Samara Weaving enjoys dream learning experience in making Nine Perfect Strangers

DIGGING DEEP: Samara Weaving plays the insecure and image-obsessed Jessica in Nine Perfect Strangers.
DIGGING DEEP: Samara Weaving plays the insecure and image-obsessed Jessica in Nine Perfect Strangers.

IT might be all the rage in Hollywood, but actress Samara Weaving isn't sure how she feels about wellness retreats.

"I don't know about profiting off people's pain and selling wellness as a packaged deal, there's something that doesn't sit right for me," she ponders over Zoom from Los Angeles.

"But I guess if people feel better after it, then who is it harming?"

Weaving's mother, University of Newcastle creative industries professor Helena Bezzina, has a different view. She annually heads off for a bout of wellness.

"There's no alcohol, no sugar, no caffeine, no books, no computers and no speaking," Weaving says. "So you're silent for 10 days, just meditating.

"She comes out absolutely glowing. I'm way too terrified to try it. But it's really interesting to see. She loves it now. I think the first time she tried to run away, but she went back and finished."

Weaving's latest production, US mini-series Nine Perfect Strangers, is set in an exclusive wellness retreat, run by an mysterious Russian-American guru, played by Australian Hollywood star Nicole Kidman.

The show is a David E. Kelly adaption of Australian author Liane Moriarty's novel, which explores nine traumatised people seeking salvation from their daily lives.

Nine Perfect Strangers trailer

Weaving's character, Jessica, is an image and Instagram-obsessed young woman whose marriage to her husband Ben is passionless and flatlining.

Jessica provides some comedic respite from the darker characters, but beneath her heavy make-up and designer activewear there's a fragile soul.

It's a role Weaving admits forced her to challenge her own preconceived ideas.

"That's the social statement I was hoping to make, why do we make these decisions about people based on what they look like or what they wear?" Weaving says.

"She was really interesting to play and I think I learnt a lot about me and how I perceive women myself. I had to check myself a couple of times when I was researching her.

"She's so complicated and vulnerable and funny. She's very multi-faceted."

There's a scene in Nine Perfect Strangers where Jessica gushes out her reverence for author Frances Welty, played by Hollywood funny woman, Melissa McCarthy.

TEACHER: Samara Weaving says her learnt plenty from Nicole Kidman.

TEACHER: Samara Weaving says her learnt plenty from Nicole Kidman.

It makes for awkwardly funny viewing. It almost didn't involve any acting from Weaving.

"It was utterly nerve-racking," she says. "I was dying of anxiety most days, but also really excited at the same time.

"It was wonderful. Initially I was star struck by every single human being on that show."

Nine Perfect Strangers employs some serious acting talent among its ensemble cast. Besides Kidman and McCarthy, who also served as executive producers, it features Aussie TV golden girl Asher Keddie (The Offspring) and American talent Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) and Regina Hall (Ally McBeal).

Due to the pandemic the show was filmed in a COVID bubble last year in Byron Bay.

As one of the youngest actors in the cast, 29-year-old Weaving used the production as an invaluable learning exercise. Even if she was too "afraid" to ask for advice from Kidman and McCarthy.

"With Nicole, seeing how hard she works and prepares beforehand was really interesting," she says. "She was laser-focused when action was called."

However, Weaving is hardly a rookie when it comes to acting. The niece of acclaimed thespian Hugo Weaving grew up in Canberra before coming to prominence playing Indi on soap Home and Away between 2009 and 2013.

ROOTS: Her parents Simon Weaving and Helena Bezzina live in Newcastle.

ROOTS: Her parents Simon Weaving and Helena Bezzina live in Newcastle.

She's been on a roll ever since. There's been leading roles in comedy-horror films Mayhem and The Babysitter, mixed with more serious appearances on Foxtel's adaption of Picnic At Hanging Rock and even a minor part in Golden Globe-winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Weaving says productions in LA have mostly recommenced since the COVID lockdowns of 2020. She's also about to travel to Prague in the Czech Republic to begin filming a movie based on the life of Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an 18th century French classical composer, whose work is often overlooked because his mother was an African slave.

Regardless of the opportunities, Weaving feels a sense of anxiety lingering among high COVID case numbers.

"Work feels back to normal again, but I don't know how healthy that is," she says. "I don't know how to feel about it.

"I think everyone's got a bit of PTSD from last time, but I'm vaccinated and I encourage everyone to do so."

Nine Perfect Strangers is streaming on Amazon Prime.

This story Samara Weaving lands dream job with Kidman and McCarthy first appeared on Newcastle Herald.