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Praise be, when it comes to The Handmaid’s Tale, there is much more story to tell.
Hulu’s Emmy-winning drama just released its fourth season and has already been renewed for a fifth. Beyond that, the show’s future looks bright and ripe for storytelling to showrunner Bruce Miller.
“I certainly don’t [have a number of seasons in mind],” Miller told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of season four (which released its first three episodes hours early on Tuesday). “I always thought I did and that, I think, is a pandemic change. I thought I had a beginning, a middle and an end — and I still feel like I very much have an end — it’s just that I’m finding more interesting paths along the way and more interesting things to do as we move towards more fascinating parts of the story.”
The Handmaid’s Tale, which last aired in 2019, had to adapt to COVID-era protocol and restrictions when it returned to film the fourth season. And for Miller, the experience of creating a season amid the pandemic, particularly with his star and fellow executive producer Elisabeth Moss, had an impact on his long-term outlook for the series.
“When I said that I’ll do the show as long as Lizzy [Moss] wants to do it, that is born of the pandemic and born of the work she’s done this year,” says Miller of his lead actress, who stepped behind the camera for the first time and directed three episodes this season. “She deserves to have me there writing for her as long as she wants. She earned that this year. I will write beautiful words for her to say for as long as she wants to say them.”
The fourth season of the Margaret Atwood adaptation picks up where season three left off. As the trailers have shown, Moss’ June survives her injuries from the cliffhanger finale — wounds that she had sustained while successfully liberating a plane full of Gilead children to Canada. The 10 new episodes begin with June and her fellow Handmaids on the run as they fight for both freedom and justice, and will continue to explore life after Gilead for the characters who have already made it to the border, including Moira (Samira Wiley), Luke (O. T. Fagbenle), Emily (Alexis Bledel) and the Waterfords (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski), who were arrested at the end of season three.
“Certainly, as you do research into what a life turns into after all kind of trauma, all of that is really interesting to explore,” says Miller of the potential for both his large ensemble of Gilead characters and beyond. “I really do feel like now I’m starting to think about a wider world and what other people would be doing; what other interesting stories might be happening to Marthas, to wives, to girls and boys.”
And with Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel, The Testaments, also coming to Hulu, Miller says he is beginning to think about the role his protagonist might play in the follow-up series. “I’m hoping that we move onto The Testaments, but that it isn’t as much of a numbers game of, ‘When do you want to end this?’ Because now I do feel like this is just the beginning of a bunch of interesting threads, so June will probably be part of those stories as well.”
While Miller notes that discussions are ongoing about what that broader future will look like, he stresses that this year was not the time to nail anything down: “It was a hard year for everybody just getting through making this TV show well. And I think, rightly so, we all focused on that.”
He continued, “So, June’s story may not completely wrap up with The Handmaid’s Tale, I don’t know. I have an ending for June’s story; whether that comes in The Handmaid’s Tale or comes when we’re in another show may be a question. But, I read the novel; I know how it ends.”
The Handmaid’s Tale is now streaming the first three episodes of season four on Hulu and will continue to release episodes weekly on Wednesdays.
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