“His wife and child are in mortal jeopardy, as is his sanity,” describes O-T Fagbenle in regard to his character Luke Bankole’s mental state in the fourth season of Hulu‘s Emmy Award-winning drama “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which premiered with three episodes on April 28 and will conclude its 10-episode run on June 16. In our exclusive video interview (watch above), Fagbenle discusses how his character is “put through the wringer” in new fashion in the show’s current installment, which the actor calls “mind-melting.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is based on Margaret Atwood‘s 1985 novel of the same name, which is set in a dystopian near-future America, where women are enslaved as ‘handmaids’ due to plummeting birth-rates, forced to bear children for the ruling class in the new authoritarian Gilead theocracy. “No one gets out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ unscathed,” Fagbenle says, emphasizing that Luke isn’t an exception. After the United States is usurped by the regime, Luke is separated from his wife, June (Elisabeth Moss), and their daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). Both are abducted by and forced to serve Gilead, while Luke manages to escape to Canada as a refugee, pining for the family that have seemingly slipped through his fingers.
By the fourth season, several of the show’s main characters have joined Luke in Canada — including 86 children and nine Marthas at the end of the third installment — but June and Hannah have not been among them. “What would you do if you had an entire nation holding your partner and child captive?,” Fagbenle asks rhetorically when articulating the guilt that weighs on Luke at the outset of season 4. “He feels a great sense of incompetence. But also, he was not active enough early,” the actor adds, underlining that his character is “paying the price” for ignoring the warning signs that were conspicuously present when the U.S. was being taken over step by step.
In season 4’s third episode, “The Crossing,” Luke is informed that June — who was on the run after smuggling the aforementioned children across the Canadian border — has been recaptured by Gilead. Even though this leads Luke to question whether June has consciously chosen to stay behind, fully cognizant of the likelihood of being caught, he is “more sad than angry,” Fagbenle elucidates. “The thing that makes us most anxious as human beings is uncertainty,” he continues, explaining that Luke has filled the void of his ignorance with his “worst fears.” “All the nagging worries about what may be are the reality that he lives in,” the actor concludes regarding his character.
Finally, Fagbenle briefly discusses some of his other upcoming projects, including the Showtime anthology series “The First Lady,” in which he’ll be starring as former U.S. president Barack Obama opposite Academy Award winner Viola Davis (as former first lady Michelle Obama). While the actor speaks about the immense pressure of playing “one of the most charismatic, articulate, intelligent and charming people of all time,” he accentuates that his main job is to present “the Obama we never get to see.” He also teases his role as Rick Mason in Marvel’s feature “Black Widow,” jokingly admitting that Rick, as a character, is “a lot more fun” than the “homey” Luke.
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