Hulu has finally debuted their original series The Handmaid’s Tale, and it has everyone talking. Actress Madeline Brewer, who plays the character Janine in the series, recently spoke to BAZAAR about her role, the importance of the television adaptation of the book and how it relates to events taking place in the United States today.
Warning: If you have not watched the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, STOP reading. Possible spoilers ahead.
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In the first few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, viewers are introduced to the main characters and the story’s plot. Offred (Elizabeth Moss) is the main character and the handmaid to The Commander (Joseph Fiennes), and his barren wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). Offred’s sole purpose, like all of the other handmaids in Gilead, is to bear children for her assigned couple due to the increasing infertility rates. In the first episode of the series, Offred and Janine (Brewer) are brought in together to start serving as handmaids. Janine’s instant reaction is to scoff at the “aunts” who monitor the handmaid’s lessons, prayers, and actions. She is immediately tased and taken away from the other women. When she returns, her right eye has been plucked from its socket as punishment, and she is on the verge of insanity.
“That scene is so important to me. Not only because I’m in it and it’s an important scene for Janine, but to show the audience that’s how anyone would react: ‘Oh, my God. I’m f****** leaving. This is insane. What are we doing?’ That’s immediately squashed out,” Brewer told BAZAAR of her opening scene.
“With any sort of rebellious attitude, [the Aunts] show you what will happen to you. They can’t let anything like that slide. From that moment on, Janine, how she has lived her life, with her sense of rebellion and her fiery nature, they stamped that out. She has to either leave the world of Gilead – and the world in general – or she needs to find a new reality in her mind to get her through the days.”
Not long after, Janine becomes pregnant with her commander’s child. Her mental state continues to falter, leaving Offred fearing for her friend. Eventually, Janine has the baby, a little girl named Angela, who is immediately stripped from her arms and given to her commander’s wife. Although she is allowed to stay in the home and nurse the child, it is made very clear that the baby, who Janine named Charlotte, was not hers. However, Janine is under the delusion that her commander is in love with her, and they are going to run away together with Charlotte so they can “be a real family.” To help her prepare for the emotional birth scene, Brewer said she talked to the other women on set.
“I haven’t given birth and I haven’t seen anybody give birth, so we were talking about that, but we were also talking about that connection you have with the child you carried, and how just rip-your-heart-right-from-your-chest terrible it would be to have another woman take your place and take your child from you,” Madeline said.
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Aside from discussing her character, Madeline also spoke about the themes of the show and how her feminist background and the 2016 Presidential election came to affect when deciding how she would play Janine.
“I am 150 percent the first person to say it: I am a feminist through and through. I was raised by the most bad-a** feminist mother who taught me [about] all things female and all things powerful and strong and outspoken and [to be] unapologetically myself. So to not bring that into this world would have been an injustice to the character. As we were filming Handmaid’s Tale, [there were] things like apologists for Donald Trump: ‘Boys will be boys,’ and ‘He didn’t know he was being filmed,’ and ‘That was 15 years ago.’ Then these women saying they were assaulted by him were being written off as crazy or they just wanted their 15 minutes of fame. Looking at those comments and seeing how the world and the United States and the citizens of our nation were reacting to him and reacting to those women, how could I not bring that to Janine?”
“Right now, it does feel a bit like we’re on the verge of The Handmaid’s Tale. We have Handmaids walking around Washington D.C. and going to courthouses in Texas and [signs] saying, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual’ at the women’s march. I saw that one, and I was so overjoyed to see it. I was also like, ‘Oh, fuck!’ Every time I’ve talked about the Republic of Gilead, I always say, ‘The still-fictional Republic of Gilead.'”
Have you had a chance to watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu? Leave your comments below.
[Featured Image by Vince Bucci/AP Images]