The drama series, based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, is the story of life in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what formerly was part of the United States, plagued by environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate. Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime in which women are property of the state; Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred, a Handmaid in the Commander Waterford’s (Joseph Fiennes) household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as part of a campaign to repopulate. It debuts April 26, three months into Donald Trump’s presidency.
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“I was writing pilot during the primaries, during all those debates,” Miller said. “So we were, of course, mindful of that.” He described the series as “a thriller.”
“Prescient, for sure,” chimed in Fiennes, noting in particular current politics, sexual politics, the “toxicity” of the planet, and human population issues.
Samira Wiley, who plays Offred’s best friend Moira in the series, called it particularly relevant to “the social climate now,” especially for women in the United States. “Specifically women and their bodies, and who has control of that. Do we, or does someone else have control over that?”
Miller drew parallels between the book and the series and “puritan times in this country.” He described Gilead as “based on a perverse misreading of Old Testament law and codes.”
“They aren’t Christians. I think we deal with it the same way they deal with it in the book. In the pilot and the next two episodes they’re tearing down churches” that are of different sects. “This country has a reputation of being a place where people came for religious freedom, but the puritans who came liked their religious freedoms but nobody else’s,” he said. They branded Quakers and sent them out of the state.”
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