'The Handmaid's Tale' Star Elisabeth Moss Says Offred's Not Just a Victim

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - 7:52PM
The Handmaids Tale
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - 7:52PM
'The Handmaid's Tale' Star Elisabeth Moss Says Offred's Not Just a Victim
Hulu

Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale in 1985 - over thirty years later, the sci-fi best-seller still manages to read like a cautionary tale. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) plays heroine Offred in front of the camera and the show's producer behind it. Being the face of the new Hulu show which starts today, she spoke with Collider about taking on the project and doing the book justice.

According to Moss, she sat on the fence for a while when first offered the role, taking a month to join because she wanted to make sure the show would do justice to the book. Specifically, she wanted Offred, whose name is indicative of which Commander she belongs to ("of Fred"), to be portrayed as a survivor and not just a victim:

Opening quote
"What's interesting is that naturally you'd look at it as she's the victim, so it was important for us to have complexity in that and show how maybe she doesn't always do the right thing. She has to become a part of the world, in order to get out of it. She has to join her enemy, in order to escape. You're going to see her completely fall apart, several times, and each time she'll get up a little stronger…She's a real person. She's you and she's me. She's what we would be like, in that situation…You're going to see her find strength, but not in the way you would expect, and in a very real way. She's not going to grab a gun or a sword and fight her way out. That's not real. She will find her way out, in a way that is very truthful."
Closing quote


The story of The Handmaid's Tale takes place in the near future in which a fundamentalist regime obliterates congress and takes control of the United States (renaming it "The Republic of Gilead"), and follows the plight of Offred, one of many women to be forced into sexual servitude for the new military Commanders. Separated from her family, information, and without any rights, she dreams of escaping and reuniting with her family.

Like most classic science fiction, it draws from present day issues and anxieties, and those issues happen to carry over unsettlingly well from the 1980s book into the new show. Moss addressed the show's timing and how many are comparing the infringement of women's rights today to those in the book:

Opening quote
"This totalitarian fundamentalist regime that exists as Gilead has an even greater relevance now, in our country. It's not so crazy, the things that are happening in the book. That's scary. At the same time, we don't want to take ourselves too seriously. We don't work for non-profit organizations. We're a television show. It has to be entertaining. But it is nice to be able to do something, as an actor, that maybe sheds some light on a situation…

As Americans, we feel like it's so much more relevant and present because there are certain things happening here that remind us of things in the book, but these things have been happening, all over the world, for a long, long time, with rights being infringed upon. It's important to remember that. We're not just telling an American story. We're telling a global story."
Closing quote
 

The first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale premieres on Hulu April 26, 2017, with new episodes being released every Wednesday following. 

Science Fiction
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The Handmaids Tale