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Remote Controlled: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Team on Breaking New Ground in Season 2

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, talks with “The Handmaid’s Tale” team, including star and producer Elisabeth Moss, and executive producers Bruce Miller and Warren Littlefield.

Coming off of an awards season sweep, including Emmys for best drama series and a best actress win for Moss, the Hulu hit returns for Season 2 amid high expectations.

“I think the first thing to do is forget about the first season,” Miller says. “I think we said at the beginning of the season the biggest barrier to a good Season 2 was success in Season 1, so we should just put that on the shelf and try to make something we think is interesting and cool.”

This season will expand the world of Gilead and find Offred pregnant and on the run, which Moss says provides a new set of challenges.

“You get a script and you read a scene and you’re like, ‘Alright, here it goes, got to figure out how to do this one,'” she says. “You think, ‘I couldn’t possibly have anything left to explore, I couldn’t possibly have any challenge I haven’t already done. We’ve already done the worst possible stuff to June, how could we do any worse?,’ and then [Bruce] does it.”

Much has been made about the show’s cultural relevance, particularly in the current political climate and era of Me Too, but Littlefield says, “there’s a difference between us and MSNBC.”

He adds that media “has an incredibly powerful role in our lives right now, but we also need to do a compelling, human, feminist drama, and I think that’s the job that we take quite seriously. If it’s also relevant because of the world we’re living in. Okay, we accept the responsibility of that, but I think we have to separate we’re not the news.”

Season 2, which Miller says both he and the rest of the world have been thinking about since 1985, when Margaret Atwood left “Handmaid’s Tale” novel on a cliffhanger, centers around Offred’s pregnancy, which Moss describes as “a ticking time bomb.”

The story will also go beyond the book for the first time, which Miller says is done with consultation from Atwood. “She is always thoughtful and always open to stuff. She’s created a world and handed it to me and us, and you never feel like you’re treading on her territory,” he says.

As for describing the new season in one word, Moss says “resist,” Miller says “motherhood,” and Littlefield sticks with the tagline, “Gilead is within you.”

“Whether you’re with Moira in Toronto, Gilead is within you. Whether June is on her quest for freedom, you never get away from Gilead,” he adds.

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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