O-T Fagbenle Interview: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
“One of my ways into Luke is the weight of his failure to stand up, to try and stop what was going on,” reveals O-T Fagbenle about his role on Hulu’s Emmy award winning hit “The Handmaid’s Tale,” adding that “his failure to be able to protect his family, his failure as a man, his failure as a husband, as a father and his guilt connected with that” weighs on him heavily. Watch our exclusive video interview with Fagbenle above.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, 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. The multiple Emmy winning series stars Elisabeth Moss as June, who is married to Fagbenle’s Luke and who both have a young child, Hannah (Jordana Blake). After the United States is usurped by the regime, June is separated from Luke and Hannah and assigned to a household run by the nefarious Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his manipulative wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). Hannah is abducted and reassigned to another home, while Luke escapes to Canada as a refugee, pining for the family that have seemingly slipped through his fingers.
The series’ intense third season follows June and her resistance against the regime and their clandestine efforts to transport children to freedom across the border. Luke remains in Canada alongside former handmaid and fellow refugee Moira (Samira Wiley), who have custody of baby Nichole, the child that June gave birth to while under Commander Waterford’s control and who June successfully smuggled across the border during the previous season.
Midway through Season 3, during the fifth episode “Unknown Caller,” Serena is whisked away to Canada to reunite with baby Nichole in an arranged meeting with Luke. Fagbenle says the scene was tricky to get right under the watchful eye of Colin Watkinson, the show’s Emmy-winning cinematographer, sitting in the director’s chair for the first time.
“We were both like ‘let’s go at it and let the cameras be rolling,'” Fagbenle says of how he and Strahovski wanted to tackle the scene. “It’s often very subtle and often in the subtext. As we spoke through the scene together, there was a couple of things we were looking at. One of them was the physical dynamic of who sits down first? Is it a concession in the scene and he power dynamics of who sits first,” he says. “It was a great confluence of director and writer and actors and also great editing, which really honed in on that moment.”
Fagbenle is keen to get back to set after shooting on the series’ fourth season was shut down prematurely earlier this year. He says that fans will be blown away by what showrunner Bruce Miller has in stall for them. “The season started and I had it broken down to me what’s going to happen and I’m like ‘wow!’ This is the most revolutionary of the four seasons. This is the most of everything being turned on its head. It’s really exciting. There’s some things where I am like ‘I don’t even know how you’re going to do that! That’s your plan? Oh yeah?’ It’s exciting,” he says incredulously, agreeing that anticipation should be justifiably high for the show’s return later this year.