‘Nine Perfect Strangers’: Bobby Cannavale Helped Develop the Idea for Tony’s Bar Fight Scene

Bobby Cannavale plays Tony Hogburn in the Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers, adapted from Liane Moriarty’s book. Tony is a former professional football player at the end of his ropes when he comes to Tranquillum House. The series adds a traumatic event to Tony’s life that was not mentioned in the book. In the episode “Brave New World,” Tony tells Frances that he accidentally killed a man who provoked him in a bar fight. Cannavale helped come up with the concept for this flashback scene.

Tony Hogburn sits in the sweat lodge wearing a hoodie.
Bobby Cannavale as Tony in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

Tony doesn’t have a great relationship with his family in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’

In Nine Perfect Strangers, Tony doesn’t have a good relationship with his family. He is divorced, and his adult children will no longer take his calls because of his drug addiction. Tony even tells Frances that he missed the births of his children, on one occasion because he was high.

In the book, Tony has a slightly better relationship with his children. They still speak to him, though Tony feels that it’s mostly because they feel obligated. Tony also has three grandchildren who live in Holland. He mentions that he Skypes with them on Christmas and sees them in person occasionally. Still, he isn’t especially close with anyone.

The Hulu series slightly changes Tony’s story

In both the book and the Hulu series, Tony is a former professional football player forced to retire due to injuries. However, the Hulu series differs from the book and adds some elements to Tony’s story. For example, in the series, Tony became addicted to opioid painkillers after his knee surgery. In the book, Tony is not addicted to any drugs. He does try to sneak beer into Tranquillum, though the book never mentions him having an actual drinking problem.

In the Hulu series, Tony also accidentally kills a man in a bar fight. He tells Frances that a guy was messing with him at a bar because he used to be a professional athlete. The two fought, and the man was taken to the hospital. He died six days later from bleeding in the brain due to hitting his head on the ground. Tony feels terrible guilt for causing this man’s death.

Bobby Cannavale helped develop the idea for Tony’s bar fight subplot

According to Insider, Cannavale felt that the script was initially too vague about the traumatizing event that led Tony to Tranquillum. He suggested that the series should make things more clear. “I was like, ‘Well, either we see what happened there, or we don’t have it at all.’ The next thing I knew, they just fleshed that scene out a bit more and added that as an element,” he explained to Insider.

The episode “Brave New World” shows a flashback scene to the night of the bar fight. Cannavale told director Jonathan Levine that he wanted that scene to make it obvious that Tony was not the aggressor. “I remember as we approached it, just being really clear with Jonathan to make sure that I didn’t start the fight, that it was something that he could not get out of,” the actor recalled to Insider. Tony later tells Frances that he did not get in any legal for that fight because witnesses saw that he didn’t start it. Instead, he was left with crushing guilt for what he had done.

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