Coming on the heels of the success of both seasons of the Emmy-winning limited series Big Little Lies, it would come as no surprise that HBO would want to stay in the Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley business as they reunited on The Undoing. And they really delivered again with perhaps the biggest “water cooler” show of the past few months as it seemed everyone was engaged in speculating on “who done it” in the murder mystery involving Kidman’s character’s husband, played by Hugh Grant, as well as a slew of other possible suspects.
Call it old fashioned in this era of binge viewing on streamers, but HBO smartly dribbled this one out in weekly installments, with a ratings bump each week that set records for the pay cabler. Its star agreed with the strategy as she told me during HBO’s panel for the show during Deadline’s Contenders Television award-season event, where we were also joined by Grant and director Susanne Bier.
“Crazy how it culturally just became part of [the conversation] and it wasn’t just in the States,” Kidman said. “It was interesting how it was everywhere because it’s obviously a global show. I was in Australia, I was in Belfast, Hugh was in London, Suzanne was in Denmark, I mean, it was penetrating all of those countries and that was really, really fun. I did not predict that. I remember being incredibly nervous that it was even going to find its audience or find a way through, which is kind of my general state of being anyway.”
Grant wasn’t surprised it caught on. “It was obviously a brilliant project with amazing people, you know? David Kelley certainly knows what he’s doing and you’ve got Nicole Kidman, you’ve got Suzanne Bier who I’ve nearly made a film with before and then didn’t. I was amazed she still wanted me to do anything because I assumed she hated me,” he said. “But in that previous process I had watched all her Danish films and really loved them; I mean, she’s a proper filmmaker. So, all that was great. And then I thought how fascinating to be a guy who appears to be pretty marvelous, you know? A good dad, a good husband, he cures kids cancer but [he could be] a brutal psychopath.”
For Bier, who has an Oscar and won an Emmy for directing The Night Manager, the biggest challenge was deciding what to use from a bevy of riches. “I mean, there was so much amazing material. Like, in every single page David’s written scenes were fantastic. And then every single scene the entire cast and in particular Nicole and Hugh would give remarkably different performances in every take,” she said. ”So, each scene could be either more dark or more light or more caring or more affectionate. And so, there was this amazing library of different temperatures for every single moment in the series to pick from. So, it was kind of exciting calibrating it towards the end. But I think for me I was just like the happy receiver of an amazing amount of gifts.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.