Everyone is talking about The Handmaid’s Tale at the moment – and for good reason. Not only does the show (based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name) tackle relevant and complex subjects, such as abortion and rape, but it also boasts a cast of phenomenally talented actors – with Elisabeth Moss leading the cast as titular handmaid, Offred.
Moss – who previously starred as Peggy Olson in Mad Men – is outstanding in the role, adding a fire and zeal to the character which readers didn’t necessarily get to see in the book. An important part of that is her ability to sit in silence as a voiceover plays and still move the audience with just a quiver of her jaw, or a glimmer of steely resolve in her eyes.
However, Bruce Miller, the show’s director, has admitted that he initially dismissed this skill as nothing more than base luck.
“We shot these bits of Lizzie just sitting in a room, quietly going through emotional phases, and when I watched it paired up with the voice-over, it worked perfectly,” he told Vulture. “And I said, ‘That’s lucky!’”
Thankfully, Moss was more than ready to correct him.
“Lizzie said, ‘No, it isn’t lucky. I memorized the voice-over and I did it in my head while I was sitting there,’” he continued sheepishly. “Paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs of stuff that she memorized and walked through emotions while she was sitting there silently. But none of it was sitting there silently. It was all following the emotional trajectory.”
Moss, when asked, was able to recall the incident immediately – and confessed that it had completely taken her by surprise.
“[Miller] brought up [my memorizing the voice-over] at a panel the other night and I looked at him like he was crazy because, well, yeah!” she said.
“Like, obviously. It’s a part of the script. Why wouldn’t I memorize it? How else am I supposed to know what I’m thinking? I’m sitting there for 30 seconds. I have to be thinking about something.”
Moss added: “I actually said to Bruce, ‘Do I not have to do that? Because if I don’t have to do that, that would be great to know.’ I just thought that was part of my job. But yeah, here’s this girl sitting there for 30 seconds thinking about something and it’s going to look pretty terrible if I’m not actually thinking about what I’m supposed to be thinking about.”
And that’s why there’s no doubt in our minds that Moss was the perfect person to bring Offred to life on the small screen.
Moss also recently responded to backlash over the fact she’d said that The Handmaid’s Tale was not a “feminist story” but a human one.
Clarifying her comments, she said: “What I meant to say was that, for me, feminism is equal rights for men and women. Men and women are both humans, so, for me, that makes my characters and the work that I do human stories.
“I play a f***ing sexual slave, I play a breeder, a host, a woman for whom all of her rights, and all of her family and friends, have been taken away. She has nothing. So, yes, it is a feminist story.”
The actor went on to point out that, with Donald Trump in government, the uncomfortable themes of the show are more relevant than ever.
“Our rights are under threat in a way they have never been before. Or certainly, that they haven’t been in our lifetimes,” said Moss.
“People have to stay awake. And after you wake up, you should get out of bed and start doing things. There is no time later. My worst fear is that people become complacent, and apathetic, again.”
Images: Channel 4 / Hulu