Elisabeth Moss talks the sexuality and power of Handmaid’s Tale
Hulu has released a first look at its eerily timely new drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
Set in the dystopian Republic of Gilead — a totalitarian theocracy in what was once the United States — the series stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred, who ends up in a class called handmaids, females whose sole role in society is to reproduce. In this future, women have been stripped of their personal rights, shining a light on women’s control over their own bodies.
“The book’s been around for 35 years and every time someone reads it, they say, ‘Wow, this is timely,’” executive producer Bruce Miller said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday. “One of the things that’s most interesting about the book is how relevant it is all the time. None of us could ignore what was happening. I was writing the pilot script during the primaries. We were of course mindful of that.”
Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, also stars Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski as The Commander and his sterile wife, respectively, whom Offred is assigned to bear a child, making her no more than an incubator in a time where women are not allowed to speak their minds, let alone keep the name they had before the formation of Gilead.
Formerly known as June, Moss’ character must navigate this new world, keeping the smallest bit of hope alive that someday things may change. “So much of the story is about power and the shifting back and forth of it as well,” Moss says, explaining that instead of actually leaning away from being a woman and her sexuality, she uses it to gain power. “It’s a very big part of the plot that she figures out and at some point starts to use it.”
But wielding power in a world where no one can be trusted is especially daunting. Offred cannot even trust her fellow handmaids, who are essentially scared into submission and turned against each other in a bid to keep them all in line. That’s especially true for Offred’s assigned companion, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), who may either be a friend or a spy. “This role is an incredible opportunity to dive a little bit deeper,” the Gilmore Girls star says. “It’s an incredibly rich role for me to get to play and I still can’t believe I get to do it.”
While the book has been adapted in many other forms, including on film and in plays, the writers aren’t necessarily trying to buck expectations for those who already know the ending. “There are certainly a lot of other adaptations out there,” Miller says. “We’re certainly loyal to the book, so any changes we make are mindful to the fact that we’re very connected to the original material. I don’t think anybody is looking to surprise. I don’t think we’re playing those kind of games with the audience. I’m a huge fan of the book and a huge fan of the show, so we’re just trying to tell this story well.”
The Handmaid’s Tale will debut April 26 on Hulu.