10:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 2: All the Details (So Far)
In looking toward the future, the creative minds behind The Handmaid's Tale faced a significant obstacle as they began sketching out season two: the past.
"The biggest challenge was season one, honestly," showrunner Bruce Miller tells The Hollywood Reporter about the season ahead. "With season one, we have been so lucky that it's been so successful, well-reviewed and well-regarded by so many people. It's wonderful, and also terrifying. It can put a lot of pressure on you. You don't want to mess up something that's working."
Fans will have the chance to see how Miller and the rest of the Handmaid's team overcame that problem when season two of the award-winning drama premieres April 25. Starring Elisabeth Moss and based in a near future where America has been replaced with the misogynistic dystopian nation of Gilead, here's everything we know about the second season of The Handmaid's Tale, so far. This page will be updated as more details come to light.
Going Book-Free, to a Degree
A common narrative currently surrounding Handmaid's is that the show is no longer adapting the book from author Margaret Atwood; that season two will be telling its own entirely original story. Not so, according to showrunner Bruce Miller, who maintains that the book, and Atwood herself as both a literal and figurative presence, will continue to fuel the direction of the show.
"People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller tells THR. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. It's maybe handled in an outline, but it's still there in Margaret's novel. We're not going beyond the novel; we're just covering territory she covered quickly, a bit more slowly."
"She's our guiding star, and always has been," Miller says of Atwood's continued involvement with the series. "We're always trying to make sure the 'Atwoodness' of the show stays front and center. Even though we're going beyond the story that's covered in the book, in some ways, we're still very much in the world of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale."
On the Run
In terms of season two's story, fans can expect immediate ramifications of the season one finale's big revelation: Offred is pregnant. In announcing details for the sophomore year of The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu revealed the season will be shaped by Offred's pregnancy, and additional details from Miller also reveal that Offred will be dealing with this major life change while on the run.
"So much of the season is about motherhood," says Moss, speaking earlier this year at the TV Critics press tour. "It's a bit of a ticking time bomb. And the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. ... It's a dark season. I would say, arguably, it's darker than season one — if that's possible."
An Expanded Universe
What's more, the scope of The Handmaid's Tale is set to expand in the year ahead. In the first season, much of the action was set in and around a dystopian Boston, with one storyline reaching as far north as the "Little America" neighborhood of Toronto in Canada. For season two, The Handmaid's Tale will venture into as yet uncharted territory, albeit territory that's been spoken about numerous times in the show already: the Colonies, swaths of radioactive wastelands in Gilead, formerly North America — considered a death sentence for those who are sent there. The second episode of season two will be set in the Colonies, according to Miller.
"Creatively, the biggest hurdle was trimming down [stories]," he says, speaking to the creative obstacles in designing season two. "There are so many interesting places to go and things to follow in Margaret Atwood's world, that that was our big problem. We kept a list going in season one of places we talked about or mentioned as really wanting to see — like the colonies, or Little America in Toronto. The list was way too long for one season. That was the biggest challenge, creatively. It's as much about what not to do as it is about what you end up including in the season."
The second season of The Handmaid's Tale will add several new characters, as well as more than a couple of high-profile names.
Emmy-winning actress Cherry Jones (24, Transparent) will guest star in season two as Holly, the mother to June/Offred, a pivotal character from Atwood's novel on which the show is based. It's currently unknown if she will appear only in flashback scenes, or if she will have a role in the present-day storyline as well. According to THR's exclusive announcement of the casting decision, Jones signed on for The Handmaid's Tale after receiving a personal plea from star Elisabeth Moss.
"She's 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 about Jones' casting. "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."
Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei also has been tapped to guest star on the upcoming season of The Handmaid's Tale. Details surrounding her character are sparse: She's the wife of a commander, plays a role in the Colonies, and will first appear in the season's second episode. It's unknown if she will recur beyond the episode.
"We had very specific conversations about this character and her relationship with her religion, with Gilead — those kinds of things," Miller tells THR about Tomei's casting. "It was great, to have a conversation with Marisa about faith and what it means and how it can keep you buoyed in a really difficult situation. It was absolutely fascinating. She's such a smart woman who has had so many different interesting life experiences. It was a pleasure talking with her. I would have had those conversations with her forever if she wanted."
Better Call Saul and Carnivale alum Clea DuVall will appear in season two of The Handmaid's Tale as well, playing the guest-starring role of Sylvia. She is the wife of Emily (Alexis Bledel), and the co-parent of their young son. As the Gilead regime takes control of America, the family attempts to escape to Canada, only to confront more restrictions and obstacles. It's unknown how many episodes DuVall will appear in.
Beyond the newly introduced characters, some recurring figures from the first season have been promoted to full-fledged series regular status for season two: Alexis Bledel as Emily, a powerful role for which the actress won an Emmy award for outstanding guest actress in a drama; and Amanda Brugel, who plays Rita, a servant for the Waterford family.
Timing of the Tale
In terms of when to expect The Handmaid's Tale's return, season two will hit Hulu on April 25 with two new episodes. Subsequent episodes will be released on Wednesdays. Season two will span 13 episodes total, three episodes longer than season one. As for how long The Handmaid's Tale will last beyond a mostly book-free season two? According to Miller, viewers will have Gilead within them for many years to come.
"I roughed it out to about 10 seasons when I was first working on it," says Miller. "I see a world beyond [the current one]. I would watch an episode about the Nuremberg trials after Gilead falls. There are lots of worlds you think of: 'I would love that season — seasons eight, nine or 10, where everything has changed so much.' But my arc is still very much the arc of the novel, which is the arc of this one woman's experience in Gilead at this time, and her recollections that paint this picture of what it was like and what the experience of this world was like, which really is still the book."
What are your hopes for Handmaid's Tale season two? Sound off in the comments, and keep checking with THR.com/HandmaidsTale for more coverage of the Hulu series.