The election “was horrible for the world, but great for me,” executive producer Bruce Miller says, as Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes also talk about the series’ relevance.
The fascist themes in The Handmaid’s Tale, MGM Television and Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, gave it an organic (albeit disconcerting) publicity boost in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election. Showrunner Bruce Miller’s drama dismantles the familiar America into Gilead, a futuristic but simplified world where fertility is currency and the few women capable of bearing children are forced into sexual servitude for affluent couples. At the center is Offred, one such “handmaid” played by Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss. Per Hulu, the drama’s April 26 debut became the streamer’s most watched series premiere, earning it a swift renewal. Yet, for the team behind the series, the totalitarian society onscreen too closely parallels aspects of an America where President Trump has rolled back orders protecting women’s rights in the workplace and funding for reproductive health. (Hillary Clinton is among those who have cited the show’s timeliness.) During a lively April 21 conversation with THR, Miller, Moss and castmembers Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes explored the series’ relevance and what they hope viewers will learn from it.
What’s the biggest pressure in adapting a beloved book?
BRUCE MILLER Not screwing it up. Any time you take something this popular that people have devoted so much of their time and attention and heart to, you just don’t want to ruin people’s perception of the book.
Your shoot in Toronto began in September. How did the presidential election affect production?SAMIRA WILEY There was a feeling from the beginning that what we were doing was important and relevant already.
MILLER It was horrible for the world but great for me. People were all of a sudden saying the venomous things that they had always thought out loud — things I didn’t think people thought anymore in my little bubble. It made me change one or two things, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI [Fiennes and I] are the villains. Suddenly Trump is elected, and all this negative behavior comes to light. I start seeing these parallels between [my character’s] actions and what Trump’s doing. It’s in a weird way an inspiration but also a horrid parallel.
ELISABETH MOSS The great thing that Yvonne did is bring that vulnerability. I had times when we’d do a scene together and look at each other, and all of a sudden we were just two women in different — both terrible — circumstances.
Full interview: hollywoodreporter.com