'Handmaid's Tale' Team Talks Season 2 and Trump's Influence
The MGM/Hulu drama saw elements of its own dystopian vision unfold on election night and beyond.
As many Americans were still heading to the polls, Elisabeth Moss set out for the bar at Toronto's Drake Hotel with director Reed Morano and a few others from The Handmaid's Tale. It was the evening of Nov. 8, and Moss wasn't about to spend it studying her lines for the following day's work. "My God," she says, "I don't go out, especially when I'm working, but I thought, 'This is worth going out for; we're going to elect the first female president.' "
As the night wore on, it became clear Hillary Clinton would not be the next U.S. president — and the dystopian drama they'd been filming for months started to feel far less fictional than it had mere hours earlier. "It was like the twilight zone," says Morano. "Lizzie and I were looking at each other like, 'Oh, my God, it's happening.' "
The following morning, many were back on set, shooting another politically charged scene in which the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) says to Moss' Offred, "Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some." The line hit like a ton of bricks.
The Handmaid's Tale would premiere nearly six months later, and the parallels in Trump's America became that much more eerie. Before long, the drama was regularly lighting up social media (#feminism and #resist quickly became trending topics on Twitter), and the show's robe-and-bonnet costume had become the go-to uniform for women's rights activists around the country. In fact, 30 Planned Parenthood volunteers donned it and descended on the Capitol building two by two to protest the Senate GOP's health care bill in June, and it wasn't the first time. "The fact that we can provide a voice for these protesters and that we can be a part of the conversation in that way feels incredibly powerful," says executive producer Warren Littlefield, who reveals he's exploring the idea of dual citizenship as a political statement, a possibility given how much time he spends shooting in Canada.
Looking ahead to the future of Handmaid's, showrunner Bruce Miller and the series' majority-female writing staff already are hard at work on season two. Moss suggests there will be more humor and lightness mixed in, while Miller argues they can now lean in to things that feel grounded in this world in ways that gave him pause last year. "Before, you may not have been so eager," he says, "just because you weren't sure that people are going to get the connection or that it's going to feel resonant and not just depressing."
As hard as it is to believe, given how often art has imitated life on the series, nearly all of the first season had been written by early November. (The one noteworthy postelection cut: a line that was too close to "Make America Great Again.") "I remember hearing how Stephen Colbert told his staff after the election, 'If you ever were worried that you weren't doing something important, stop worrying,' and that was the same feeling that we had on the set," says Miller. "I said, 'Look around, if you ever thought what you were doing didn't matter to the world and to the conversation, stop thinking that way because today it matters a lot.' "
This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.