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.
Watch the video above.