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How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Nabbed Oprah Winfrey

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Holly,” the 11th episode of the second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Yes, that was Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey lent her voice to the second season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the 11th episode, entitled “Holly.” Winfrey portrayed a radio host whose voice caught Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss) by surprise after she turned on a car and heard a channel broadcasting over the stereo.

“We’d heard Oprah was a fan of the show, and had a story idea, and thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if… So we asked and she said yes, and it was a lovely, easy process,” showrunner Bruce Miller says. “The radio segment she recorded was inspired by the free radio of the Allies from World War II.  It was an absolute honor to have Oprah featured on the show, and especially thrilling as she was the one who presented us with the Emmy last year.”

The writer of the episode, Kira Snyder, told Sirius XM’s Jessica Shaw that initially when working on the script she did not know she was writing for Winfrey but was “beyond delighted that I got to hear her say the words.”

“It gave me chills,” she shared.

Snyder shared that the script was written, and the idea to cast Winfrey, as she understood it, came from Tori Larsen, who works in the production office.

And while there was just a “little snippet” of Winfrey in the episode, Snyder said she actually ended up writing about a page of content once she did know the words would be said by Winfrey so there would be options to “pick and choose what the actual text was going to be.”

Writing for her became “as good as it gets,” she said.

Winfrey’s unnamed character is “broadcasting from somewhere in the Great White North” and revealed information about “economic aid” coming in from countries such as India and China, as well as the fact that “in the United Kingdom additional sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada.”

Although neither Miller nor Snyder confirmed whether or not Winfrey was portraying herself, her character acted as a beacon of hope, as well as proof that the outside world beyond Canada has not completely turned its back on America.

“Now a tune to remind everyone who’s listening — American patriot or Gilead traitor — we are still here,” she said in the scene. “Stars and stripes forever, baby.”

Winfrey, who is best known for her 25-year run with national syndicated talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” also launched Oprah Radio on Sirius XM Satellite Radio in 2006. That channel signed off in 2015. She publishes O, The Oprah Magazine and is the president of Harpo Prods. as well as the CEO of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Through the latter she has partnerships with such creators as Tyler Perry, Mara Brock Akil and Ava DuVernay. She also recently signed a multi-year content partnership with Apple. Under the deal, Winfrey and Apple will create programs that will be released as part of Apple’s original content lineup.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” streams new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu.

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