Playing a cruel barren wife on The Handmaid’s Tale hasn’t been easy for Yvonne Strahovski. The newly pregnant star reflects on her “harrowing” role and bringing her own baby into the world.
Serena Joy Waterford may be a fictional character – and a cold-hearted, brutal, vengeful one at that – but so believable is Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski in portraying her and her infertile state in The Handmaid’s Tale that when Strahovski tells me she’s pregnant, it’s hard not to shout “Praise be!”
The breakout star of the Hulu original series is delighting in discussing her hitherto closely guarded secret, giving her first interview to Vogue Australia since announcing on Instagram in mid-May that she and her husband, actor Tim Loden, were expecting their first child.
“I’ve been dying to talk about it,” Strahovski enthuses, before confiding the concerns she had for her unborn baby during the recent shooting of season two of The Handmaid’s Tale, given the unrelenting sadism and seething hatred that drives Serena Joy.
The Sydney-born, Los Angeles-based actress is in Melbourne shooting Angel of Mine, Luke Davies’s adaptation of the 2008 French film L’Empreinte de L’Ange, directed by Strangerland’s Kim Farrant and starring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace. It’s three years since Strahovski has been in Australia, and many more since she made an Australian film.
It often surprises fans of the cult TV series The Handmaid’s Tale to learn Strahovski is Australian, so convincing is her American accent. The only child of Polish immigrants, Strahovski grew up in Maroubra, Sydney, a studious child obsessed with dancing, acting and the outdoors. She honed her craft at the University of Western Sydney before landing roles in local television dramas, including Double the Fist in 2004 and headLand a year later.
She decided to try her hand in LA, auditioning for the role of Sarah Walker in Chuck three days after arriving. She planned to stay a couple of months and now calls it home, 11 years later. The Emmy Award-winning series Chuck ultimately ran for five years and Strahovski has played a host of strong, complex characters ever since: serial killer Hannah McKay on the TV series Dexter, Rene Carpenter in The Astronaut Wives Club and Emma on the upcoming film The Predator, among many others.
Still, there will be audiences worldwide who have only come to know Strahovski through The Handmaid’s Tale, creator Bruce Miller’s 2017 adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestselling 1985 novel set in a dystopian future that sees America overtaken by a fundamentalist regime, the few remaining fertile women forced into sexual servitude to bear children for the Commanders of the Faithful.
Starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, a handmaid determined to fight back against her commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his barren wife (Strahovski), series one earnt eight Emmys and two Golden Globes and captivated television viewers worldwide, airing as it did in a post-Trump America that made Atwood’s depiction of new land Gilead seem frighteningly plausible.
Strahovski hadn’t read Atwood’s novel but was so captivated by the character of Serena Joy and the story laid out in the pilot that she signed on immediately. “I found her quite mesmerising, because I didn’t have all the answers to her and didn’t have her backstory [back then],” Strahovski explains. “So, to me, all that loneliness, bitterness and emotional instability were the first things I noticed about this character, and I loved the complexity of her and the rest of the characters.”
Full interview: vogue.com.au