Yvonne Strahovski Source

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July 7, 2019

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Yvonne Strahovski scooped Emmy, Golden Globe and Critics’ Circle nominations for her star turn as the villainous Serena Joy in The Handmaid’s Tale, which famously tackles the role of patriarchy and religion in suppressing women’s rights.
And the Sydney-born actor is happy to comment on the increasing similarities between the fictional dystopia and our current reality: “There are things happening now that directly reflect the themes of the show. It’s a scary world we’re living in,” she says.
Of the current debate raging in the US over women’s reproductive rights, she says, “No one and no law has the right to make a decision on behalf of the woman.

Yvonne shot Season two of Handmaid’s Tale during the first few months of her own pregnancy—and the hardworking star then went on to take a lead role in upcoming Aussie thriller Angel of Mine while still pregnant. “I’m very grateful to be a part of a show like The Handmaid’s Tale with such a female-driven storyline,” she says. “That’s why this film was so nice to work on as it’s as equally female-saturated.

I have to take my hat off to the producers and [director] Kim [Farrant], who knew I was pregnant going into it and were still willing to take that chance,” says Yvonne.

And in her turn, she’s just as happy to support other women at work, requesting a female photographer for her ELLE cover shoot.

Season three of The Handmaid’s Tale saw her switching between devious villain on-screen and devoted mum in real life: “I run to set and tune into Serena—a miserable, bitter character—then I run back to the trailer to breastfeed as happy as can be staring down at my son,” she says.

Life as a working mum is a “bit of a travelling circus,” says Yvonne. And it’s a life “the most amazing husband on the planet” makes possible.
He’s the most amazing dad,” Yvonne gushes about her actor/producer husband Tim Loden. “We’ve had to become a strong team and I’m so grateful to have him and that I didn’t have to hire someone I didn’t know to look after my baby. And he feels grateful to have the time. It’s not that common to have your partner be able to stay at home. It’s been really special.

But parenthood isn’t all roses: the LA-based actor says, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified just like every other parent is of [my child] growing up in a country where gun culture is rampant and we have mass shootings every day. Thinking about school, where children are being affected, it’s a very scary position for a parent to be in.
That’s not her only fear for the future: speaking to the theme of ELLE’s August issue, climate change, Yvonne says, “I think we’re at a critical point where if we don’t make some hard decisions and if the people in power don’t make a plan to move forward, we’re in danger. We can do so much better.

Her next challenge? A lead role in Stateless, the TV drama produced by and starring Cate Blanchett, which tackles Australian immigration detention centres. If anyone can carry that tricky topic off as flawlessly as she does the Bottega Veneta outfit on ELLE’s cover, it’s Yvonne.

Source: elle.com.au


July 4, 2019

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If it wasn’t challenging enough to play an infertile wife, who has to appear on camera watching the ritualised rape of young women by her rich husband in order to bear children for her, imagine doing that while pregnant. The best actors in the world would struggle – Yvonne Strahovski included.

The 36-year-old Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actress, who plays the menacing Serena Joy in the extraordinary The Handmaid’s Tale series – barren wife of Fred and mistress of Handmaid Offred – discovered she was pregnant with her first child just over half way through the filming of season two. Even now, despite the fact that her son is now nine months old, the memory of it is still quite affecting. “I really just didn’t want my character, my job, or anything to do with The Handmaid’s Tale infiltrating this baby inside of me,” the Australian star tells GLAMOUR exclusively.

So, I was always envisioning him, growing inside of me, separate in this safety bubble that nothing could touch,” she says. “No matter what kind of emotion I was portraying on camera, I just really tried to separate it. I mean, that’s really all I could do.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, though, that a show with so much power over its audience should have such an effect on one of its own stars. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the darkest, most gripping and genuinely society-altering shows of the past decade, pushing its actors into often unexplored territory and inspiring an unprecedented uprising of real-life activism among its devotees.

Based on the novel of the same name by the Booker Prize-winning and global bestselling author Margaret Atwood, the story is set (just like the novel), in a near-future society where a radical political group has overthrown the US government to create Gilead. In this new state, all women and minorities have been subjugated, and because environmental pollution has caused large-scale infertility, the fertile women left have been abducted and turned into Handmaids. They are then sent to the homes of rich commanders who ritually rape them once a month, in order for them to bear children for their wives.

The show is in turns desperately heartbreaking, brutal, rage-inducing and disturbing. But, also, utterly compelling and – set against the backdrop of #MeToo, Trump’s presidency and the ongoing battle for women’s rights globally (the number of US states imposing new and restrictive laws on abortion, and even in the UK, the near total ban on it in Northern Ireland) – uncomfortably prescient. It’s sometimes hard to believe that Atwood’s original novel was written in 1984. This September, 35 years on, she’s releasing a sequel, The Testaments, which is likely to be just as searing a takedown of society – present and future.

Strahovski herself says she feels privileged, despite the psychological challenges of keeping her pregnancy sacred, to be part of such a seminal show. “It’s always been incredible how moved people are by it. I mean, moved emotionally and moved in a disgusted way – and everything in between! It really does speak to people on so many different levels. Only a few TV shows that can say that they do that.

Full interview: glamourmagazine.co.uk


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


August 21, 2018

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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.

Source: thewrap.com