Bobby Cannavale on ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’: ‘I always wanted to play an athlete’

Bobby Cannavale in 'Nine Perfect Strangers'  

Nine Perfect Strangers, based on Liane Moriarty’s novel, tells the story of nine people who come to Tranquillum House, an exclusive resort run by the enigmatic Masha (Nicole Kidman), for a 10-day wellness retreat. Bobby Cannavale plays Tony Hogburn, a former football star and one of the guests at Tranquillum House.

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Speaking over a video call, the actor explained what drew him to Tony. “The fact that this guy signed up for this wellness retreat but behaves like he was brought there against his will was an interesting contradiction.”

Playing around

Pleased at being able to grow a beard for the show, Cannavale says, “Physically, it was an interesting character to play. It was helpful to define this guy by how he walked, how much pain he was in all the time. I have always wanted to play an athlete, and I got to do those football scenes.”

Melissa McCarthy, who plays romance novelist, Francis, persuaded Cannavale to join the project. “I think this is the fourth or fifth time Melissa and I have worked together. We are contemporaries, have a lot of the same references and find the same things funny. She texted me saying, ‘you should read this. We get to hate each other until we fall in love’. It sounded like fun.”

A still from the upcoming show

A still from the upcoming show  


Going with the flow

Insisting that he will not be going to wellness retreat anytime soon, Cannavale says, “Not with a three-year old and a five-year old! The closest I have come to wellness retreat was in my late 20s when I went to the Esalen Institute for a few days. I wanted to experience the mineral baths. There were all these people on a spiritual journey. I got into it as well — I did not talk for three days, did some yoga and ate fresh produce.”

The first day of shoot was memorable. “After two weeks of quarantine in a hotel room and being out of it, to be dropped in the middle of paradise where there was no COVID-19, was strange enough. The first day of shooting was the first time we all met Nicole. The character she plays is pretty jarring. It reminded me of watching one of those documentaries like Wild Wild Country. You hear about these charismatic leaders and from the outside, you wonder why would anybody follow that person. But they have a charisma about them, something that draws you to them and Nicole certainly has those qualities.”

Full on

Shooting in Australia in the midst of a pandemic was intense. “My wife is Australian; her family is all there. Most people were leaving home and in some cases, leaving their families behind. It was not lost on us, however, that we were getting to work at all. Nine Perfect Strangers might have been the first production up and running. We were very aware that we were, kind of like guinea pigs in terms of what the protocols are going to be like.”

While choosing a role, Cannavale says he asks himself who is writing it. “Am I going to want to go on that experience? I do not think about how it is going to be received. David Kelly loves writing multi-dimensional characters; he likes writing characters who are in conflict with themselves. Those are the most fun characters to play, the ones who are acting out on their worst impulses in spite of themselves.”

Though he read and enjoyed the novel the show is based on, Bobby says adaptations are their own thing. “There are differences between my character in the book and the show. I don’t have a problem reading the book a show or movie is based on. For instance, The Irishman is based on a book but the two are very different.”

Nine Perfect Strangers streams on Amazon Prime Video from August 20

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 4:27:35 AM |

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