‘Nine Perfect Strangers’: Samara Weaving Shares This in Common With Her Character Jessica Chandler

Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel, Nine Perfect Strangers is a Hulu series about nine individuals who visit an experimental wellness retreat. Throughout their 10-day stay, the secrets, lies, and drama each person harbors slowly starts to unravel. Samara Weaving’s role Jessica thinks the retreat will help her marriage until she’s forced to face her body dysmorphia. Find out what Weaving shares in common with her character Jessica Chandler.

Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica (Samara Weaving) in episode 1 of 'Nine Perfect Strangers'
Melvin Gregg & Samara Weaving | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

Jessica Chandler experiences body dysmorphia in the Hulu series

Jessica Chandler is an Instagram-obsessed influencer who uses social media to define her self-worth. The more likes and comments Jessica’s feed gets, the better she feels. 

Jessica and her husband Ben (Melvin Gregg) book a stay at Tranquillum House to fix their marriage. It’s a bonus the property is Instagram-worthy — that is, until Jessica’s phone is taken away. 

Throughout the story, we learn Ben won $22 million in the lottery. This might sound like the perfect case scenario, but the more we learn about Jessica’s body dysmorphia — a mental health condition where a person obsesses over perceived defects — the more it seems access to millions of dollars could be hurting her. After all, plastic surgery cannot fix the way Jessica feels about herself internally. 

“There is a dark underbelly to Jessica, who is trying to solve a problem by changing her body when, really, she needs to have a look at why she wants to do that,” Weaving tells W Magazine. “She has body dysmorphia and really bad self-esteem issues, and she’s trying to fix that with plastic surgery.”

Samara Weaving researched body dysmorphia extensively for the role

To play a character with body dysmorphia, Weaving did a lot of research and worked with a drama coach. “We found out the disorder is linked to a rapid eye movement study,” she explains. “Women and men with body dysmorphia struggle with keeping their eyes still.” 

She also worked closely with friends who have body dysmorphia. “We went into what it was like to grow up around it,” she tells Cosmopolitan. “There was one case where a woman had liposuction on her kneecaps, which summed up for me how unwell the illness can make you.”

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ character has an ‘anxious, jumpy personality’ like Samara Weaving 

Weaving identifies with the fictional Jessica. In speaking to W Magazine, Weaving describes playing Jessica as therapeutic. 

“[Jessica] was really great because I could get out all my anxiety at work and then I’d go home [and be] the most zen, chill, relaxed, human being,” she tells the outlet. “But my inner person is there all the time, hiding beneath: just a twitching, nervous wreck.” 

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Weaving’s understanding of body dysmorphia influenced her choices for the role. But instead of rapid eye movement, Weaving injected a bit of herself into Jessica. “I have this problem where I just can’t get sentences out and I start sputtering when I’m so anxious,” she says. “I was like, alright, let’s go with that.”

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ changed Samara Weaving’s perspective of influencers 

Weaving’s role in Nine Perfect Strangers isn’t just about accurately portraying someone with body dysmorphia. For Weaving, the role has allowed her to adjust how she perceives other women. 

“Jessica made me think about my perception of women and where I’m at fault in snap judgments that are anti-feminist,” she says. “I’m sure it’s from growing up in this misogynistic, nuts culture, but I had to unlearn certain things about myself—like the fact that certain women who dress a certain way and get a lot of work done are judged and gossiped about.” 

Jessica reaffirms the anecdote, “you can’t judge a book by the cover. “The judgment on influencers in general — it’s really hard to be an influencer,” Weaving adds. “That was what drew me to the character: smashing those patriarchal, very stale resentments that are in our culture.”

Stream new episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers Wednesdays on Hulu.

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