Yvonne Strahovski Source

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June 5, 2019

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Like the character she plays in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Yvonne Strahovski’s early motherly instincts were tested by a raging fire.

We were holding our breath for a while because our son had just been born and here was this threat,” she says while nestled in a cafe nook that overlooks the Malibu shore not far from her home.

She’s thinking back to a windy November night last year, about four weeks after she had given birth, when the Woolsey fire was setting its destructive course inside the city limits.

I didn’t know there was a fire, but I was breastfeeding my son all night long, and I remember getting up and going outside to look over the hills and I just had a really bad feeling,” she says with her Australian lilt unconcealed. “And, sure enough, the next morning, our neighbor knocked on our door and said we had to evacuate. There we were, still trying to figure out what the hell we were doing with a baby, how to be parents, having to pack it all up.

It’s a strikingly different scenario than the one that unfolded in the Season 2 finale of Hulu’s dystopian drama, but no less emotionally charged.

In that case, a house in Gilead — the show’s brutal patriarchal base — is set ablaze as a distraction to enable June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss), the show’s central handmaid, to try to get her newborn out of the horrors of Gilead and into the safety of Canada.

In the process, she is stopped by Strahovski’s at times monstrous, at times sympathetic character, Serena Joy Waterford, the baby’s mother by forcible adoption and rape. In an emotionally charged scene, Serena says goodbye to the baby she’s long coveted and allows June to flee with her from the oppressive republic she helped forge.

It’s been interesting,” Strahovksi says of how her real life journey into motherhood is converging with her character’s. “I think so much of motherhood is putting yourself aside, putting aside all your fears and all your selfishness and all your flaws and giving the best self to your child. I think Serena did that at the end of the season. It took her a big, long journey to learn how to do it, but she did it.”

On this slightly overcast day in Malibu, Strahovski is more genial than the often miserable and hardened character that earned her an Emmy nomination last year. She gets animated when she spots an orange starfish adhered to a pillar of the nearby boardwalk — “I have scoured this beach so many times,” she recounts. “I have so many shells at home from here.

She’s been back home just a couple of days from wrapping production on the show in Canada. And continuing Serena’s evolution into Season 3, she says with hindsight, was a complicated undertaking. The actress gave birth to her son in October, about two weeks after her due date. That meant her planned eight-week maternity leave was cut to roughly six weeks. Production on the show was well underway, with Strahovski playing catch-up to shoot scenes that feature her character.

It’s really weird because I love my job and I love what I do and, of course, I wanted to come back to work and continue playing this crazy-amazing character,” she says. “But at the same time, I was devastated knowing that I would go back to work and have to spend any bit of time away from him.

She’s quick, though, to acknowledge it was hardly a dystopian nightmare. Her husband, actor and producer Tim Loden, and son came to work every day, and she continued to breastfeed on demand: “There were times, obviously, where I couldn’t break away,” she says. “I had to pump and send the milk to the trailer and my husband would feed him. But we did it as a family, we did it together — the dog came too!

Still, the juxtaposition of her mostly joyous real-life motherhood journey and her tumultuous fictional one was something Strahovski worried about.

That was the one thing I was actually unsure about,” Strahovski says. “I spend so much time in front of the camera being really miserable. So I’d be going from super miserable, then total joy going back to breastfeed. And then back to misery and then back to joy — every hour or two hours. Normally, I would just stay in that misery to keep myself in the zone. So it was a very different working process.

After a while, she elected to lean into pulling from her own emotions.

Unlike Season 2, where I really tried to separate my pregnancy from what I was doing, I think this time around I really used it,” she says of the new season. “I got a lot of inspiration from all the new-mom feels I was experiencing. Given Serena’s situation, having just let go of what she believes is her baby, coming into a very emotional story line after where we left her last season, it really worked for me to have all that going on in my personal life.

Full interview: latimes.com


May 31, 2019

 

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From the start, “The Handmaid’s Tale” — the Hulu series spun from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a brutal patriarchy and the women who serve it — seemed destined to be a star vehicle for Elisabeth Moss. Her perspective. Her interior monologue. Her face.

Then Yvonne Strahovski transformed into a monster.

No! No, I didn’t realize but it’s very exciting,” Strahovski exclaimed, sounding as surprised as anyone about the turn her character — Serena Joy Waterford, the Commander’s inscrutable wife — took once Moss’s handmaid, June, became pregnant in the second season. Her resulting tour de force leveled the playing field between Moss and Strahovski, who notched Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actress.

I’ve always wanted to be an actress, even as a little girl in Australia,” she said. “I remember thinking how cool it would be to play and act and then maybe win an award for it one day.

Season 2 ended with a moment of clarity as Serena rescued her daughter from the savagery she helped create by having her smuggled to Canada. As the third season begins, Strahovski reaffirms her skill as a formidable sparring partner in scenes that shatter the show’s paradigm, transforming Serena into a potential ally to June.

Lithe and radiant, Strahovski — who’d previously played a killer and love interest in “Dexter,” and a C.I.A. agent and love interest in “Chuck” — wasn’t the obvious choice for the frail, but hardened Serena as Atwood wrote her.

But Strahovski pursued the role anyway and endured a two-month wait as the show’s producers decided who they wanted their Serena to be, finally settling on a version that was more of June’s equal.

It’s an interesting choice for them to go much younger,” she said. “It really ups the drama and the tension between the two women, especially on the subject of fertility, and one being so envious of the other.

It also upped the personal drama — and led to a thousand “Blessed be the fruit” jokes — for Strahovski, who shot Season 2 while pregnant and Season 3 just weeks after giving birth to a son with her husband, the actor Tim Loden.

In a chat over hot tea at an Upper West Side diner, Strahovski, 36 and raised in Sydney, spoke about the perils of playing Serena and what scares her the most. Not up for discussion: her latest role — only recently announced and still under wraps — in “Stateless,” a new six-part series about four strangers in an Australian immigration detention center produced by and starring Cate Blanchett.

There will be no spoilers here. But early on in Season 3, I found myself really rooting for Serena. And then …

She has that look in her eyes. [Laughs] I think that’s the fun of watching a character like Serena. You root for her so much and she does something so good, and then just like that you can be like, Aww, nooo.

Serena is riding the Kingda Ka of emotions this season after giving her baby away.
I was so struck by how overcome with regret Serena would have been, because we pick up right after she gave the baby away. You’d be so upset and in such a low spot, considering that baby was the only thing she ever wanted and the only thing she looked forward to. So to have that one thing taken away from you just would be totally devastating.

And yet the grieving Serena still can’t quite fathom June’s own pain at having had one child stolen from her and then being forced to relinquish another.
I think she does understand it to a point but she thinks that her circumstances and position in Gilead trump June’s. More, “This is how it goes in Gilead and you are my handmaid and will make me my baby — and that’s what we all signed up for, supposedly voluntarily, right?” But I also think that Serena in her own brain has been through a lot and can’t see beyond her own trauma and her own emotion into someone else’s trauma and emotion — because it’s all pretty horrendous. So I don’t know that she necessarily thinks June is worse off than she is.

How did you approach such harrowing scenes with your infant son back in your trailer?
I came to work with a six- or seven-week-old. It was insane. I remember shooting really long days and running back and forth from set to the trailer and breast-feeding — shoot a scene, change the camera setup, run back to the trailer, feed, shoot more of the scene and come back, shoot more of the scene and come back. It was such a Jekyll-and-Hyde moment because Serena is so miserable and depressed when we first come into this season. And then I’m going back to the trailer and looking at my son, and he’s so cute and smiley and brings me so much joy.

You keep referring to Serena as a terrible person, even as I’m thinking she’s maybe not actually all evil. Really?
Yeah, I do feel she is … she’s a pretty terrible person. [Laughs]

Does playing her affect the way people perceive you or the roles you’re offered?
I do hear a lot from makeup artists and people that I work with. They’ll say, “My friend is asking, ‘Is she a bitch to work with?’” That’s pretty funny. I guess if you don’t know me you would wonder what the person was like in real life. I don’t think I’m much like her.

Do you personally hope that Serena starts wielding more political power?
I mean … [pause] that’s a really interesting question. I think what’s funny is when people — and me, also — would like to see Serena come good and lead that female resistance and turn her back on Gilead, but is that interesting to watch? I mean no, maybe not so much.

How do you and Elisabeth endure such grim story lines day after day?
Everyone is pretty goofy on set. I know that sounds weird that we have fun on set but we do. It’s a dream come true to be able to play June and Serena. These super powerhouse female roles are layered and complex, and the story lines are amazing, and it’s so fun as an actor to come to work and play with that.

It has been rumored that you sing Taylor Swift songs between scenes.
We do, we do. We have a bit of an obsession going on. And presumably she watches the show. On the Golden Globes, she made a video message for Elisabeth. Just very exciting. [Laughs]

You’re a Sierra Club ambassador who has car-camped your way through national parks and public lands. You’re also a surfer. So you’re essentially fearless?
I’m terrified of running into a bear. Everyone in the States always thinks that I’m crazy — that we have all the deadly snakes and spiders in Australia, which we do. But wouldn’t you rather get bitten by one of those than eaten alive by a bear?

Source: nytimes.com


May 14, 2019

Cate Blanchett, Yvonne Strahovski and Dominic West are set to star in “Stateless,” a six-part TV series about people stuck in an immigration detention center. NBCUniversal will handle worldwide distribution on the drama, which is being produced by Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, through their Dirty Films banner, alongside the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Screen Australia and Matchbox Pictures.

Production begins next month at Adelaide Studios in South Australia. Major production funding comes from Screen Australia and the ABC, with additional financial support from the South Australian Film Corp.

Co-created by Blanchett, Tony Ayres and Elise McCredie, the series centers on four strangers — a flight attendant escaping a suburban cult, an Afghan refugee fleeing persecution, a young Australian father escaping a dead-end job and a bureaucrat caught up in a national scandal — who are stuck in an immigration detention center in the Australian desert. Each character deals with the contradictions of protection and border control from a unique perspective, offering relevant and timely insight into issues that countries are grappling with around the world.

The cast also includes Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Rachel House, Kate Box, Clarence Ryan, Claude Jabbour, Rose Riley and Helana Sawires.

“Stateless” is written by McCredie and Belinda Chayko, and will be directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse, and produced by Sheila Jayadev and Paul Ranford for Matchbox Pictures. Blanchett, Upton and Ayres are executive producers. McCredie is showrunner and executive producer, and Liz Watts will serve as executive producer. ABC executive producers are Sally Riley and Andrew Gregory.

Whilst this story centers on Australia, the dilemmas that it explores through four absorbing characters will resonate globally: the desire for personal freedom, the need for social stability, an escalating lack of faith in the political process and the deeply unsettling impact this has on individual lives,” Blanchett said.

We were pleased to support the development of this landmark series, with its all-female writing and directing team, including some of Australia’s leading key creatives,” said Courtney Gibson, chief executive of the South Australian Film Corp.

Source: variety.com


January 16, 2019

Yvonne Strahovski just had a baby this past fall — and fellow new moms are looking for advice!

While speaking to Strahovski for an interview with E! Live from the Red Carpet at the 2019 Golden Globes, Ryan Seacrest asked The Handmaid’s Tale star if she wouldn’t mind answering a question from his sister Meredith, who gave birth to daughter Flora Marie on Dec. 10.

Hi, Yvonne, I just wanted to say congratulations on becoming a new mom — I am one too,” Meredith told the star, who was outfitted in an aqua-colored gown for the evening. “I just had my own little Flora a month ago, so you’re about two months ahead of me. I was just curious if there’s any toy or gadget you can’t live without.

My mom just got him this spinning-wheel thing,” said Strahovski, 36, who’s nominated for her role as Serena Joy Waterford in the Hulu drama, in the category of best supporting actress in a series, limited series or TV movie.

She added of her son‘s interaction with the gadget, “It’s actually made for 6 months old and he’s already starting to utilize it. It has lights and stuff — anything with lights, they love the lights.

Ahead of the show, Strahovski shared a photo of herself and her baby boy looking out a window, writing alongside the post, “Starting off the Globes weekend right 👊🏼

The actress announced on Instagram Oct. 15 that she and husband Tim Loden had welcomed their first child. “My heart has melted into a billion pieces a thousand times already,” the new mom captioned her black-and-white mother-son photo.

We have been blessed with the greatest joy of our lives, our baby boy,” she continued. “Welcome to the world Peanut, your parents love you beyond measure and you are already my little dream boat. My heart has been stolen!

Source: people.com


December 11, 2018

One thing is for sure, Commander Fred has crapped the proverbial marital bed on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, especially after the profoundly disturbing scene last season that showed him putting his wayward book reading wife Serena Joy in her place…minus a digit.

Yvonne Strahovski’s chilling and conflicted turn as Serena Joy on Handmaid’s Tale has left all of us wondering her next move, as Season 3 will dangle a plethora of possibilities in this televised adaptation of Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s chilling gender dystopian nightmare that parallels a bit of real life, uncomfortably so for some.

In her former pre-Gilead existence, our pious media-savvy public speaker and author Serena was a rock star, a veritable muse, and architect of what Gilead was to be on paper, igniting the passion and desire within graspy little Fred, who wisely latched on to her star.

Cut to today in Gilead, where Fred is elevated in stature and makes sure all under him know that they are supplicants, even his wife, the one who literally shaped the matrix of which he is now part of the ruling class.

Will Serena tire of Fred’s hypocrisy, outright cheating, flirtatious ways, pedantic and paternalistic put-downs and finally join the resistance? That would be the most satisfying and in a sense, utterly predictable turn of events for those invested in this bleak yet addictive series.

More importantly, is she plotting his death after he cut off her pinky finger as punishment for reading in front of the assembled Gilead brass?

Or will her character capitulate and continue in her privileged oppressor role enjoying a protected life cloistered inside the mansion while pining for baby Holly/Nicole currently on the lam (thanks to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) who I hope we see again in season three) with her mum Offred/June?

Well, there’s lots at stake and we are well past the original source material Ms. Atwood put out in 1984. The original story now has some interesting potential outcomes. Which way, Serena Joy?

One thing is for sure, it seems evil always overplays it’s hand, eventually. Will the resistance organize enough to topple the hierarchy of Gilead and more importantly, will Serena Joy re-establish her sense of self-worth and her voice?

In real life, Strahovski is a new mother to a baby boy born this past October. She also narrowly escaped losing her home during the recent Malibu and California fires. Luckily she weathered the threat and has found time to do some great good with the Sierra Club as a spokesperson to boot.

We spoke with Yvonne about what is to come on the Hulu series and beyond.

Monsters and Critics: Serena Joy, she was the intellectual architect in so many ways for Gilead. And now Gilead has bitten this hand that’s helped build her…

Yvonne Strahovski: It is literal as well. Right? She’s lost a finger for standing up against it. Yeah, that’s really interesting that she does make that move to sort of take a stand against something that she was a part of creating in the first place.

A lot of people ask me, “What did Serena expect would happen in that moment?”

And I do think that perhaps she maybe thought that it wasn’t ever going to pass by the panel of men that were sitting there and listening to her. I’m sure there was hope that they would listen, but I think more than anything it was a moment for her where she was finally doing a good thing in her life, where she doesn’t normally do good things.

We know Serena to be very bitter and miserable and to do horrible things. This is such a moment where she was standing up for her daughter and for all the daughters in Gilead and the future of women in this society.

And I think it just felt good to just do something good, regardless of the outcome. And I think she was always willing to pay the price for it, even though I think she didn’t expect to.

M&C: I can see why. Because your character, Serena, really lashed out at Fred in anger when you guys were on the chase for pregnant Offred when she was hiding in that big, cold mansion. And he seemed chastened and cowered. He took it. That was the first time I think we saw your character really let loose on Fred.

Yvonne: Yeah.

Full interview: monstersandcritics.com