With the theocratic and militant Taliban reasserting control in Afghanistan, the deep political and cultural divisions here in America taking on a blatant insurgent form, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, The Handmaid’s Tale seems more apposite than perhaps ever before.
Attaining 21 Emmy nominations for its fourth season, this year the dystopian Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s seminal 1985 novel truly took the fight to the brutal totalitarian regime of Gilead, that controls large swaths of what was once America. But at the core of the renewed Elisabeth Moss-led show is its characters and the people who portray them and those who bring the THT to life.
“Shooting a doc and shooting a TV show or scripted film are very very different, but one of the things that unites them is attention to human behavior,” said Liz Garbus in our Deadline Virtual House yesterday. “And these writers, producers and all of these folks on this panel right now are extremely diligent and wonderful observers,” the Oscar nominated and Emmy wining documentarian added of her colleagues behind the camera in the first of a trio of Handmaid’s Tale panels joining Deadline on Monday – as you can see in the video above.
The observation by Garbus, who made her scripted TV directorial debut in THT‘s fourth season, was reinforced by Bradley Whitford in a one of the later panels. “Four years in, when you have a show populated by these characters with these crosscurrents, people get very invested because what they’re going through is human,” the West Wing alum and 2019 THT Emmy winner declared.
Garbus and Whitford were joined today by some of their fellow 2021 THT Emmy nominees to discuss the show and a 10-episode season like no other before, both on and off screen. Showrunner Bruce Miller, and EP Warren Littlefield were in the first panel with season finale director Garbus, production designer Elisabeth Williams, editor Wendy Hallam Martin, composer Adam Taylor, writer Yahlin Chang, and costume designer Debra Hanson to talk about working in a pandemic and with such heightened material.
A reality that was acutely felt by those on the other side of the screen as Moss’ June found her freedom in Canada and the consequences that entailed for her, as well as her O.T. Fagbenle portrayed husband and close friend Moira, played by past Emmy winner and current Emmy nominee Samira Wiley.
“It’s really interesting in the way that I feel like our own life for the actors this season paralleled the show,” said Wiley, who won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series two years ago for her THT role. “I felt like we were all quite literally stuck in Canada,” she noted of the Toronto filed series and the border closing that the global health crisis caused. “But one thing that was so wonderful about that I remember is that I feel like actually more than any other season was able to more time spend with my cast mates. I feel like I got to know Yvonne, I got to know O.T. and Alexis in a deep way than I have before.”
Black Widow alum Fagbenle, who is up for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series this year along with co-stars Whitford and Max Minghella, joined Wiley, and fellow nominees Yvonne Strahovski and Alexis Bledel. The latter actors are nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series categories for their roles as the duplicitous and self-serving Serena Joy and former Handmaid Emily Malek. Bledel won her category back in 2017 in the show’s first season as it took the Outstanding Drama Series prize.
Tuesday’s Virtual House wrapped up with Whitford and Minghella coming on board with Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer and McKenna Grace.
Dowd, who won an Emmy in 2017 for her performance as the harsh Aunt Lydia, and frequent scene mate Brewer are in the running for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama. Teen powerhouse Grace is up for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, like Bledel.
“The wall is going to crack, that’s what love does in my opinion,” says Dowd of Aunt Lydia’s relationship with Brewer’s Janine.
A statement that says a lot about the two characters and The Handmaid’s Tale itself
Take a look at the video above of some of the panels.