Yvonne Strahovski (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’): ‘I don’t feel sorry for Serena Joy’
“I don’t feel sorry for her,” admits Yvonne Strahovski about the divisive character she plays on Hulu’s Emmy award winning hit “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “If I remove myself from being so attached to the insides of Serena Joy as the person who plays her,” Strahovski says, “I think she has it coming and it’s exactly where she should be actually.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, and stars Elisabeth Moss as June, one of thousands of enslaved handmaids. They are forced to give birth for the barren ruling class in a near-future dystopia where the authoritarian theocracy of Gilead has usurped and replaced America as we know it. Strahovski plays Serena Joy, the wife of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and high-ranking members of the elite, and for want of a better term, the villains of the show.
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. The Waterfords, after a season-long quest to retrieve their “daughter” Nichole, travel north and Commander Waterford is captured to face justice in Canada as a war criminal. While Serena is temporarily reunited with Nichole, she too pays the ultimate price when she is arrested as a co-conspirator.
Apart from the electric season finale, another highlight was mid-way through the season during the fifth episode “Unknown Caller,” where Serena is whisked away to Canada to reunite with baby Nichole in an arranged meeting with Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), who has custody after June smuggled of the child across the border. It was confronting to watch the nuances of this very complicated woman who is longing to be with her child but is still the villain.
“There’s just so much to power through in that episode,” Strahovski explains. “It’s such a tainted experience for her and I loved playing with that duality of having to still be the manipulative Serena whilst automatically losing herself in the emotional side of that reunion,” she says. “From the get-go we were zoned in on one another and it’s very strong because there are two very clear opposing forces at work here in this scene with Luke and his animosity towards Serena,” the actress reveals. “That scene was very clear to me. I knew exactly how I wanted to do it.”