Elisabeth Moss & Margaret Atwood discuss new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ series

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For months now, I’ve been marveling at the brilliance and foresight of Hulu. Last year, they greenlit a miniseries adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The book has already been made into a movie, but the miniseries promises to be a more complete adaptation of the dystopian classic. The miniseries stars Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, Offred, a “handmaid” in America’s dystopian future, which is represented as an oppressive theocracy where women have little to no rights. Offred is one of a minority of fertile women left in the country, and these handmaids are given to the rich, powerful and well-connected men so that those men can have offspring. It’s a story about feminism, about reproductive rights, and about how quickly women’s rights can be stripped away. The series debuts on April 26th on Hulu. Here’s one of the trailers:

Shiveringly good. The early reviews are amazing too, and Moss is already on many critics’ shortlists for #AllTheAwards. To promote the series, Atwood and Moss sat down for a discussion with Time Magazine – you can read the full Time piece here. Some highlights:

Atwood on the show not being specific to this moment in history: “The control of women and babies has been a part of every repressive regime in history. This has been happening all along. I don’t take it lightly when a politician says something like a pregnancy can’t result from a rape because a woman’s body knows it and rejects it. There’s an under­current of this [type of thinking]. And then it rises to the surface sometimes. But The Handmaid’s Tale is always relevant, just in different ways in different political contexts. Not that much has changed.

Moss on the reality of the story: “You’ve said a lot, and I’ve repeated often, that everything that happened in The Handmaid’s Tale has happened… And now we’re at a time when our climate is what it is in America and in the world… One of the things when we first started talking about making the show was whether this was something that could be plausible. I love it, but is this something the public is going to buy into? And then unfortunately, six months later, it became a hell of a lot more plausible.

Feminism & the roles Moss is drawn to: “A question I get asked a lot in inter­views: Do you gravitate toward feminist roles? This is a question I struggle to answer because I don’t necessarily feel like they are feminist roles. I feel like they’re interesting women. The Handmaid’s Tale is considered one of the great feminist novels. I actually consider it a human novel about human rights, not just women’s rights.

Atwood on women’s rights: Well, women’s rights are human rights unless you have decided that women aren’t human. So those are your choices. If women are human, then women’s rights are part of human rights… When we use that word, feminism, I always want to know: What do you mean by it? What are we talking about? If the person can describe what they mean by the word, then we can talk about whether I am one of those or not.

Atwood on the relevancy of the story: “We’re heading into a situation in which health coverage is going to be removed for pregnancy and childbirth. At the same time, you’re going to force women to have babies by making it so they can’t get abortions. That’s like being drafted into the army. Except at least in the army, you get three square meals a day and a place to sleep. You’re not left out on the street. If you’re going to take away women’s choice and not give them an adequate wage or healthcare, what would you call that? I’d call it a bad deal.

[From Time]

Just reading about this makes me wonder if the next time there’s a Women’s March, someone on the other side will find a way to link it to terrorism or something. That’s the next step – it’s obvious which powerful men hate women. Now all that’s left for them to do is find some way to brand all free-thinking women “terrorists.” And then it will be game over. Depressing, I know. But it’s how we need to think about things these days.

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Photos courtesy of Hulu.

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65 Responses to “Elisabeth Moss & Margaret Atwood discuss new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ series”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    I love her.
    She is one of the more gifted actress of her generation.
    And Peggy, please stop with the blonde hair.

    • famika says:

      I I thought she was overrated on Madmen, the character was well written, but I never really liked her much as Peggy, after I heard she is a SCIENTOLIGIST in real life.

      I find Elizabeth Moss creepy. She is a scientologist and that is enough about her to creep me out. Something off there with her.

      • pf says:

        Overrated? She was great in Mad Men. The growth of that character through the seasons was amazing.

        Also, she was born into Scientology so she didn’t choose the religion. Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley I give more of a side-eye to those people.

      • Famika says:

        The arc of the character was the writing . She is a ok even good at times as an actress, but I always found Elizabeth overrated, imo the part was amazing , the Peggy character was written wonderfully, Mad Men writers were amazing, but Elizabeth is kind of boring to me as an actress, but I know most people love her.

        Also Her Scientology creeps me out. She is an adult, she can leave the Scientology but she chooses to stay in it.

      • AmunetMa'at says:

        So you don’t like her because her religion creeps you out? Do Mormans and Jehovah Witnesses creep you out as well?

      • Anatha says:

        Mormons and Jehovah Witnessess, while questionable to some, have no history of abuse, mind-washing and torture on top of a long serious of questionable disappearances that are linked to the “religion”. There’s a difference between a religion and a cult and Scientology is miles over it.

      • Tryannosarahs says:

        Jehovahs Witnesses have a long history of hiding both sex abuse towards women and children and domestic violence. And in the 70s there was a huge “brainwashing” movement convincing followers that Armageddon was coming. So I may consider redacting them from you example. They have an incredibly problematic history, it just doesn’t get the media coverage Scientology does.

    • Megan says:

      If Moss is concerned about human rights she should start with her church, Scientology.

  2. third ginger says:

    Atwood is a genius. My favorite of her novels is ALIAS GRACE.

    • AG says:

      I love Alias Grace! It really cast a spell. I should reread it.

    • Megan says:

      Cat’s Eye is my favorite.

    • WTW says:

      @third ginger, Alias Grace is my favorite novel of hers too! I also like the Robber Bride and, of course, Handmaid’s Tale. Alias Grace is being adapted for the screen as well, and I believe Netflix is going to pick it up. I can’t wait! I love Atwood and Toni Morrison so much. I am sad they are getting up there in age.

      • Madailein says:

        I love almost all of Atwood–Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Robber Bride are my favorite of her novels. (I like some of her short stories a lot, too.) I read an interview w her where she refused to classify herself as a feminist author, saying she was a humanist and that this, to her, meant the same thing as a feminist: women are human, too, so their rights should be equal to every other human’s rights. I wish I could recall where I read the interview.

  3. Giulia says:

    Can’t wait for this!
    That’s an interesting notion, that women who protest this regime could be defined as terrorists. I don’t think THAT MAN considers women important enough to feel threatened by, but Pence & Co. would for sure, absolutely.

  4. Lightpurple says:

    If you haven’t seen the film, I encourage you to watch it. Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn, Robert Duval, Faye Dunaway and Elizabeth McGovern. Chilling.

    • WTW says:

      @Lightpurple I love the film, and I do wonder is Moss can fill Richardson’s shoes. I thought Liz McGovern gave a standout performance, which is why I hated that she was such a bore in “Downton Abbey.” I’ve never seen “Mad Men,” so I know little about Moss, but she doesn’t seem to have the edge that Richardson had.

      • Lightpurple says:

        Richardson was so perfect and fantastic in that role. The way she portrayed the confusion, anger, fear, and strength just in her face. McGovern was heartbreaking. Faye Dunaway such rage. And Aidan Quinn was so beautiful.

  5. Sixer says:

    Not sure how I’m going to be able to watch this (legally) in the UK. Meh.

    There is a scene in the book where Japanese tourists come to take photos of the weirdo American theocracy and the weirdo public rituals surrounding the handmaids as if it’s some kind of visitor attraction – “Look guys! Look what they do! Let’s take a photo!” For some reason, it was that scene that made me think OMG, this could actually happen for real. For me, it was one of those moments when you’re reading a book and it cracks you over the head with such a thump that you never forget it.

    I love Margaret Atwood. So prescient. Oryx and Crake is probably my favourite of her books.

    • Giulia says:

      Loved Oryx and Crake

    • ell says:

      margaret atwood is my favourite author, since i discovered her when i was about 15. but yeah, i wish it weren’t hulu 🙁

      • third ginger says:

        Do you have a favorite novel?

      • Sixer says:

        I like watching TV on an actual TV, and I’m always wary of watching illegally anyway because the sites are always so untrustworthy in terms of web safety. I’m miffed because this would be a must-view for me. Shall have to wait for DVD, I suppose.

      • ell says:

        @third ginger, it’s hard to pick but probably bluebeard’s egg is my fav, although it’s short stories. i read them while going through a particularly tough time and really connected with the whole theme. but i also love the penelopiad and of course the handmaids tale. and alias grace.

        do you have a favourite?

        @sixer illegally is terrible, low quality as well, which does my head in. i always look for the legal option first.

      • third ginger says:

        ell, ALIAS GRACE really knocked me out, in part because it touches on many of my interests, including true crime and spiritualism. I also love THE BLIND ASSASSIN. I admire, as do most people, THE HANDMAID’S TALE, but it upsets me so much, which it should.

      • Sixer says:

        You guys – another book really, really worth reading with this kind of feminist dystopian theme:



      • Arock says:

        Oryx and crake, alias grace and wilderness tips are in my top 10 favorite. There is a book of her collected interviews and essays (Amazon maybe? Can’t remember the name) strongly recommend reading it if you enjoy her work. She goes into themes, writing process, political thought and gives the reader a view into how well she researches subjects for her books. In Alias graces case, the story is based on an actual book written turn of the century about life in the Canadian clearings and a sensationalized trail.

    • Dids says:

      In Canada, Bravo is broadcasting it!! IM SO HAPPY. Maybe a tv channel in the UK will too.
      I was born in 1984 and I speak French so I’m not very familiar with Margaret Atwood and her work, but I’m ready to discover her BIG TIME. This series looks awesome. But I’m a bit disappointed that Mrs. Atwood and Elisabeth Moss would both tip toe around the word feminism.

      • Sixer says:

        Dids – I’m sure her books are translated and are so worth looking out. Atwood is a feminist and all her books critique patriarchy. I think her remarks here have a subtext because she is not a fan of lean-in style feminism AT ALL.

      • Susane henzel says:

        Dids, you are in for a treat. Atwood is not light, and I always wish for a book group when I read something of hers. I’m ten years older tHan you, and started reading her at a young age. My daughter is a mature 12, and I wonder if she could get into a handmaids tale. I should re read first…

      • Dids says:

        I’ll read her books in english. I meant that because i’m from Quebec, I wasnt taught about her in school and people didnt talk about her work around me. I feel bad to say I didnt even know she was Canadian. 🙁 I have great hopes for that tv series!

    • mermaid says:

      Sixer, I remember that scene in the book so well. Do you remember earlier in the book, (paraphrasing badly), her husband told her something like how sorry he was, and wished he could change things. She suddenly wondered just how sorry he was, and how hard he would fight.
      Where are the men standing up for human rights? White women, (not all!), ignore black women’srights, and men ignore us all. If this battle is to be won, we need billions of men to care. They don’t. Apologies for turning into a bit of a rant.
      Sixer, I admire your comments. You’re a lovely person.

      • Sixer says:

        Awww. Thank you! And yes, we need a lot more solidarity.

      • third ginger says:

        Sixer is hilarious and one of the reasons I started posting here on CB. She has made me spit out my salt-free chips more than once.

      • Sixer says:

        Remind me next week, ginger, and I will entertain you with some stories of the Sixlets on their Easter holidays!

    • Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

      I know – I so want to see this. It will probably turn up on one of the illegal file sharing sites but I would be careful of those as you could end up with a nasty virus.

      I’ll just have to contend myself with the TV serial of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I LOVED that book and the Drama Channel (the freeview channel) is showing it at the end of this month. Iain Glenn is Jacob.*squee*

      I think I’ll reread the book and look at some of her newer ones The Penelopiad looks good.

      • third ginger says:

        Iain Glenn! Gorgeous! Scottish! [my grandfather was a Scot] Have you ever seen MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON? And of course, he breaks my heart and my daughter’s as Jorah Mormont.

    • Bitsy says:

      Sixer, it does happen for real. We Americans go to other countries and take pictures of their regime all the time…Dubai, Saudi Arabia, North Korea. The Handmaid Tale isn’t fantasy fiction at all. It just hasn’t happened here in the states. I think a lot of people forget that in many totalitarian countries or dictatorships, people once lived freely before fanaticism and fear took control. Change can occur literally overnight.

  6. rachel says:

    Elisabeth Moss is an amazing actress. I want to read the book, but reality is so depressing right now, I’m holding back.

  7. eggyweggs says:

    Margaret Atwood is a treasure. So is Elisabeth Moss. I cannot wait for this. I rarely wish time away, but I wish it were April 26 right meow so I could be watching this.

  8. Nicole says:

    If you’ve read the book then this country should scare you. If the reviews are accurate I’ll have a very hard time separating this from current reality. We seem to be super close to this dystopia

    • scootypuffjr says:

      I recently started reading the book, and I’m totally with you – if it doesn’t scare you, IT SHOULD.

  9. Lindy says:

    Atwood is a genius. I got Hulu for two reasons: to watch this, and to watch Buffy. I hate the fact that this terrifying dystopia in the novel feels like something so close to a possibility.

  10. Who ARE these people? says:

    There was a story after the book or first film came out that men said, That’ll never happen, and women said, How long do I have?

  11. Prairiegirl says:

    Relevant Canadian novel by acclaimed Canadian author filmed in Canada not available for viewing in Canada. #geoblocking

  12. Dorothy#1 says:

    Such an amazing book! I’m saving my 30 day free trial of Hulu to watch!

  13. famika says:

    She creeps me out, she’s a Scientologist. Tried to keep it hidden but it came out during Mad Men years. Also she married the actor/comedian from SNL and divorced him within a few months, some said it was because Scientology bosses did not approve of the marriage.

    I just find her creepy.

    • pf says:

      Fred Armisen cheated on her. He later admitted in an interview he was an asshole during their brief marriage. I don’t think Scientology had anything to do with the break-up.

  14. OTHER RENEE says:

    I can’t watch this series. I was traumatized by the book when I was younger and remember it clearly.

  15. Dumbledork says:

    So she’s currently a scientologist? Doesn’t matter if she was born into it, but is she still actively supporting it? Isnt it hypocritical to profess her feminism while actively supporting a religion/cult that terrorizes families, are anti-gay, and support identured servitude? Maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Loved the book, but she creeps me out.

    • Famika says:

      Exactly. Others get blasted for being in that awful cult. Elizabeth is a member and that is creepy to me. Especially after seeing what Leaha Rehmini said about it.

  16. LouLou says:

    Loved the book when I read it in my twenties. I think it would be hard to watch this (though I might) because of what is happening in the US now. And let’s not forget whose votes really helped to put Trump in office–educated white women. I fit into that group, and I don’t know if I will ever forgive those women for voting for a sexual assaulting misogynist who just got an anti-choice judge appointed. It will be a miracle if abortion remains legal.

    • Louisa says:

      I was just coming to say the same thing. I loved the book when I read it years ago, and while I found it chilling it seemed so out of the realm of possibility I was able to read it without too much fear. However, now I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through this mini series. I feel it will be just too close to becoming reality. I’m already filled with anxiety and having trouble sleeping, this may push me over the edge.

      • Disco Dancer says:

        Feel the same way as you Louisa. I read the book when I was in my teens, loved it and still
        Haven’t forgotten it. And I liked the ending too- as it really drove home the point that this story is just that-Fiction. This could never happen in the Western world at least. Now though, I don’t feel so sure with the rise of extreme right wing populism and religious theocracies and religious based terrorism and suppressing of women/human rights. I’m too scared to re-read this book again under this current climate, much less watch the TV series. I don’t have Hulu but I’ll still try and see if it if I can.

  17. Abbess Tansy says:

    Atwood is a favorite author of mine as well. I also recommend the movie based on the book.
    There’s another dystopian novel I highly recommend by a black female sci-fi author called Parable of the Sower and its sequel Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler.

    • third ginger says:

      One of my friends is a science fiction scholar and professor. She’s an expert on Butler!

  18. grape says:

    Love her books, so powerful, so excited for this and for “a wrinkle in time” which was also one of my favorite books growing up.

  19. Anna says:

    “makes me wonder if the next time there’s a Women’s March, someone on the other side will find a way to link it to terrorism or something. That’s the next step – it’s obvious which powerful men hate women. Now all that’s left for them to do is find some way to brand all free-thinking women “terrorists.” And then it will be game over. ”
    #Truth with a capital T
    Reading this, CB, I 100% believe you are right, and that scares the shit out of me. This is entirely plausible. I remember watching The Handmaid’s Tale in 1990 when I first moved to this country as a young woman at a women’s college, and it petrified me. I still get shivers just thinking about the film so I don’t even know if I’ll be able to watch this mini-series as much as I really like Elizabeth Moss and love Margaret Atwood. I just don’t want to have two decades of nightmares and especially if everything is actually coming to pass. I mean, in 1990, we were scared shitless watching it and could see connections to some of the countries girls had come from, but it was still more of a speculative idea, not reality. Now, it seems like this is really real in many countries and especially coming to pass in the U.S. It’s just a matter of who it hits first and how much we fool ourselves thinking “it can’t happen to me.” Personally, I just want to get the hell out of this country and go somewhere quiet–unfortunately, kind of like the main character with her little airstream trailer in the mountains… 🙁

  20. ash says:

    Everyone is feeling weird her over Scientology….. Are yal gonna feel weird about people who are followers of Christianity and other religions who have a history of brutality, abuse, and murder, and inhumanity within the belief systems