Expats Ending’s Book Changes Explained By Creator

By Boluwatife Adeyemi Published 30 minutes ago

Following the release of the Expats finale, creator and director Lulu Wang explains the reason for the show’s changes from Janice Y. K. Lee’s book.

Expats Ending's Book Changes Explained By Creator

Warning: SPOILERS lie ahead for Expats!



  • Lulu Wang explains why Margaret stays in Hong Kong in the Expats finale, a change from the book's ending.
  • Certain significant changes were made in the show to give it its own unique qualities.
  • The adaptation also gives more focus to the domestic workers employed by the expat group.

Expats creator Lulu Wang addresses the finale’s changes from the original source material. Premiering on Prime Video early in February 2024, the miniseries, based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s 2016 novel, follows the Expats' main cast, Margaret, Mercy, and Hilary, three women who become inextricably linked following a tragic incident. Even though the show manages to retain a lot of the source material's plotline and essence, several changes were made throughout the show that give it a slightly different twist.

Now, discussing the recently released Expats finale, Lulu Wang explains to Elle why she made certain changes to the television adaptation finale that are different to how the original book ended. The creator/director revealed that the decision to allow Nicole Kidman’s character Margaret remain in Hong Kongfelt like the right way to end it, adding that Margaret needed to experience a transformation from staying in Hong Kong from a place of privilege to being there by choice. Read her full explanation below:

Speaking of closure, I loved Margaret’s line to Mercy, “For so long I wanted to erase you and here you are adding to the world.” It’s a generous way for Margaret to forgive the person who has caused the most anguish in her life. Can you tell me about giving them this conclusion?

That line was from the book. Janice wrote so many beautiful phrases that I just couldn’t let go of, and I felt like they had to be in the series. But I don’t interpret that one as forgiveness, I interpreted it just as a fact: She did want to erase her, and she is adding to the world. What do you do with that? There’s something so graceful about that admittance from Margaret, even though it’s not a true forgiveness. I don’t know how she could ever truly forgive Mercy, but it also connects to Hilary saying that she doesn’t want to be angry anymore because that’s also not serving herself.

The biggest shock in the finale and another departure from the book is that Margaret decides to stay in Hong Kong, unable to get on the flight back to the U.S. with the rest of her family. Why did you choose this ending for her character?

It felt like a really poignant arc for Margaret because she is a person who is tremendously privileged; the entire reason for her being in Hong Kong was from a privileged stance. She has a particular lifestyle and benefits from the society and culture, but isn’t really an integral part of its world. In thinking about the difference between expats and immigrants, and the reasons why we leave home and why we sacrifice or don’t sacrifice as either one of these groups, I saw her having to transform from a place of privilege to being there by choice. She becomes, in a way, an immigrant because she has to sacrifice her whole family to be there in pursuit of something greater. It’s heartbreaking when she has to give up, but in many ways, that cuts her down to size because that’s something that so many people have to do&including [her housekeeper] Essie, who’s had to give up her own family and in order to work for the Wu family in Hong Kong. Putting her in the city with the people for once felt like the right way to end it.

What Other Changes Were Made To The Expat Adaptation?

Expats Ending's Book Changes Explained By Creator

As mentioned previously, the Expat showrunners made a considerable effort to translate a lot of the events and occurrences from the source material to the Prime Video adaptation. A good number of the dialogue and sentences from the book were copied verbatim, making sure to retain the essence of the source material as much as possible. However, in re-interpreting the book, certain significant changes were also made to the show, giving it its own layered and standalone qualities and plotlines.

Aside from the change in the show’s finale, another major difference between the novel and the Prime Video adaptation is the timeline. While the book takes its time to build adequate history and context for its main characters, the show jumps right into the thick of the action before later giving an insight into the backstory of Margaret, Mercy and Hilary. Wang and her creative team did, however, utilize flashbacks to explore said backstories.

Expats Official Trailer (Trailer)

Another change that was made in Expats was that it gave more focus to the domestic workers that were employed by the titular group. Even though the book made mention of these domestic workers, there was barely any focus on them except when they related to their employers. Expats episode 5, however, explored the lives of these workers, highlighting the importance of their individual stories. With all the various changes that have been made to this adaptation, it’ll be interesting to see how any of them affect season 2 if it's to happen.

Source: Elle

Cast Nicole Kidman , Ji-young Yoo , Jack Huston , Sarayu Blue , Brian Tee , Bonde Sham , Flora Chan Release Date January 26, 2024 Seasons 1 Writers Lulu Wang , Janice Y. K. Lee Directors Lulu Wang Creator(s) Lulu Wang , Janice Y. K. Lee Where To Watch Prime Video See at Prime Video

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