Serena Joy is one of the many wicked characters on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but she’s also one that fans found more and more understandable as Season 2 went on. And viewers of the Hulu drama who struggle with their empathy for Serena can thank actress Yvonne Strahovski for their turmoil, as she worked hard to create that feeling.
“It’s important for me to try to make this character as relatable as possible, even though she’s despicable,” said Strahovski, whose first-ever Emmy nomination was one of eight acting noms for the show that won eight Emmys last year, including Outstanding Drama Series.
(The other acting nominees: lead actress Elisabeth Moss, supporting actor Joseph Fiennes, supporting actresses Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd and guests Samira Wiley, Cherry Jones and Kelly Jenrette.)
For the actress, Season 2 was an extended case of what she called “navigating a really fine line between the Jekyll and Hyde of Serena — her ice queen fighting the sensitive, vulnerable side that was revealing itself slowly.”
Throughout the season, Serena, the wife of Commander Fred Waterford (Fiennes) would do something kind for the handmaiden Offred/June (Moss), who was carrying a child for the couple.
But in the next moment, driven by jealousy and fury, she would become more wicked than we’d ever seen her before. Episode after episode, Serena grappled with her desire to become a mother, which naturally put her at odds with June — the woman whose biological baby she was trying to snatch from her womb and mother herself.
“I was really excited when I sat down with [creator] Bruce [Miller] before we started filming and he told me about the motherhood storyline that Serena was going to have this year,” Strahovski said.
“He did leave a few things out, so I was still surprised by some of the things that come up in the scripts. But I love that Serena has this unrealistic view of what motherhood means to her and it totally breaks down and changes towards the end. She basically does a 180 that has the worst outcome for her and the best outcome for the baby. Her journey this season was about learning what motherhood really means.”
And it finally changes the Offred-Serena relationship, which Strahovski said reminds her “of a volatile lovers’ affair where they would come together and break up again, and come together and break up again. Ultimately there are so many reasons why they can’t come together. But the baby is one big reason why they can.”