Hulu’s MGM series The Handmaid’s Tale has five episodes left in its 13-episode run, and what continues to amaze EP/creator Bruce Miller is the relationship between Elisabeth Moss’ Offred and Yvonne Strahovski’s Serena. And before season 2 closes, Handmaiden Offred will have the baby that she’s carrying for Serena and her husband, Commander Fred Waterford.
“It’s the story of one woman who is going to have a baby, and who is going to try and teach this other woman how to be a mother,” said Miller, who remained tight-lipped about season 3, which he’s just commenced writing. Season 2 in the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian future 1985 novel was always designated to be ‘the season of the mother.’
Miller, who was joined by the series EP, Warren Littlefield, VP Hulu original content Beatrice Springborn, and Handmaid‘s casting director Sherry Thomas and costume designer Ane Crabtree, spoke about various facets of the series at the PGA’s Produced By Conference on the Paramount lot.
Atwood continues to be involved in the show even in season 3. Miller said. “She watches every cut and gives us notes when she has time”.
“We’re more reluctant to make changes in the world than she is, because she likes exploring different versions of it,” he added.
One of the deviations from the book that Atwood has embraced in the Hulu series is that the characters are from diverse backgrounds.
“We engaged her on creating a feeling of a world that reflects today, which is different from what was in the book,” explained Littlefield.
Moss was the first attachment to the series, and when it came to casting, Thomas said, “We had to make sure that everyone we cast who interacted with her was as good as she was.”
While the casting departments on other TV shows try not to match up actors with other performers they’ve appeared with on other series, Miller doesn’t obsess over such finicky creative guidelines, given the volume of shows that are in production. He’s also enjoyed watching performers act beyond their range, read on Handmaid’s Tale, Alexis Bledel plays completely against the type she’s built on such credits as Gilmore Girls and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Another interesting takeaway from today’s sessions was that the iconic Puritan bonnets worn by the Handmaids on the show were nearly cut entirely during its initial phases of development.
“We had a debate about the bonnets, and whether they were going to cover the actresses’ faces,” said Springborn, “Imagine if we stuck to that, not wearing bonnets, we would have been idiots.”
Crabtree shared, “(As costume designers) we’re taught never to cover the (facial) real estate of the actor. We tried scarves covering their faces, but it looked like any old TV show.” So as to prove that bonnets were the way to go, Crabtree made five of them, and than shot Moss wearing them with her iPhone in order to win over Hulu and the EPs.
“The actors learned how to use the wardrobe for dramatic purposes,” said Miller on how the actresses angled their faces in shots, “It was a learning curve and a big leap.”