The Handmaid’s Tale’s Yvonne Strahovski Made Me Believe in Ghosts.

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As far as ways in which a photoshoot can go, I never expected to start one with a ghost story. But that’s exactly what happened when I met Yvonne Strahovski in Beverly Hills, just days before she headed to Banff Springs—a castle turned hotel nestled at the base of the Canadian Rockies. It’s stunning (like a postcard!) but also haunted. I know because I’ve stayed there, and felt obligated to share my superstitions. I have to admit, I was surprised when Strahovski started telling me an anecdote of her “many” revenant encounters (more on that below!) that were so convincing, even the reluctant believer in me felt swayed.

But we finally regress to talk of more tellurian trepidations stories. Like that of her character, Serena Joy Waterford: the stoic, often-villainous infertile wife to The Commander in Hulu’s original series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Her life in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian society, Gilead, shares a scary (more so than ghost stories!) resemblance to Trump’s America. Strahovski tells me of how things changed on set post-election, how she often struggled to relate to her character’s polar-opposite views, and how she chills out after those intense scenes.

*That* ghost story:
My dog is a mama’s boy, and I had two friends over one night. It was very late, probably midnight, and I had just started to renovate the house. I know that the man who built it had died pretty recently—not in the house. My dog just kind of looked over at an open space; it was the kitchen-dining-living area leading into the master bedroom end. He never leaves my side, but got up and started stalking over to the doorway like a jaguar. I have never, in the 10 years I have had him, seen him do that. He walked across the room, growling, and stopped about 3 feet in front of the doorway and looked up as if somebody was standing there, and growled like a crazy dog for two minutes. We all froze. He just kind of shook it off and walked back over. My friends were like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ There are many more, but that was one that had us all shaken.

How things changed on set post-election:
Something changed for me, personally. It was a very strange experience, having started this show and knowing that this was being conceived pre-election. We were filming while they were campaigning; the election happened in November, and we were still shooting until mid-February, so we were well into his presidency. The Women’s March came about during those first few months. It was really powerful and confusing to be playing one of the authority figures that is, in essence, a villain.

I’m drawing these parallels between what was going on in real-life politics to my character, while at the same time being me and going to the Women’s March, and feeling like I couldn’t relate to Serena Joy at all in those moments.

The eerie similarities between fiction and real life:
It was a very strange journey of our mirroring life. How amazing has it been to be a part of something that really has such strength and power in affecting people. Not only have we reached the heights of great entertainment because it’s so beautifully written, shot, directed and acted, but we have also crashed through boundaries into real land, where we can have real conversations with people who are truly, deeply affected by the show and alarmed. It seems to me, from the conversations that I’ve had with many people, that it speaks to people’s fears about what could happen and what is happening. You hear headlines about women’s rights and what women are suppose[d] to do with their bodies, and men [are] discussing that in a room—there are no females present. It’s alarming and you can’t help but draw direct parallels. You can’t help it.

How the silence was almost more important than the dialogue in her scenes:
I just loved all of the nuances in between the dialogue. It just seemed to be so ripe with detail. I could imagine every twitch, every breath meaning something in between the spaces in the dialogue. I love that when you’re watching actors. I love the subtext. It’s always about the subtext.

Her way of chilling out after intense scenes:
I go to Lake Ontario. I go to the lake’s edge, and I ride my bike up and down that lakeside. That’s how I discovered all the parks [in Toronto]. It was hard, though. I spent a lot of time trying to get into Serena’s headspace. She is so brutal. I think (not that this is justifiable) I can see why someone would abuse their power in that way, because there’s no other outlet. She, too, even though she put herself there and only had herself to blame, has to try to survive.


Yvonne Strahovski Says ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ ‘Feels So Close to Home’ in Trump Era

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As she cruelly controls and manipulates Elisabeth Moss’ character Offred, Serena Joy is commonly perceived as a villain on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and actress Yvonne Strahovski agrees that her character is a bad person.

One thing I really struggled with was to relate to her to begin with and turn my judgmental self off because I don’t agree with what she is doing,” the actress said in an interview with TheWrap. “It was really about peeling away all the judgment and seeing who she is on the inside.

In the book we don’t get to explore Serena Joy’s backstory [as a televangelist who advocated for women to return to traditional family values] as much as we do on the television show, so it was important to try to humanize this villain … to try and feel for her as well,” Strahovski continued.

Hulu’s groundbreaking adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel was filmed during the presidential election last November, and airs in the subsequent aftermath and the dawn of the Trump era. Parallels between Atwood’s fictional theocratic military dictatorship of the Republic of Gilead and Donald Trump’s America have not been lost on viewers, the cast or even the author herself.

It was really astounding fascinating to watch things unfold in real life in politics … the derogatory comments that Trump made about women and all the fallout from that,” Strahovski, who is Australian-born to Polish parents, told TheWrap. “Making the show pre-election and then post-election, and then realizing as they are editing it how real and how topical this show is going to be.

Earlier this week, “The Handmaid’s Tale” even inspired abortion bill protestors to dress in its signature red robes and white bonnets in opposition of a proposed state legislation in Ohio.

I think what is so great is that the show is sparking very real conversations about substantial things we need to talk about in today’s society,” Strahovski said.

The show talks about people’s real fears in the world and here in the States, it is alarming to watch. I myself sit at home and I know what is happening [on the Hulu series], I can’t help to feel alarmed about what is going on as it feels so close to home — it feels too close. This was originally a story about a future world. But what the show does really well is show how present that future is — it’s now.

As for the complexities of Serena Joy, who went from being involved in writing the laws of the Republic to being subservient to her husband, Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), Strahovski said: “This idea of being stripped of so many things you would have a right to … women weren’t allowed to read or write in this society. She was a writer and a spokeswoman — then she had that taken away from her.

I see this boiling pot of water with this lid on it … that was the image I kept hold of her as there’s no outlet in Gilead,” she added.


Remote Controlled: Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski on Parallels Between ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and Trump’s America

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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:

‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Cast and Boss on Eerie Parallels to Trump’s America

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The election “was horrible for the world, but great for me,” executive producer Bruce Miller says, as Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes also talk about the series’ relevance.
The fascist themes in The Handmaid’s Tale, MGM Television and Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, gave it an organic (albeit disconcerting) publicity boost in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election. Showrunner Bruce Miller’s drama dismantles the familiar America into Gilead, a futuristic but simplified world where fertility is currency and the few women capable of bearing children are forced into sexual servitude for affluent couples. At the center is Offred, one such “handmaid” played by Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss. Per Hulu, the drama’s April 26 debut became the streamer’s most watched series premiere, earning it a swift renewal. Yet, for the team behind the series, the totalitarian society onscreen too closely parallels aspects of an America where President Trump has rolled back orders protecting women’s rights in the workplace and funding for reproductive health. (Hillary Clinton is among those who have cited the show’s timeliness.) During a lively April 21 conversation with THR, Miller, Moss and castmembers Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes explored the series’ relevance and what they hope viewers will learn from it.

What’s the biggest pressure in adapting a beloved book?
BRUCE MILLER Not screwing it up. Any time you take something this popular that people have devoted so much of their time and attention and heart to, you just don’t want to ruin people’s perception of the book.

Your shoot in Toronto began in September. How did the presidential election affect production?SAMIRA WILEY There was a feeling from the beginning that what we were doing was important and relevant already.

MILLER It was horrible for the world but great for me. People were all of a sudden saying the venomous things that they had always thought out loud — things I didn’t think people thought anymore in my little bubble. It made me change one or two things, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.

YVONNE STRAHOVSKI [Fiennes and I] are the villains. Suddenly Trump is elected, and all this negative behavior comes to light. I start seeing these parallels between [my character’s] actions and what Trump’s doing. It’s in a weird way an inspiration but also a horrid parallel.

ELISABETH MOSS The great thing that Yvonne did is bring that vulnerability. I had times when we’d do a scene together and look at each other, and all of a sudden we were just two women in different — both terrible — circumstances.

Full interview:

Yvonne Strahovski talks about playing all the nasty ‘B’ words contained in her ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ character

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The sixth episode of Hulu’s celebrated series “The Handmaid’s Tale” dropped this week and, finally, we were given some information about the lives of the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy, pre-Gilead.

And it was pretty clear from what we saw that Serena Joy had a lot more going on than her husband and, in fact, might be rightly viewed as the architect of a society that eventually would have no place for her as a leader.

Yvonne Strahovski, the Australian actress who has done such a fine job of bringing some empathy and humanity to one of the show’s primary villains, stopped by The Times recently for a video interview, talking about what a trip it was to go back in time with the character.

It felt like we weren’t part of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ production any more,” Strahovski says. “It felt like such a leap to go into imagining what Serena Joy might have been like pre-Gilead. I spent so much time investing in this brittle, bitter, brutal — all the ‘B’ words, the nasty ‘B’ words, and there’s one more — investing so much of that into present-day Serena that the leap felt very huge going back into time.

The episode’s most pointed line came when the Mexican ambassador asked Serena Joy — the author of a treatise on “domestic feminism” titled “A Woman’s Place” — what it was like to live in a society in which women were no longer allowed to read her book.

What makes it complicated for Serena is that she is one of the people who wanted it to be this way,” Strahovski says. “Like with any movement, there was some pure, good integrity behind what she was trying to do. But somewhere along the line in constructing this new society, she lost her own voice as a woman and was told to step out of the room. You don’t have a voice any more. You’re not allowed to speak.

Strahovski also spoke about what to expect in the season’s final four episodes and how watching Lena Dunham’s “Girls” was the perfect palate cleanser to playing Serena Joy.


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