‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Elisabeth Moss on the Dark Material of Hulu’s Timely Series

     April 26, 2017


Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, the Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of life in the totalitarian society of Gilead, in what was formerly the United States. In this stark and frightening world that strips you of your individuality, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is one of the few remaining fertile women, forced into sexual servitude in an attempt to repopulate a world in which anyone could be a spy and you must fight to survive.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Elisabeth Moss (who is also a producer on the series) talked about why it took her over a month to decide whether to sign on for The Handmaid’s Tale, being on the exact same wavelength as the showrunner, not taking dark material home with her, how much more important the reaction to the series is to her because she’s so heavily involved, finding her own voice in this business, and Offred’s journey, this season. She also talked about returning to Top of the Lake for a second season, and why she wanted to make sure it would be different.


Image via Hulu

Collider: This material is not light fare. Because of that, did you have to really think about it, before signing on for something like this, or was there no way you could say no to this?

ELISABETH MOSS: Both. I thought about it a lot. I took over a month, I think, to decide. I was also working on the second season of Top of the Lake, at the time, so I was a little distracted. I was hesitant for a few reasons. Doing another TV show is, obviously, a commitment. The other thing for me was, what would the quality of the show be like? What kind of show would we be making? Were we going to shy away from that darkness and edginess, or were we going to be embracing it and pushing it? Would we be watering anything down or taking anything back? Were we going to be able to do justice to the book? How were we going to adapt the book? There were a million questions, and I just wanted it to be what it should be. And then, I spoke to (showrunner) Bruce [Miller] for an hour on the phone, and we just got along so well, right off the bat. We were just like girlfriends. Everything that I asked, he had the right answer for, and everything that I wanted to do, he wanted to do, down to the look of the show and the cinematography. Everything was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do! That’s amazing!” I asked to see the second script because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a really good pilot, and the second script was better than the first one. Eventually what it came down to was incredibly selfish. I could not stand the idea of anyone else doing it. I thought about someone else doing it and I had this stab of jealousy that was painful, and I was like, “I have to do it! I can’t say no!”

It’s such an incredible story and character, but it also seems like you have to be in a particular headspace for this.

MOSS: I’m not a method actor, at all. Also, I love doing dark shit and I love doing dramatic shit. Anything else is kind of boring. That’s what I look for and that’s what I want. I don’t take it personally. I don’t take it home. I don’t even take it off of set. I don’t even take it in between takes. I’m not that person. It’s just better for me to work a different way, so that wasn’t a problem. For me, it was like, are we going to make it dark enough. I wanted to make sure it was truthful.