Film Festival

THE HANDMAID’S TALE: Panel Discusses Adapting the Book on Screen [Hulu, Tribeca 2017]

The Handmaid's Tale Panel Tribeca

Tribeca Hosts Panel Discussion After Premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale

The highly anticipated adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale made its world debut at the Tribeca Film Festival to a huge crowd. Following the screening of the first episode, a panel featuring the cast and crew took place as part of a series of Tribeca Talks taking place at the BMCC Performing Arts Center. The conversation was held with cast members including Elizabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, and O.T. Fagbenle. Executive producers Bruce Miller, Reed Morano, and Warren Littlefield also joined the talk of adapting an important piece of literature for the small screen.

For those unfamiliar with the material, the story takes place in a dystopian future where the US government has fallen due to the Gilead Movement, which is a totalitarian and Christian-fundamentalist regime. This new system undermines women, making sure they aren’t allowed to work, earn money, or even read. Pollution causes the females to become infertile, but a select few called Handmaids are chosen to give birth to children for high-ranking men in the government and their family. The main character, Offred, is a young woman who had a family, a job, and her own name, but after being taken as a Handmaiden, her only purpose has been to serve Commander Fred. With no choice but to abide by the rules, all she can do is hope that she will be free and reunite with her daughter some day.

At the panel, audiences gave a positive reaction to the pilot episode, indicating that the series hit all the right notes. At the panel however, when the cast discussed if the series was considered feminist and if they would want to be a part of that discussion, their conversation on the subject didn’t sync up with the audience’s perception after the episode was shown. But, it did leave more to think about regarding the show’s message and where the characters go from the amazing first episode.

Elizabeth Moss, who went from playing Peggy on Mad Men to Offred on The Handmaid’s Tale, spoke about the new series, describing it as not just a feminist show. “It’s a human story because women’s rights are human rights,” she said,. She also compared both roles as females who are just as human as the rest of us. “I never intended to play Peggy as a feminist; I never intended to play Offred as a feminist. They’re women, and they are humans.” She went on to discuss Offred as more of a survivor than just a hero. “Offred’s a wife, a mother, a best friend. You know, she has a job. And she is a person who’s not supposed to be a hero, and she falls into it. And she kind of does what she has to do to survive, to find her daughter. It’s about love, honestly, so much of this story. So for me, you know, I never approach anything with any sort of, like, political agenda. I approach it from a very human place, I hope.”

Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia, the guardian of the Handmaids avoided the feminist conversation and instead discussed the politics of the show, “What I love about this, among other things, is the notion ‘stay awake.’ Stay. Awake. And don’t for a minute think [that] if you say, ‘Well, I’ll get involved some other time. I won’t worry about this midterm election. I’ll just…’ No, no, no. Don’t wait. Just stay awake.” She also hoped viewers would relate the show to what’s going on in the political climate today. “I hope it has a massive effect on people. I hope they picket the White House, and I hope they’re wearing these costumes…I hope it’s all over the place, and it doesn’t end. And that we never, ever underestimate the power of morons.”

Both cast members Alexis Bledel and Samira Wiley went into working with Ann Dowd on set. Bledel described working with Dowd’s intimating character as really scary, like something out of a “horror movie”. Even Wiley had to contain herself while sharing scenes with her co-star. “I had to remember to tell myself this is a show.”

Orange is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer who plays Janine, also found the story to be more of a human story being told by a powerful woman. “That’s not the reason I got involved,” she said. “I personally heard about all the other people involved in this show, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I need to be there.’ I think that any story, if it is a story being told by a strong, powerful woman…any story that’s just a powerful woman owning herself in any way is automatically deemed ‘feminist.’ But it’s just a story about a woman. I don’t think that this is any sort of feminist propaganda. I think that it’s a story about women and about humans. This story affects all people.”

Even though the book was told through the eyes of Offred, EP Reed Morano hopes that the series will also feature points of view from the other characters. “In the book you stay with Offred the whole time. In the show you may not. You’ll just have to watch and see,” Morano explained. With the expansive world described in the book, showrunner Bruce Miller has high hopes to explore beyond the ending of the book for future seasons. “Once you create this world you have a lot of places to go,” Miller said. “The end of the book is quite a mystery so I get to make it up.” Even Littlefield hopes for the series to live another day for a second season or more. “We’ve only scratched the surface with the first 10 hours,” he said. “Our hope is that we leave you with the feeling ‘We have to have more.’

Leave your thoughts on the panel discussion for The Handmaid’s Tale at the Tribeca Film Festival in the comments section below. Readers seeking more TV show news can visit our TV Show News Google+ Page and our TV Show News Facebook Page. Want up-to-the-minute notifications? FilmBook staff members publish articles by EmailTwitterTumblrGoogle+, and Facebook. The Handmaid’s Tale makes it’s debut on Hulu on April 26th, 2017.

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About the author

Mufsin Mahbub

**Fired from FilmBook for Plagiarism** Mufsin is a freelance writer from New York who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Long Island University. He has written for publications like HollywoodLife, Clubplanet, and Heavy. He is an avid lover for everything related to TV and film. He has gone to dozens of film screenings, press events, and loves to attend New York Comic Con every year. He gives an honest opinion on every TV show or film that people are going to be talking about.

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