 




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