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Where's Gus? Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee can't escape text messages asking about how “Expats ”ends

Where's Gus? Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee can't escape text messages asking about how “Expats ”ends

The stars dissect the ambiguous series finale and the Woos' enduring marriage story: "It was important for us that this marriage was very loving even though it's under strain."

What happens to Gus?

Like the novel the series is based on, Expats’ finale does not answer the question at the center of the sprawling limited series. Gus is never found, and parents Margaret (Nicole Kidman) and Clarke (Brian Tee) decide it’s time to leave Hong Kong and return to the States with their eldest children to regain a sense of normalcy. But what is normalcy? A panicked Margaret can’t bring herself to board the plane with her family, as it would mean abandoning her youngest son for good.

After a stunning sequence that sees the core group of expats — Margaret, Mercy (Ji-young Yoo), and Hilary (Sarayu Blue) — find closure with each other, Expats concludes with Margaret walking through the dense streets of Hong Kong solo.

“It’s the path, as Lulu [Wang, series creator] says, of a privileged expat to an actual person living in the fabric of a country,” Kidman, also an executive producer, says of the scene. “Margaret’s in a green dress at the beginning [of the series] and they're up in high apartment complexes at a party, and at the end, she's on the streets walking with a backpack on and workman-like clothes, searching. That's an extraordinary arc.”

Below, Kidman and Tee dissect the ambiguous ending, the Woos’ enduring marriage story, and the text messages they've received about poor Gus.

<p>Prime Video </p> Brian Tee and Nicole Kidman as Clarke and Margaret Woo in 'Expats'

Prime Video

Brian Tee and Nicole Kidman as Clarke and Margaret Woo in 'Expats'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you both to Expats as actors and, Nicole, as an EP who was instrumental in its development?

NICOLE KIDMAN: My sister, who was living in Singapore as an expat, had read the book and said, “You have to read this.” I read it and optioned it immediately and spent years trying to develop it. When I saw The Farewell, I unashamedly went after Lulu and just lay at her feet and said, please, Lulu, do this and we'll give you full control. You can be showrunner, director, every part of it. That's what I can offer you as a producer, and, as an actor, place me where you want so I can contribute to your vision.

BRIAN TEE: When approached [with], “Do you want to be part of a Lulu Wang series opposite Nicole Kidman?” Absolutely. Are you kidding me? On the inside, [I felt] rockets and fireworks and—

KIDMAN: You were super cool.

TEE: I try to be. But on the inside I was just melting. In my career, never have I ever been a part of something this elevated and poignant as far as storytelling is concerned, but also the caliber of artistry that is involved. The bar is so incredibly high. There was zero hesitation to want to be a part of this. And luckily, they actually accepted me in this particular role. So I'm forever grateful and appreciative.

KIDMAN: We needed you. There’s masculinity, but there's sensitivity and kindness to Brian. Close your ears, Brian. It was important for us that this marriage was very loving even though it's under strain and there's enormous pain. They're not leaving each other. They're navigating loss and pain together. Even though the end is [Margaret] staying there to find their son, [Clarke is] saying I'm taking the family back because our children have to have their lives, but I understand what you need to do for yourself. 

<p>Prime Video</p> Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee as Margaret and Clarke Woo in 'Expats'

Prime Video

Nicole Kidman and Brian Tee as Margaret and Clarke Woo in 'Expats'

The episode that has stayed with me is 4, where the two go to the mainland to identify a body that, it turns out, isn’t Gus. They move through all the stages of grief.

KIDMAN: We were both going, We have to spend a whole episode in a morgue? I remember the two of us going, We need to hold on tight to each other. This is hell. We're both parents in real life, so contemplating having to walk in and look at your child lying there — nothing could be worse. There's so many metaphors in that episode, but to see this relationship run the course — and the ending where he collapses and she's filled with hope because it isn't [Gus] — that was amazing writing. He wants closure and she’s like, I get to walk out of here still believing, still knowing, still looking.

TEE: The morgue sequence is kind of the pinnacle of their relationship and journey. It's a true testament of their relationship. There was grieving and crying and fighting and blaming and so many things wrapped up into one episode that you really understand Margaret and Clarke together and their experiences through this whole journey of being there for one another. And as Nic was saying, even when it flips at the very end, they're still holding each other. And that's the beauty of this relationship.

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Prime Video </p> Nicole Kidman as Margaret in 'Expats'

Atsushi Nishijima/Prime Video

Nicole Kidman as Margaret in 'Expats'

With the finale, were there temptations to diverge from the source material and give Gus a more definitive resolution? 

KIDMAN: We don’t have control over that. I will always acquiesce to a director's vision. [Lulu] was like, this is the real ending: it’s the ending, but it’s not the ending. He may be alive, he may be dead. I believe, because I've played Margaret and still have elements of her running through me, that he is alive and out there.

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Prime Video </p> Brian Tee as Clarke in 'Expats'

Atsushi Nishijima/Prime Video

Brian Tee as Clarke in 'Expats'

That was my closing question, your interpretations of Gus’ fate and the ending. Also, Lulu recently shared a video of her driver pestering her about his fate. Have you both been pestered about it?

TEE: To reiterate what Nic was saying, Lulu chose to go in the direction of truth and life. We don’t always get the answers in life. We're forever journeying through this process and existing. And that's the perfect ending for Expats. I think Margaret and Clarke continue to stay together, to be strong, to support their other kids, and to follow this journey to the extent of wherever it goes. But yes, always being pestered by friends. “What happens to Clarke? Are they going to find Gus?” I love those questions, though, because many times you exit a TV show or movie and you’re like, oh great. That was it! With Expats, you live and breathe with it.

KIDMAN: I’ve received so many texts just going, “Lulu is brilliant.” My mom just sent me a text. I’ll read it to you. And my mom’s really tough: “Lulu is a brilliant director. I just watched episode 5 again because I couldn’t help myself. It’s so very good. Episode 6 coming up this weekend. Don’t tell me what happens. Lulu has handled it so sympathetically and with such great insight.” I hope that’s what people realize. It’s a juggernaut of a piece. People are texting me, “Don’t tell me how it ends.” I’m thinking oh my gosh, I’m not sure you'll be happy in the morning. But I remember this from [Stanley] Kubrick, where he's like, there is no ending. With storytelling, we do a beginning, middle, and end, but endings don't mean the end. I think [Lulu] managed to take this to — as you said, Brian — life.

TEE: It lives with you. It absolutely lives with you.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Expats series finale is now streaming on Prime Video.

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