×
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

  • Mandy Moore Walk of Fame Honor

    'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore on Why She Is 'Operating at My Best Now'

    “This Is Us” star Mandy Moore successfully transitioned from a teenage pop star to an adult who juggles singing, acting and, soon enough, producing professionally. On March 25 she is being celebrated for her achievements with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honor she calls “tremendously humbling.” “I feel like I’m operating [...]

  • Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Jon Huertas,

    ‘This Is Us’ Creator Teases Final Moments of Season 3 Finale

    The final moments of the “This Is Us” Season 3 finale were so secretive, that series stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson received redacted scripts. Justin Hartley said when he found out the last moments, he told himself, “Oh f—, they did it to me again.” Brown, Watson and Hartley joined other cast [...]

  • Apple-TV-subscription-streaming-event

    How to Live-Stream Today's Apple Event

    Monday is the coming-out party for Apple’s Hollywood ambitions: After years of trademark secrecy about its plans to stream into video entertainment, the tech giant is set to pull back the curtain at a media event. The live program kicks off at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET, on Monday, March 25, from the [...]

  • Rosie O'Donnell Had a Crush on

    'The View' Book: Rosie O'Donnell Reveals Secret Crush on Elisabeth Hasselbeck

    For most of Season 10 of “The View,” which aired from 2006 to 2007, Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck publicly feuded on TV. But in a new book, O’Donnell reveals more complicated emotions about her former conservative colleague. In “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View'” by Variety‘s Ramin Setoodeh, O’Donnell talks [...]

  • THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON

    Samsung Offers 'Tonight' Audience Different View of Jimmy Fallon

    Samsung wants to change the way viewers look at Jimmy Fallon. Monday night’s broadcast of NBC’s “Tonight Show” will feature no opening monologue and no traditional sit-downs with guests. Instead, Fallon will open the program by telling viewers that the entire episode has been shot with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ smartphone, which features an ultra-wide [...]

  • Netflix Producing Second Turkish Original, 'The

    Netflix Boards Second Turkish Original, 'The Gift,' Starring Beren Saat

    Netflix has announced its second Turkish original, supernatural drama “The Gift,” toplining local star Beren Saat, who is best-known for playing the lead in female empowerment drama “Fatmagul,” which was a global hit. Shooting has started in Istanbul, with British producer Alex Sutherland (“Argo”) shepherding the eight-episode show, which is produced by Turkey’s OG Medya [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    DirecTV, Viacom Avert Blackout After Marathon Negotiation

    DirecTV and Viacom have agreed on a carriage renewal pact covering a raft of Viacom’s cable channels after a marathon negotiation over the weekend. In a joint statement early Monday, the companies said: “We are pleased to announce a renewed Viacom-AT&T contract that includes continued carriage of Viacom services across multiple AT&T platforms and products. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content