Bradley Whitford Interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
“This role is absolutely the most fascinating to perform,” declares Bradley Whitford about his role on Hulu’s Emmy award winning hit “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “It’s very, very free. This guy can go any way at any moment and that makes him very unpredictable.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Whitford above.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, starring Elisabeth Moss as June, one of thousands of enslaved handmaids forced to give birth for the barren ruling class in the near-future authoritarian regime of Gilead. Whitford plays Commander Joseph Lawrence, one of the founders of Gilead who has slowly turned his back on the theocracy. The series’ intense third season follows June and her resistance against the oppressive regime. When June is assigned to Lawrence’s household as his handmaid, the two form a bond as Lawrence works behind the scenes to help June’s clandestine efforts to transport children to freedom across the border.
The actor has relished playing a complicated character with competing motivations. “Although he is a very bitter, dark misogynistic man, I think there is some search for redemption,” he says. “What I love about the writing is that on a less nuanced show, I would have an epiphany and be a good person and that would the diminish the truth of what a character like June is up against. People don’t just have epiphanies and become enthusiastic allies.”
“I think what is happening with Lawrence is that his humanity is fighting back,” the actor muses. “I don’t find him simply sympathetic, but he is in play. There’s a battle going on within him, which is just an absolute joy to play.”
Whitford won his first of three Emmys for playing Josh Lyman on “The West Wing” in 2001, for which he was nominated two further times in 2002 and 2003 and his second win was for his guest role on “Transparent” in 2015, for which he returned as a guest acting nominee the following year. After appearing as a guest actor on season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the actor won his third Emmy last year and was then promoted as a series regular this season. It has not escaped his attention that many of his roles happen to be on culturally significant series. “Both on ‘The West Wing’ and on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ as an actor to be in a creative situation like that with those actors and that writing and those directors is more than you’d ever hope for,” he admits. “For it additionally to be part of a cultural discussion is bizarrely lucky.”