Christopher Meloni Interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
“Power is alluring,” declares Christopher Meloni about the appeal of the villainous power broker that he plays on Hulu’s Emmy award winning hit “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “Power comes in a lot of permutations and a lot of wrappings… Like Kissinger said, it’s the ultimate aphrodisiac. Outwardly they might be the cheeriest fellow or the nicest guy yet they can do diabolical things. The wrapping doesn’t match what’s underneath.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Meloni above.
Based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” stars Elisabeth Moss as June, one of thousands of enslaved handmaids forced to give birth for the barren ruling class in a near-future dystopia. Meloni joined the cast in a recurring role this season as High Commander Winslow, a high-ranking official in the ruling class of the authoritarian Gilead theocracy.
The series’ intense third season follows June and her resistance against the Gilead regime, including her clandestine efforts to transport children to freedom across the border. Half way through the season, June accompanies her former commander, Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) to Washington, D.C. where June discovers that the regime is more nefarious and oppressive than what she is barely used to in Boston. There they encounter Winslow, who has fathered seven children with his subjugated handmaid and doting wife Olivia (Elizabeth Reaser) while enjoying the benefits of status and power in the fledgling nation’s capital.
One of the most talked about scenes of the season was in the episode “Household,” in which Waterford and Winslow play a game of billiards. What we think will be a relatively uneventful scene ends on a surprisingly uncomfortable note as the game becomes a power play between the two men. Despite Waterford having ambitions of moving up the ranks as a commander, Winslow asserts his dominance over him in an implicitly sexual way by rubbing his shoulder from behind.
“When it was happening I was like ‘this is so out of left field but I think so powerful,’ because to me it resonated or it meant that I was a guy who was so alpha that I will basically test to see how far you’re willing to go,” Meloni explains. “I will have my appetite satiated and if you want to play ball and you want to climb the ladder that I’ve had to climb, that’s what it’ll take.”
The actor was keen to make the most of the fleeting moment. “I wanted to give a hint of the degradation, the rot, the late stages Roman Empire,” he says. “What’s the line in the sand you’re willing to draw or not draw? How much are you willing to do for power?”