Elisabeth Moss on why The Handmaid's Tale needed female directors

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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The Handmaid’s Tale has undoubtedly been one of the biggest TV successes of the year so far.

An adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestselling feminist dystopia novel, first published in 1985, it details a bleak American future where women are forced into a life of sexual servitude and surrogacy. 

Hotly debated at water coolers up and down the country, the hit show has scooped no less than 13 Emmy nominations, including both outstanding drama series and outstanding writing, as well as a nod to Elisabeth Moss for outstanding actress in a drama series.

And best of all? Despite having a male showrunner, the production is a total feminist tour de force, with Moss herself explaining the importance of having a majority of female directors working on the show.

Speaking to The New York Times about the show, in which she played lead character Offred as well as being an executive producer, Moss explained the importance of having four out of five female directors – pointing out that such numbers being a surprise at all shouldn’t be the norm.

“It was not only important for setting the tone of the show, but we all believe that it is incredibly important to hire women behind the camera,” she said. 

“There’s a huge imbalance that needs to be corrected, and we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is and set that example as producers. If we don’t do it, who will?”

Moss also clarified the comment she made at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year about The Handmaid’s Tale not being a feminist story.

Appearing in a panel to discuss the show, the actor had received a huge backlash online for stating,  “Honestly, for me it’s not a feminist story — it’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights.

“I never intended to play Peggy [the role she plays in Mad Men] as a feminist; I never intended to play Offred as a feminist. They’re women and they are humans.”

When asked about the comments by The Times, Moss explained, “What I should have said is that it is not only a feminist story but it is also a human story. Obviously it is first and foremost a feminist story…

“But I was trying to say that it was also a human story in the sense that there are other groups — other races, colors and creeds — who are punished and maligned and are not given the right to be heard as well.”

She has previously said that the reaction to her comment helped her realise the importance of talking about feminism specifically, even though she stood by her original sentiment that it was a story about people in general: “As a woman, now, you have to speak up.

“You have to own it [feminism] in a way that you never have before. It is different now.”

The actor also revealed the grueling process behind creating the show, saying that she “worked more on this show than [she’d] ever worked on anything”.

“It was a 24-hour job for many, many, many months,” she added. “I didn’t work on it when I was sleeping, but I woke up thinking about it.”

And when asked her thoughts on how close the dark material in both the show and the book are to our reality, Moss was blunt in her reply.

“We’d prefer it to be this crazy fantasy, this world that you couldn’t possibly imagine ever happening,” she said. 

“And instead it has become a cautionary tale that is far too close to home.”

You can read the full interview here.

Images: Hulu / Rex