By the time she was in her early 20s, Nicole Kidman had already won over Hollywood. Over the subsequent decades – Kidman is now 56 – she has starred in almost 100 TV and film projects and picked up all of the most prestigious industry awards going, including an Oscar, BAFTA and six Golden Globes.


Her schedule is so busy that she’s had to give up her lunch break on set – for a project she’s sworn to secrecy about – to speak to Radio Times Podcast about Expats, the new Amazon Prime Video drama that she executive produces and stars in.

Very few actors have reached such dizzy heights of fame, and yet Kidman was warned she might never make it as an actor because of her height. "I was told, 'You won’t have a career. You’re too tall,'" recalls Kidman, who at the age of 13 was already 5ft 9in.

"I remember auditioning for Annie. It was a big call-out with hundreds of people. I didn’t have an agent, I just turned up. My mum was like: 'Oh, please, do we have to? How long is this going to take?'

"I had to talk my way in to the audition because they were measuring you. I was over the mark! You had to be under 5ft 2in and I was 5ft 4in! I was like, 'Please?' And they let me in. But I didn’t get the part. I didn’t even get a call back – but at least I got to sing four lines of a chorus."

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As well as being tall for her age, Kidman also had fair skin and red hair, so despite growing up in Melbourne and Sydney she didn’t spend her days lounging on the beach but found solace in the theatre instead.

"I say I’m 5ft 10 1/2in but I’m really 5ft 11in. I was teased and called Stalky. People would say, 'How’s the air up there?' Now, I get, 'You’re so much taller than I thought,' or men grappling with how high my heels should be.

"Whenever I go on the red carpet, I get sent shoes that are always so high. I’m like, 'Do they have a kitten heel? I’m going to be the tallest person – a giraffe!'"

Surely she has now put all height-related insecurities to bed? "It will bother me when I’m acting and I want to be small – but then there are times when I appreciate it and can use it in my work.

"Hey, I’m incredibly grateful to be healthy and walking around. Having said that, I’ve had knee issues and all sorts of things, partly because of my height!

"But what I tell my daughters is that none of it matters. What matters is how you allow other people to either say 'yes' or 'no' to you, and whether you accept that. Inner resilience as a human being, that’s the superpower, really."

Nicole Mary Kidman was born in Hawaii to Australian parents: her father was a biochemist and later a psychologist, and her mother was a nurse educator. After her formative years in Australia, Kidman returned to the US – heading to Hollywood aged 20 for a starring role opposite Sam Neill in the psychological thriller Dead Calm.

Kidman quickly made her mark and has since gone on to forge a very successful career in an industry renowned for its fickleness. She now lives in Tennessee with her husband of 17 years, the country singer Keith Urban, and their two teenage daughters, Sunday and Faith (she also has two adopted children, Isabella, 31, and Connor, 28, with her first husband Tom Cruise).

One undoubted perk of the job for Kidman is that she gets to work all over the world, and filming Expats took her to Hong Kong. "When you’re very small, if [moving around] has been a huge part of your existence, then travelling becomes embedded.

"My husband’s a musician, so touring is in his blood. That’s just how we are. I always say to the kids, 'You’re global,' because they’ve got pretty much every stamp in their passport because of work and travel and the desire to see the world. We take them with us everywhere we go."

The drama, directed by The Farewell’s Lulu Wang, follows three American characters living in Hong Kong, whose lives are all impacted by a horrific event – the disappearance of a young boy. Kidman plays Margaret, the mother of the missing child.

Over six episodes, the series offers a haunting and evocative exploration of grief, marriage and surviving trauma. It’s an unpicking of what it means to be a mother and what it means to belong – to a family and to a place. The three central women experience moments of isolation and loneliness – something that perhaps Kidman can relate to?

"When I was single and I would travel, a lot of it was lonely. Being slightly introverted, I would think, 'Should I call that person and see if they want to have dinner, or will I just stay in my little room and not venture out?'

"Obviously, when you become part of a family and there’s people to miss if they’re not with you, that’s not good. I’ve had many, many a night when I’ve been like, 'What am I doing? I want to be with my family, why am I not with them?'"

Margaret sits on a couch, having a conversation with someone opposite her
Nicole Kidman stars in Expats. Prime Video

Kidman is famed for her ability to give raw, emotive performances, and in Expats she delivers some of her finest work to date. In one horrific scene, Margaret and her husband arrive at a morgue to identify a body that could be their missing son.

As a mother, filming those scenes must take its emotional toll. "It was horrendous. I kept saying to Lulu, 'Is this all necessary? Can’t less be more? Do we have to do this?' We were filming it, off and on, for a long period of time – it’s not a two-hour film, it’s six hours. The state of being Margaret was terrifying to me.

"After that, I went and did a romantic comedy that was so light and silly [A Family Affair co-starring Zac Efron is due out on Netflix later this year]. There has to be balance in my life. I kept questioning: 'Why am I drawn to playing these roles?'"

But, seeing a fully-fledged Hollywood star like Kidman sink her teeth into meaty, textured parts like this is a treat for television viewers. And it’s thanks to actors like Kidman that we’re seeing more of these three-dimensional, fleshed-out female-led stories.

In 2010, she started her own production company, Blossom Films, using her platform to champion women, helping to get them into the industry – behind the scenes and on screen.

She’s executive produced on Amazon Prime Video’s Nine Perfect Strangers, Now’s The Undoing (in which she starred opposite Hugh Grant) and teamed up with Hollywood A-lister Reese Witherspoon for the award-winning series, Big Little Lies. But, it’s not just big names that Kidman’s interested in working with – she’s also trailblazing the way for emerging stars.

Nicole Kidman, Ji-young Yoo as Mercy and Sarayu Blue star in Expats sitting by a window looking tense
Nicole Kidman, Ji-young Yoo as Mercy and Sarayu Blue star in Expats. Prime Video

"Lulu and I discussed that we couldn’t cast Expats based on a star – we needed the money to be able to make it. I see my part in the series as an exquisite role – but also as a supporting one, part of an ensemble cast.

"Finding the other two leads and not having them be a name or already tried and tested, that was really important to me. [I wanted] people to be given chances, to hopefully jump-start careers, or shine a light on an already established career that hadn’t quite hit the zeitgeist.

"There was a time when [roles for women] were lacking, and hopefully that’s being redirected now. It’s partly because we’re all saying, 'Come on, let’s put women behind the lens, let’s give them their voices in writing.' We need our allies, not just in terms of directors, but financially and in the press – we need influence and support so that we can move forward."

Another catalyst for change came in the form of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, as stories of the abuse of power and sexual exploitation by male executives sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry.

Since then, we’ve seen more intimacy coordinators – people whose job it is to ensure an actor feels safe while filming nude and intimate scenes – employed on set, especially on high-profile series featuring sex scenes, such as Bridgerton, Normal People, Heartstopper and Sex Education.

"I was raised by a feminist mother," says Kidman, "and I’ve worked in the field of violence against women for the UN for decades now – part of what we were always advocating for is protective laws. Once you can say, 'This is not OK and it’s illegal,' structures can be put in place.

"It’s still not infallible, but at the same time, when you have intimacy coordinators, it’s very helpful for directors, actors and crew.

Margaret (Nicole Kidman) sits in the bath in Expats
Nicole Kidman stars in Expats. Prime Video

"We [as actors] want to explore things and have the ability to release into what we do – because so much is emotional and unusual and weird. We want the weirdness. We don’t want to homogenise things. As soon as you start to go, 'We can only do this and that,' those rules get a little restrictive. We can do intimate scenes, but with respect, structure and remembering the human being."

One part of the job that those in the limelight often rail against is the lack of privacy. In the early days of her career, an article in the tabloid press (and there were many, particularly when she was married to Tom Cruise) might have made headlines for a few days, but with the internet, stories can take on a lifecycle of their own.

Does coverage in today’s always-switched-on world feel more or less intrusive?

"I’m probably more oblivious. I definitely don’t google myself! People might send me something [that is circulating] but I’d rather stay in a bubble and not be aware.

"When you look at a life, the idea of being bogged down by this flickering noise or statement [seems silly]. Knowing who I am and having people around me that I really care for, and being able to have those strong connections – that is the protection.

"Realising you don’t have to have an opinion on everything, and you don’t have to respond to everything, that’s probably part of maturity."

Expats is available to stream on Prime Video from Friday 26th January 2024. Sign up to Amazon Prime for £8.99 per month.

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