Joseph Fiennes Interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
“What I love about season two is that it’s twice as creepy, twice as dark and complex, and there’s a greater urgency for resistance,” declares Joseph Fiennes about the return of Hulu’s dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” on April 25. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood it’s set in the near future when a theocratic regime has taken over America and forced fertile women into sexual servitude. But many women are fighting back, and the second season focuses on “huge resistance by strong women.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Fiennes above.
Fiennes plays Fred Waterford, a high-ranking official in this regime who is domineering in his household, but less secure when it comes to the hierarchy of other powerful men. And that dichotomy between Fred’s power over women and his fight to maintain his status among men was especially interesting to the actor, who feels the show inspires “a fascinating conversation about male dominance” and how the “male psyche” functions — or perhaps malfunctions — when “his masculinity is challenged.”
Fred is full of intriguing contradictions when it comes to his relationship with power. He’s devoutly religious yet “hugely hypocritical” when it comes to his own behavior. And he loves “strong, powerful women,” as demonstrated by his relationships with his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and his captive handmaid Offred (Elisabeth Moss), but he’s “repelled” by them too. “There’s this dance between Serena and Offred and himself” where he is energized by a woman’s power while also “feeling threatened by her voice.”
Season one of “The Handmaid’s Tale” adapted Atwood’s book in its entirety, so the show is moving beyond the source material in its second year. Fiennes was “excited” to find out what the writers had in store for year two “because it’s kind of like discovering a Shakespeare play that no one’s heard or seen before … but also they’ve kept the authenticity. They’ve kept true to the voice and narrative of the book.” And even more than last year, when the show seemed timely due to the election of Donald Trump and his threats against civil liberties, “there will be parallels this season with what’s going on right now” when it comes to “the world of predators and how movements have been brought about by powerful women bringing those predators to account.”