How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Became the Year’s Sneakiest Emmy Nominee

TheWrap Emmy magazine: Only three episodes of the show were eligible, but the show’s 11 nominations included a best-director nod for Daina Reid, one of only nine women nominated for directing

An edited version of this story about “The Handmaid’s Tale” first ran in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” was not supposed to be a major Emmy player this year. After all, the Hulu drama wasn’t even eligible for series awards, or in the lead or supporting acting categories; its second season mostly aired in the spring of 2018 and was eligible last year, while Season 3 didn’t begin until after this year’s cutoff.

But it did air the three final episodes of Season 2 during this year’s eligibility period — and that made these “dangling episodes,” in Emmy parlance, eligible for individual awards for those specific episodes: directing awards, writing awards, guest-acting awards for performers who weren’t series regulars, that kind of thing.

And those three episodes landed a remarkable 11 Emmy nominations. They were honored for directing, acting, cinematography, costumes, production design, music, picture editing, sound mixing and the guest performances by Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones — pretty much everything they could be nominated for, which gave the series more noms than any nominee in Outstanding Drama Series except “Game of Thrones.”

“That’s really cool!” said directing nominee Daina Reid when told that the “Handmaid’s” haul outpaced all those shows that were eligible in more categories. “But I’m not surprised. Look, I’m biased because I worked on the show, but I already held it in such high regard even before I was involved.”

“Holly,” the episode for which Reid was nominated, was the first one she’d ever directed on the show, though she would direct one more in Season 2 and two in Season 3. The episode was a harrowing one in which June (Elisabeth Moss) flees to a barren, snowbound landscape and an empty house, and gives birth to a daughter alone.

But to hear Reid tell it, the biggest challenge wasn’t the subject matter or juggling the action with numerous flashbacks; instead, it was adapting to her new surroundings.

“I sound like a weak Australian who can’t handle the cold, but that was a shock,” she said. “I’d just come from Australia, where it was over 100 degrees — that’s what I’m used to. I’d never experienced cold like that, and it hit me physically.

“I remember seeing Elisabeth Moss come on the set, and thinking about how I had the most amazing opportunity to work on this show I’m a huge fan of, and here’s Elisabeth Moss and I can’t talk to her because I’m so cold. And I was obsessed that there were frozen boogers up my nose that I was sure everybody could see.”

She laughed. “But once I went out and got a proper Canadian jacket, instead of my Australian ski jacket, I was all right and I was able to go on that journey with Elisabeth.”

The nomination makes Reid one of only nine women nominated in the Emmys directing categories alongside 40 men — a paltry number, to be sure, even if it’s more than twice as many as the four female directors nominated last year. “It’s more than before, I guess,” said Reid. “But it’s a little depressing.”

The reason for the disparity, she said, is force of habit. “What I’ve experience in the past is that they’re looking for what they think is economic safety. It’ll come down to two directors, you and the bloke, and unconsciously they choose the man because they think, ‘It’s a lot of money, and he’s the safe choice.’

“You get that happening all around the world, and the result is that more men get to direct stuff and more men get nominated. But I’m here to tell you that the safe choice isn’t the man — the safe choice is me.”

Read more of the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

EmmyWrap Down to the Wire cover