You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Feels ‘Prescient’ for Present-Day Struggles, Cast Says

Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” was published more than 30 years ago, and it’s since been turned into a TV movie, a ballet, an opera, and now a series starring Elisabeth Moss that will premiere on Hulu on April 26.

“Every time someone reads it, it’s timely,” showrunner Bruce Miller told reporters in Pasadena, Calif., at the winter Television Critics Association press tour.

Yet there is a sense of urgency about the newest adaptation, Miller and cast members acknowledged. The novel and series center on Offred (Moss), essentially a child-bearing slave in the new Republic of Gilead, a theocratic autocracy that has replaced the United States after an extreme Christian sect orchestrated a coup. Women in this world are subjugated, reduced to roles that boil down to wives or breeders (the handmaids).

Miller was writing the scripts for the series during the presidential primaries. “I think none of us could ignore what was happening,” he said.

“It’s like a Shakespeare play in that it remains timeless in its context,” said Joseph Fiennes, who plays the Commander who essentially owns Offred, using her to produce children his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) cannot have.

Co-star Samira Wiley, who plays Offred’s best friend Moira, views her role almost as a duty. “It’s our responsibility as artists to reflect the time we’re living in,” she said. “This show is showing us the climate we’re living in. For me, personal issues are, specifically, women and their bodies and who has control of our bodies. Do we have control of that, or does someone else?”

The religious sect that has taken over the country is ostensibly comprised of Bible-thumping fundamentalists, but Miller said that in keeping with Atwood’s vision, the group isn’t actually Christian, or even truly religious but rather driven by the quest for power. “In the book I don’t think they ever go to church once,” he added. “It’s based on a perversion, a misreading of Old Testament laws and codes.”

As with any adaptation, Miller and the writers have made some changes: In the novel, the Commander and his wife are far older, with Serena Joy past child-bearing age. “I was very mindful of the relationship between Serena Joy and Offred,” Miller said. “It felt like they weren’t in competition. She wasn’t taking a role that Serena Joy wanted more than anything for herself.”

One important detail remains: The various castes of women are still divided by the color of their garments. Reed Morano, exec producer and director, used this to create a color palette that pops reds and blues and greens amid what could be a dreary dystopia.

“The handmaids’ red, as well as the wives, they wear almost a peacock blue, which are basically the predominant colors in Technicolor,” Morano said. “We were trying to echo that. We wanted to make a show that is exciting from a subject standpoint but really play with composition and graphic colors and make it a visual feast.”

And though “The Handmaid’s Tale” a single novel, Miller doesn’t think he’ll run out of material any time soon. “The more we look into that world a further horizon we see,” he said.

More TV

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Blake Jenner What If TV Show

    'What/If' Star Blake Jenner on Creating Chemistry With Jane Levy, Renee Zellweger

    Blake Jenner first rose to fame in 2012 when he won “The Glee Project” and therefore earned a role on “Glee” proper. In the years since, though, he graduated from teen heartthrob status to meatier, edgier roles in films such as “American Animals” and now the Netflix limited series “What/If,” in which he stars opposite [...]

  • Mario Lopez Candy Crush

    Mario Lopez, Seth Kurland Set Latinx Family Comedy Series at Netflix

    Mario Lopez and Seth Kurland are teaming up for a new comedy series at Netflix. Variety has learned that the streamer has given a 16 episode order to the multi-cam comedy “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” co-created by Lopez and Kurland. In the series, when Ashley Garcia — the world’s only 15-and-a-half-year-old robotics engineer [...]

  • HBO logo

    TV News Roundup: HBO Announces Recipients of 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

    In today’s roundup, Fox Nation announces a fresh slate of programming for the summer and HBO announces the recipients of its HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. DEVELOPMENT: HBO has announced the recipients of its 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The eight writers selected out of the 3,000 submissions will participate in an 8-month program of master classes and [...]

  • Big Bang Theory

    'Big Bang Theory,' 'Manifest' Among Top Live+7 Gainers of 2018-2019 Season

    With 2018-2019 broadcast season wrapping up, certain shows stand head and shoulders above their competition in the Nielsen Live+7 rankings. Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 [...]

  • Anna Kendrick Paul Feig

    Anna Kendrick, Paul Feig Team for Comedy Anthology Series at WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Anna Kendrick and Paul Feig are coming to the WarnerMedia streaming service Variety has learned that the upcoming streamer has ordered the romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life,” the first season of which will star Kendrick with Feig executive producing. WarnerMedia has ordered a 10-episode first season of the half-hour series. Lionsgate Television and FeigCo [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content