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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Team Talks Season 2 Politics and Reflecting the Violence of Life

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has gotten darker as time has gone on, but its executive producers feel there’s no other way to tell a story about a misogynistic society divided by race, class and gender, and in which children are ripped from their parents.

“Year two, the Trump administration, was really f—ing dark,” Warren Littlefield said at a finale screening in Los Angeles, Calif. Monday. “We’re looking at fascist regimes all over the world, we’re looking at the world we’re living in today, and tying that into the narrative.”

While there have been many moments in the show’s second season that have felt “prescient,” showrunner Bruce Miller added that rather than intentionally ripping from headlines, he asks his writers to “think of the worst things that people could do.” The fact that it “has comparisons to real life,” he continued, “is awful.”

“It’s a terrible way to predict,” he said.

Miller also implored the audience to let the show become “irrelevant” by becoming more politically active in the real world.

“Donate money to the candidate of your choosing; knock on doors for the candidate of your choosing; vote in November,” he said.

As the show increased in darkness in the second season, so too did it increase the brutality characters faced, inflicting a non-ceremony rape on June (Elisabeth Moss) and then having her give birth alone in the next episode, for example. Moss shared that the latter scene was one of the most challenging ones she had to shoot all season, explaining, “It was just a lot of moving. I don’t usually move that much, but I was running around, kicking doors. It was very physical, so it was exhausting in that sense.”

But Miller pointed out that the show never wants to be gratuitous in any of those moments.

“We only show what we have to show,” he said. “The beginning of the year we had an episode with a mock execution. To start with the handmaids walking back into the Red Center saying, ‘I can’t believe they almost [killed] us,’ would not have had the same effect. You have to show it or you don’t understand why June feels the way she feels. This stuff is happening all over the world and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Serena, admitted to Variety that she wondered if there could be any sympathy or redemption for Serena after her part in June’s rape. But she, too, felt it was important not to turn away from such serious acts of violence

“There was so much talk of people feeling duped by Serena and falling into, ‘Oh maybe she’s going to be good’ and feeling sympathy for her, but then she goes and does something like that and a lot of people’s responses were ‘There’s no turning back,'” she said. “This is a show that confronts the most horrible and the most brutal. [In this] notion that these things are happening out in the world, we as a show present that in this format of a TV show that is portraying this dystopian future of an upturned government. So it’s that notion that we’re making art, but art reflecting life at the same time, and although it’s confronting, it’s also, so important to learn from that experience.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale” takes great care in showcasing that not everyone’s experience within Gilead is the same and therefore not everyone’s reaction to it is the same. This is another way the show reflects life, according to star Madeline Brewer.

“I think like everyone watches the news and then digests that differently and then has their own specific way of being an activist or self-care. Whatever you need at that specific time, you have to go for,” she said. “On certain days Gilead is not just all sadness and horror for Janine, specifically. That’s why she has to look for the good in everything — otherwise it will destroy her — and I think that is a parallel to where we are right now politically. If you don’t take a moment every single day and reflect on the good, then we’re no use to anyone else.”

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