Gilead is not just a setting within the world of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it has also become a part of its core characters.
“Once you’ve gotten out of Gilead, what happens? How do you recover? A theme of the season is Gilead is within you so you don’t lose it when you leave,” executive producer Bruce Miller told Variety at the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest panel in Los Angeles, Calif. on Sunday.
The second season of Hulu’s dystopian drama will expand upon Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name by actually visiting a couple of places beyond the Gilead walls.
“There were places that seemed very important that was I was fascinated to experience and to experience how the relationships with the women in those situations were different than they are in Gilead,” Miller continued. “The Colonies is really the ultimate result of misogyny and cruelty and discarding of women — but even in this cruelty you see the women find chances to support each other and mark their milestones. So much of the show is about the incredible resilience and strength of June but also all women, specifically.”
On the panel, which was moderated by Variety‘s own executive TV editor Debra Birnbaum, Miller also shared that Emily (Alexis Bledel), will get assigned to a new commander (played by Bradley Whitford) and end up working in the Colonies, an area that Janine (Madeline Brewer) is also calling home in the second season.
“The way it’s described in the book is that it’s a toxic wasteland and people are just cleaning up toxic sludge — but it’s beautiful. It’s cornfields and this big expanse of land. And then you get closer and you realize there are things bubbling up,” Brewer said of the Colonies.
Moira (Samira Wiley) and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) are still in Toronto, which executive producers have dubbed “Little America.”
“Luke and Moira are living together now, trying to find a way to find common ground. They’ve been through two quite separate traumatic events, but they share a history and they share a kind of family — they’re almost brother and sister. But at the same time, it’s hard to communicate what they’re going through emotionally,” Fagbenle said.
Back in Gilead, though, Yvonne Strahovski says Serena is “pissed” about how June has challenged her.
“For Serena this is the first time things come crashing down a little bit for her, and I think she feels a little lost,” Strahovski said. “The one thing that she wants is that baby — that is her greatest survival mechanism in a world where she, too, is challenged and doesn’t have much of a voice, either. So to know she might not get that just makes the prison walls feel like they’re coming in even more. It’s very interesting to see it become Serena’s prison for a second there.”
Of course for June (Elisabeth Moss), the main goal is not only reconnecting with her family but also finding a way to protect her unborn child. Executive producer Warren Littlefield said that all of her moves in season 2 are about that unborn child and “what the future will be for” him or her.
“It’s an explosive, volatile chess game,” Littlefield said of season 2.
In order to further develop the theme of motherhood through June’s character, “The Handmaid’s Tale” will also introduce her own mother, played by Cherry Jones. Miller shared that June was a “single child of a single mother” who thought her mother had old-fashioned ideas of feminism.
And the world within Gilead will also be expanded in the second season, as well — with Miller noting that the show will explore “what happened to the press as Gilead was formed” and visit the Boston Globe.
They will also continue to expand on the flashbacks to show how the America the audience knows turned into a place where Gilead could exist.
“It’s a very ambitious year for us where those themes play out, as well as [answering] how does this all happen?” Littlefield said. “We show the beauty and the majesty — and the horror.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” season 2 premieres April 25 on Hulu.