Bradley Whitford interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

“The older I get, the luckier I feel,” admits three-time Emmy winner Bradley Whitford about how creatively rewarding his work on “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been for him. “It’s such a miracle to be in something that is firing on all creative cylinders and saying something about the world right now. I do not take that for granted.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Whitford above.

SEE Yvonne Strahovski interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

“The Handmaid’s Tale” premiered its acclaimed fourth season on Hulu earlier this year after nearly 20 months off the air, as production on season 4 was shut down for months due to the ongoing pandemic. It just scored 21 Emmy nominations, its most ever (and up from 10 last year), including a staggering 10 nominations for many of its cast.

Showrunner Bruce Miller created the series based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, which is set in a terrifying near-future dystopia in which a bloody coup staged by violent religious fanatics usurps present-day America to become the totalitarian theocracy of Gilead. It stars Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss as June, one of thousands of enslaved handmaids routinely raped and abused in order to bear children for the barren ruling class.

This season was as unrelentingly dark and confronting as usual, featuring a number of highly anticipated pay-off moments that were building over the last three seasons. It opened with June on the run from a regime intent on silencing her for good, leading a group of handmaids intent on meting out justice and revenge against the evil regime. June eventually makes it across the border to safe harbor in Canada, where she testifies against her former commander, Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

Whitford plays fellow commander Joseph Lawrence, one of the founders of Gilead who hides in plain sight as one of the regime’s leaders who is secretly turning his back on the regime. He continues to atone for his past actions and involvement in the regime’s misogyny and violence by working behind the scenes to help June’s clandestine efforts from afar.

SEE 2021 Emmy nominations complete list: All the nominees for the 73rd Emmy Awards

Whitford chose to enter the eighth episode of the season (entitled “Testimony”) as his Emmy submission for Best Drama Supporting Actor because it shines a light on his character’s internal struggle for some kind of redemption. In that episode, June testifies in a criminal trial focused on abuse in Gilead, while Lawrence confronts and taunts the cruel Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) about her anger and violence, blithely encouraging her to focus and channel her rage on fugitive handmaid Janine (Madeline Brewer), who has been captured in Chicago. After their encounter in which he has manipulated the sadistic Lydia, he looks away from her, casually remarking that she “do with her what you will.”

“There’s a disturbing pragmatism to him,” Whitford muses. “When I tell her to do with her what you will, I basically challenged her by saying you’re just a disgusting human being, who everybody hates. I think I am in a pretty sophisticated way manipulating her, by basically saying ‘yeah just be go be the horrible person you are, that I just told you,’ knowing that that’s not going to be the way it plays out,” he says.

This year marks the eighth career Emmy nomination for Whitford with three previous wins. He 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, while 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 in 2019 and was then promoted as a series regular last season, for which he was nominated in 2020.

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UPLOADED Aug 4, 2021 9:30 am