'The Handmaid's Tale' Enlists Cherry Jones for Pivotal Season 2 Role (Exclusive)

"Cherry was my fantasy choice [for the part]. We sent her the script, she wrote a lovely email back and she said yes almost immediately," star Elisabeth Moss tells THR.
Courtesy of Hulu
Cherry Jones on Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Blessed be. Following its Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning first season, Hulu's The Handmaid’s Tale has cast an integral character from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel for its upcoming sophomore cycle.

Emmy winner Cherry Jones (24) will guest-star as Holly, the feminist mother to June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss) who, up until now, has only been mentioned in passing during flashback scenes. She will appear in episode three. Check out a first-look photo of her Handmaid's Tale appearance above. (As season two is still in production, it's unclear if Jones will return for more than one episode.)

Holly is described as an outspoken feminist and a judgmental but loving mother to June. In Atwood’s novel on which the MGM Television drama is based, Offred often reflects on her mother’s feminist causes and how, in the past, she found them to be extreme — an opinion that slowly shifts as the world of Gilead takes shape. In that version of the story, Holly’s precise present-day fate remains unclear to Offred, but she surfaces during a Handmaid’s training video shown to the girls at the center, hinting that she wound up in The Colonies where radiation probably killed her.

As the season two trailer reveals, The Colonies (where Madeline Brewer’s Janine resurfaces) factor more heavily into the second season. But what remains unclear is whether Holly will appear in the past- or present-day storyline, or if she'll play a role in The Colonies' world building.

Plans to incorporate June’s mother into the story have been developing since the first season, but showrunner Bruce Miller was unable to find appropriate time to include a character with such a large impact.

“We've been thinking about her a lot. June's mother is a big character in the book and representative of an interesting kind of feminism that was seemingly more of that time,” Miller told THR midway through the first season. “June's memories of her mother and her activism are very vibrant in the book, so we've been talking about her from day one of season one, and it just didn't seem like enough time to do her justice. In season two, we mention her a little bit, but we just don't want to short-shrift her story. It's a story we want to tell — she was one of the most memorable characters.”

Casting June’s mother was of utmost importance to Moss, who is also deeply involved in Handmaid's as an executive producer. The actress maintains that she had been asking about and pushing for casting on the role since the beginning, ultimately bringing Jones’ name to the table.

“She's a terrific literary character who’s now going to come to life for the first time, and so it was important to me who that was,” Moss tells THR. “I was obsessed with it for weeks and bothering everybody about it — way before anybody cared to talk about it. Cherry was my fantasy choice [for the part]. We sent her the script, she wrote a lovely email back and she said yes almost immediately.”

Jones joins previously announced season-two guest stars Sydney Sweeney (Pretty Little Liars) and Marisa Tomei, whom Miller said would appear in a Colonies-related storyline in the second episode of the season.

For the Tony-winning Jones, meanwhile, The Handmaid's Tale becomes her latest TV role following ABC's American Crime, Netflix's Black Mirror and Amazon's Transparent. The role brings her back into the Hulu family following miniseries 11.22.63. She's repped by WME.

The Handmaid’s Tale returns with its first two of 13 new episodes on Wednesday, April 25, with new installments unrolling weekly following its premiere.

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