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

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with the stars of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski.

Fiennes and Strahovski play husband and wife in the totalitarian government of Gilead, a near-future of the former United States. Fiennes’ character, Commander Fred Waterford, and his wife, Serena Joy, are assigned a Handmaid — portrayed by Elisabeth Moss — who must oblige to ritualized sex to bear children for the commander and his wife.

The two leads couldn’t help but draw parallels between the adaption of the 1985 dystopian novel and present day.

You’re seeing images that you see in the news, marches, women’s marches,” Strahovski said. “It all feels like it’s very much of today. It really shows how easy that road would be to get into a society like what Gilead portrays.

Added Fiennes, “It’s happening. It’s present. It’s such a modern piece, but not just here in America, worldwide and everything that’s in the book has sadly happened and is happening.

While bringing the novel to life, the show took creative license in having their characters be younger than they were in the book.

Strahovski said this adds a “power play” element. Her character now, although infertile, is of a child-bearing age, whereas the book character had a cane and was arthritic. Having a handmaid to bear her children at her current age provides more of a power struggle than if she were older and couldn’t have children anyway.

This leads to one of the more controversial scenes in the series — the ceremony — which revolves around the Commander, Fiennes’ character, having sex with a handmaid to get her pregnant. There is just one caveat — his wife is in the bed as well.

It’s an intense scene,” Strahovski recalls, likening the exchange to a form of rape. “We’re doing this because we’re in this new government, this sort of totalitarian fundamentalist regime where we have collected all of the fertile women and imprisoned them as sex slaves.

Fiennes concludes, “Nobody wants to be there.”

As uncomfortable as the interaction sounds, Strahovski claims it wasn’t as awkward as it seems.

Full article: variety.com