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A week after sending an audition tape for an American dramedy, Chuck, in 2007, Australia-born actress Yvonne Strahovski received a call saying she’d landed one of the lead roles, a CIA agent, in the pilot. She booked a round-trip flight to Los Angeles but would never use the return ticket.
“Lo and behold, one thing led to another, and that was that. Here we are 14 years later,” says Strahovski, 38. Her career can be described as a steady trajectory of success, including The Handmaid’s Tale — season four wraps June 16 — and The Tomorrow War, which marks her first starring role in a big-budget popcorn pic. In the film, out July 2 on Amazon, Strahovski brings Sigourney Weaver-esque nerves of steel to her role (opposite Chris Pratt) as an alien-battling scientist.
Strahovski — who followed Chuck with a turn on Dexter as the titular serial killer’s girlfriend — largely eschews the Hollywood spotlight. “I just love the outdoors and camping,” says the actress, adding that she and her husband and their young son “took some of the best family nature trips that I’ve ever had” during pandemic-induced downtime.
It was her casting on Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale that garnered the actress her first Emmy nomination (in 2018) for her star turn as the villainous but complicated Serena Joy Waterford, who finds the tables flipped on her in the latest season. “Serena is definitely villain-flavored but with a twist,” says Strahovski. “It’s always been interesting to watch June [Elisabeth Moss’ character] and Serena in opposition to each other. They are two women living in an oppressive society at opposite ends of the spectrum.” And that’s set to continue when Handmaid’s returns for season five.
In building her career, “I’ve really fought for the opportunities that come about where I’m not pigeonholed. I’m thrilled with the sort of scope I’ve been given,” says the actress, who starred last year in the Australian limited series Stateless as a woman unlawfully detained under Australia’s controversial mandatory detention program for all non-citizens without valid visas.
Growing up, Strahovski made home movies as a tween with her dad’s camera — her parents were Polish immigrants — and starred in high school plays before attending the Theatre Nepean, an actor-training institution at the University of Western Sydney.
The calm, collected actress isn’t worked up over the fact that The Tomorrow War isn’t getting a big-screen release. Paramount and Skydance were set to open the sci-fi epic in theaters last year but had to delay its release because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, Amazon Studios picked up the movie in a megadeal valued at $200 million.
“So much has evolved during the pandemic. In a lot of ways, it might actually have more eyeballs on it because people can watch it at home,” she says. “I feel like people are really aching for something of this kind of movie that has such an old-school kind of super action. We’ve been in isolation for the past year, and there’s this cool theme in the film about all of us coming together and standing up for one common goal, which is a really cool parallel between what we’ve been all experiencing in real life.”
This story first appeared in the June 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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