Adapted from the 2016 novel titled ‘The Expatriates’ by Janice Y. K. Lee, Amazon Prime’s ‘Expats’ is the creation of Lulu Wang, known for directing ‘The Farewell.’ The drama series acquaints us with the personal and professional lives of a group of multifaceted women residing in Hong Kong, where friendships are profound but temporary and the lives, deaths, and marriages are played out publicly to be retold with joy. Soon, a single encounter changes the course of the women’s lives as it starts a chain of life-altering events.
The series, featuring Nicole Kidman, Brian Tee, Sarayu Blue, Jack Huston, and Ji-young Yoo, gives the viewers an accurate portrayal of the hustle and bustle associated with the Chinese city, mainly through the crowded streets, as the leading characters try to find their place amidst the commotion of Hong Kong. Given the brilliant and loud visuals of the cityscape, it sparks curiosity in the audience regarding the actual filming locations of ‘Expats.’
Expats Filming Locations
‘Expats’ is filmed primarily in Hong Kong, China. Shooting also takes place in Maryland and California, specifically in Baltimore and Los Angeles County. According to reports, principal photography for the inaugural iteration of the drama series got underway in August 2021 and continued for over 500 days, before getting wrapped up in December 2022.
Hong Kong, China
Since most of the story is set in Hong Kong, the production team decided to carry out a major chunk of shooting on location in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The filming unit sets up camp in various streets and neighborhoods of Hong Kong to tape important scenes against suitable backdrops. For instance, a few key portions are lensed in and around the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street, Victoria Harbour, and Temple Street. Moreover, the historic Mido Cafe at 63 Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, serves as one of the prominent production locations.
Apart from the tall buildings and modern architecture, the show also gives us a glimpse into the reality of Hong Kong’s domestic helpers’ lives and how different it is from those whom they work for. During the production of season 1, there was quite a controversy surrounding ‘Expats’ as the government exempted Nicole Kidman from the regular quarantine regime, despite the ongoing COVID-19 wave. Kidman, who portrays Margaret, opened up to The Guardian about her struggles during the filming schedule in Hong Kong. She explained, “I was alone in Hong Kong without my family, which was a terrible mistake. I couldn’t just get on a plane and get to them. And they couldn’t get to me. That affected the performance, to the degree that it also affected my psyche.”
“But it was like the domestic violence storyline in ‘Big Little Lies.’ I think: people go through this, my job is to be the conduit and perform it to its absolute authentic truth. And if I’m not doing that, then I’m not serving why I work as an actor, which is to artistically connect to the way life is, in all its pain and glory,” Kidman added.
Reports suggest that the cast and crew members of ‘Expats’ also travel to the city of Baltimore, which lies on the Patapsco River in north-central Maryland. In the backdrop of the scenes shot in the city, you are likely to spot several monuments and cultural attractions, such as Fell’s Point, the Emerson Tower, the Washington Monument, and the Lafayette Monument.
Los Angeles County, California
For the purpose of shooting, the production team of ‘Expats’ even sets up camp in Los Angeles County, including its county seat — the city of Los Angeles. During the filming schedule of season 1, Nicole Kidman and the rest of the crew members were spotted recording pivotal sequences in the city of Santa Clarita. In May 2022, Long Beach turned into a film set as the filming unit utilized a yacht to lens a party scene for the drama series.
Read More: Best Existential Movies on Netflix