I don’t know if she’s gotten that far yet! Since Season 1, Serena wanted what she wanted, and got it how she wanted to get it. She’s been so consumed with focusing on this child that I don’t think she’s truly sat with the realization that she’s been part of this greater beast that is Gilead, which contributes to so much awfulness. Does she ever truly realize the greater impact of this society and what it does to women in general? Not just this one child? I would like to see her break down even more, and see how that guilt might affect her. Or how self-loathing might creep into a realization like that. It’s been pretty amazing to have her original belief system be challenged, and see her start to crumble.
Were there any suggestions you made to the writers for this season?
Bruce and I had a conversation about the finale scene in the greenhouse. Offred comes in and shows Serena Eden’s Bible. Initially, there were a couple of lines that were quite harsh. In my mind, it was almost like Season 1 Serena, like, “Well, she sinned, so she deserved what she got.” And after the journey I felt that I had been on with Serena, and Serena’s emotional reaction to Eden’s death, being too harsh was wrong to me. So what I ended up saying was, “She should have been smarter.” Because if Serena had been in that position, she would have been three steps ahead and she would have manipulated the situation to her benefit.
What is your response to critics who thought this season slid into tragedy porn, or torture porn? That all the suffering had become too much, even gratuitous?
I don’t think it’s ever gratuitous. I think there’s a lot of mindfulness around how we portray these very difficult scenes. I realize that often, for certain people, they’re incredibly hard to digest. And some people take a hard line with that, and say: “Whatever. You have to deal with that, because it’s happening in the world.” And it is. Margaret Atwood has written this book, and we are portraying scenes based on historical precedent. And there are things like this happening now.
At times, it was almost uncanny how this season had all this extra relevance: tensions with Canada, child separation at the border …
How amazing was it that Offred got to see Hannah for ten minutes, which directly coincided with what’s going on at the border? I think because it’s so close to home, it’s confronting for a lot of people. We are sort of accidentally aligned with today’s society and the tumultuous of politics right now. It’s sort of a fine line of understanding that, “Hey, these are things that need to be portrayed, that need to be seen, because they’re real, and people do deal with this stuff.” But at the same time, I’m sensitive to the fact that it can be a lot to swallow.
Maybe our show can be the beginning of inspiring people to learn more about what is happening in the real world? Art imitating life, and life imitating art. It’s pretty crazy. I always have a sense of disbelief about how aligned we really are, because no one really plans for this. I mean, how can we?