The Handmaid’s Tale viewers have waited a long time for Serena Joy Waterford to get her due.
Finally, in the seventh episode of the penultimate season of Hulu’s Emmy-winning series, that moment of payoff arrived when Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) went into labor and had no one to help her but her former handmaid, and current enemy, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss).
The episode, “No Man’s Land,” forces the dystopian series’ warring women into an intimate barn setting where June, torn at the idea of helping her former abuser, ultimately coaches Serena through the birth of her first child, baby boy Noah, son of the late Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes). The childbirth scene is primal and intimate and prompts the women to confess their secrets: June tells Serena that she didn’t kill her when she had the chance because she simply didn’t want to, and Serena realizes she has been forced into essentially being a handmaid in the Wheelers house and begs June to take her baby to freedom.
“It’s so unexpected the way they crafted Serena becoming a handmaid without her actually becoming a handmaid,” Strahovski told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the episode about the twist — and major moment of payoff — of Serena being stripped of everything and having nowhere to turn but to June. “I fantasized about them turning Serena into a handmaid because that’s the best kind of revenge and satisfying for the audience. But I never thought that Bruce [Miller, creator] would do it because it’s too obvious. Then I read this version and was thrilled they managed to do it in this great, clever, creative way.”
But June doesn’t take the baby. Instead, she lectures Serena on why that baby needs his mother, and she gives Serena the confidence to want to fight for her child. “I’m not sure how much of it is about Serena and how much of it is about the baby, but it makes for such a complicated, layered setup,” she adds.
The episode ends, however, with the ultimate comeuppance when, shortly after arriving at the hospital in Canada, June’s husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) calls immigration authorities on Serena, who is undocumented, and her baby is promptly taken away as she is detained. Where Serena goes from here, Strahovski says, is “rock bottom.” But first, the actress takes THR behind the scenes of the biggest Serena-June episode to date, why it felt so personal to her, and whether or not she believes Serena can change.
When you and I chatted at the beginning of the season, you said, with a laugh, that you’ve worked hard to make people want to root for Serena. How does this episode feel like a turning-of-the-tide moment for her amid this larger June and Serena payoff for viewers?
It’s pivotal in so many ways. And it’s so complicated, which is what makes it so juicy. I think it’s hard to feel one way about it, which is why I’m so curious how audiences will react. People are going to want to see Serena get what she deserves, but when there is an innocent little baby involved, that gets complicated. And that’s the complicated line June is walking this entire episode in making the decision to come back and help Serena while she’s in labor.
Having all those amazing scenes to work with, as an actor, was like threading such a fine thread to navigate the emotions. Especially from Serena’s point of view, to go from the most magical moment in your life, only to realize that you have no life anymore, and then she’s asking June to take the baby. For Serena, it’s one of the rarer moments where we’re not seeing her manipulate as much because she’s sort of realizing things in the moment. Where we left with the cliffhanger in the previous episode, she was going moment by moment and had no plan; we’ve never seen her that way, and it’s really interesting territory.
You also told me you were blown away when you read that Serena’s labor scene would be just the two of them and that you and Elisabeth Moss got to play around with the scene and found things “you didn’t think could exist.” What were some of those things you found?
That moment I was talking about was in that huge scene when Serena offers for June to take her baby, and June has her back turned to Serena, and she comes back in and says, “I’m not you. I’m not going to do that, because you’re the mother.” We found almost laughter in it. There was smiling. And it was like they were really bonding in a lot of ways, which is very confronting and conflicting if you’re watching that as an audience member, given everything they’ve been through and everything you’ve witnessed Serena do. The smiling throughout that moment was something neither of us had envisioned in that way, which was really cool and powerful. The whole episode was really fun to map out, even the physicality. And for me, it was so personal because I had just given birth.
Did you add some of the primal screaming into the scene and other elements of the labor?
The noises I definitely wanted to be more guttural. I wanted it to be representative of at least what my labor felt like. And I wanted to have that physical intimacy between June and Serena that a lot of people do with their partners when giving birth. I wanted it to be intimate and to see the physical relationship between these two women, with the noises and also the positions. June had given birth twice, and Serena had not. So I wanted to sort of peel back on the savviness of Serena being a first-time mom while the stakes are so high and very dangerous. In that moment in the barn, there’s a lot of panic given the circumstances and the environment, and given that June is a threat still in those moments. There is definitely a layer of panic and anxiety that’s infused into the birth scene. It was one of the most — if not the most — exciting episodes to play with in the whole five years for me.
That’s interesting you mention the smiling because viewers are expecting some sort of manipulation, and the smiling made me wonder if June was being genuine. Do you believe June meant what she was saying, that Serena is the best mom for her child and that she should fight for her baby?
Yes. I do think she genuinely means it. However, I think the “but” that everyone in the audience is thinking and feeling, and the “but” that Serena and even June is thinking and feeling, is that June doesn’t necessarily trust herself, and doesn’t trust herself to follow through on that pure genuine thought. She might be saying it in this moment, and this is ultimately what she wants to lean into because she is a better person than Serena, but I think the fact that we’re all bumping on is, but how long is this going to last? And, can this last? This is a show that explores what it’s like to be experiencing trauma and the aftermath of trauma, and the continuation of reliving your trauma through people and your abusers. Anything can change, which is why it’s so complicated and complex.
Do you think Serena could have ever lived with the choice of giving up her son if June had said “Yes”?
Oh, God. I don’t know what would have happened. I don’t know that I can see her laying back in the hay and being like, “God take me now, I’m going to die.” If it had been written where June said “Yes,” I could see Serena regretting it and running after the baby and June.
Then there is the revelation that Serena is essentially a handmaid when she returns to the Wheelers’ house with this new baby. It seemed like she couldn’t confront that, until now, and this role reversal is a major payoff for the audience — how did you feel about it?
I love the slow reveal. It was a chance to have Serena be not prepared for something. You see how she’s going moment by moment as we got deeper and deeper into the setup of the Wheelers in episodes five and six, and at the end of six, she has zero plan. She has no idea what she’s going to do when she gets in the car with Ezra to go and get June, knowing Ezra is supposed to kill June. Plus, the labor is starting. It’s such an opportunity for me as an actor to show a different color and then some. This is a credit to Eva [Vives], our director of those episodes because they felt very reminiscent of old school The Handmaid’s Tale and back to season one, where we had that major creep factor; that feeling in the pit of your stomach of, “What is happening here?” It was such a throwback to what was one of the major elements that makes the show in the Gilead world.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate has acquired worldwide rights to Scrambled, written by and starring Leah McKendrick, who makes her feature directorial debut on the comedy, which just wrapped filming.
Produced by Jonathan Levine and Gillian Bohrer’s Megamix, along with Brett Haley and Amanda Mortimer, and executive producer Mariah Owen, the film stars McKendrick as Nellie Robinson, a broke, single 34-year-old, fresh off a breakup, who faces down an existential crisis when she decides to freeze her eggs. McKendrick wrote the script following her own egg-retrieval experience last year.
The ensemble cast includes Ego Nwodim (SNL, Love Life), Andrew Santino (Dave), Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption, John Wick 4, Dexter: New Blood), Laura Cerón (Station 19, ER), Adam Rodriguez (Magic Mike, Criminal Minds), Yvonne Strahovski (Handmaid’s Tale), June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie, Long Shot), Noah Silver (Tyrant), and Sterling Sulieman (Station 19). The cast also includes Max Adler, Mimi Kennedy, Camille Mana, and Matt Pascua.
McKendrick is a Latina American multi-hyphenate from San Francisco. She wrote, produced and co-starred in the vigilante thriller M.F.A. alongside Francesca Eastwood which premiered at SXSW and was dubbed “the first horror movie to speak to the #MeToo era” by The New York Times. McKendrick’s romcom feature Voicemails for Isabelle was preempted by Sony Pictures and landed her on the Black List in 2019. She then wrote the highly-anticipated Grease prequel Summer Lovin’ for Paramount, and set up a second Paramount feature, Better Late than Never, which she is attached to direct. She is currently penning TriStar’s reboot of the ’80s cult classic Troop Beverly Hills.
The project continues Lionsgate’s collaboration with Megamix, which has a production deal with the studio. The studio will go into production next year on a sequel to Dirty Dancing, starring and executive produced by Jennifer Grey, which Megamix will produce and Levine will direct. The studio also recently announced the Megamix production, Sailing, a yacht rock musical comedy to star Woody Harrelson.
BondIt Media Capital is providing production financing. Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor and Grady Craig executive produce for BondIt.
McAuley Cahill and Jordan Backhus co-produce for Megamix.
Chad Russo at Ramo Law negotiated the deal on behalf of the production. McKendrick is represented by UTA, manager David Clark of Mazo Partners, and Joel VanderKloot of VanderKloot Law. Megamix is represented by Carlos Goodman at Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.
When Yvonne Strahovski pops up on Zoom, it takes me a minute to remind myself that I am not, in fact, speaking to Serena Joy. The actress has her hair pulled away from her face in a tight bun—her Handmaid’s Tale character’s signature style—and the room in which she sits could easily pass for the Toronto detention center where Serena has resided for the past season. But when Strahovski speaks, her Australian accent creeping into her warm greeting, I am reminded that I am not faced with Mrs. Waterford, but the woman who has been successfully bringing her to life every season going on five years.
It’s clear that Strahovski has a complicated relationship with Serena Joy, the manipulative, often sadistic woman who helped create the hellscape of Gilead. But throughout the seasons, the actress has honed the craft of getting into Serena’s head—which requires the actress to avoid judging her character for the decisions she makes.
“From an actor’s point of view, it’s fun because it is complicated,” she says. “It’s not always easy. I get challenged with some of the material.” Below, Strahovski discusses season five of the hit series, how being a mother changed the way she saw the role of Serena, and why she doesn’t think she will ever be able to wear teal again.
Serena is such a complex woman. When you play her, do you attempt to bring any humanity to the character? Do you want the audience to feel compassion for her?
I tried very hard for the audience to have compassion for Serena, and I think I had my work cut out for me with that. I’ve always tried to approach her from a more human perspective; it’s the only perspective that I can approach her from. I don’t ever see her as purely evil or spiteful and bitter for the revenge. It’s always coming from some place that is a very real, true emotion—fear and sadness. That’s important because it humanizes her and it hopefully makes her a wee bit more relatable to audiences who find her behavior heinous.
How much of Serena’s behavior can you explain away by saying she was just trying to survive in Gilead?
I think I can explain all of it away, basically. It’s really complex—there’s a whole political setup here. She has one foot in the architecture of Gilead and one foot out of it. There’s her relationship with Fred, who betrayed her many times and became abusive. If you ask yourself what it would truly be like to be in that position, you would have a lot of trauma. And I think that’s the foundation of anyone’s bad behavior.
What do you think went through Serena’s head when she heard the news of Fred’s death?
I think her raw emotion was thinking about what could have been, what should have been, and what was never going to be. There was a very real connection between Fred and Serena way back when they first met. They had so much potential and real love between them. It just all went pear-shaped and then some.
Do you think Serena deserved to get pregnant?
I don’t know if she deserved it. It seems to have come into her life to perhaps teach her some kind of a lesson. It’s very meaningful for her, and certainly hit quite close to home for me personally, as a mom of two. I started shooting this season when my second son was only eight weeks old. So that parallel was definitely very impactful.
How has being a mother affected the way you approached this character?
Obviously, I still have to imagine the scenarios and the emotions. I’m not actually in that situation, but it suddenly makes it a hell of a lot easier to imagine anything to do with children and any kind of loss or grief or sense of protection you feel. You understand the lengths you would go to protect your baby. That stuff is automatically built into your system as a mom. You don’t have to go into the crevices of your brain and imagine all those things, it exists within you already.
What has it been like to explore the new dynamic between Serena and June with Elisabeth Moss this season?
We have a pretty good laugh about it because we joke that it’s a Juliet-and-Juliet love affair situation. They’re in this crazy toxic, dysfunctional relationship and can’t seem to get out of it. But it’s always important for me to find the new dynamic, because it’s easy to fall back into older patterns. We’ve been doing this for quite some time now, so it is really important for us to find the new flavor of the relationship.
It got pretty raw in past seasons, but it gets even rawer this season. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. They just have some kind of a no-bullshit language between them, where they can really see and hear each other. They can’t lie to each other very well. And that relationship is also really, really complicated, and it’s been great to go even deeper into those complications.
Do you feel like Serena is a true believer in God? How much of it do you think is a front and how much do you think she truly believes what she’s saying?
She’s a true believer. There was definitely a period of time where I thought she was second-guessing it a lot, but for the most part, she is a believer. Especially in this season, because I do think she truly believes she’s been given this gift of pregnancy from God, and it’s for a reason.
Will it be hard when you have to eventually say goodbye to this character after playing her for so long?
Yes and no. It will feel great to say bye, because it has been a lot of emotion. But it’s been five years so far, and that’s a lot of time spent with all of these people, getting to know the cast and the crew and everyone we work with. So it’s a chapter that will be an emotional one to say goodbye to.
Will you ever wear teal again?
Oh my god [laughs]. No, it’s ruined it for me. I really can’t wear it. It just ends up looking like Serena Joy. And I usually wear my hair back too, so then I really look like Serena. I certainly can’t wear it to any red carpet affair. I wonder if the women that play the Handmaids feel the same way about the color red on a carpet.
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI arrives on set sporting her signature outfit: a gray T-shirt, denim shorts, and white sneakers. It’s August and the sun is shining in Toronto, where Strahovski, 40, is filming season 5 of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Barefaced and wearing her blonde hair in its natural texture, she only vaguely resembles her character, the austere Serena Joy Waterford.
The steely demeanor that drives fans to love hating Serena is nowhere to be seen: Strahovski jokes about her lopsided boobs from breast pumping for her son, Henry, who was born late last year. When a spider crawls onto a camera lens, she carries it outside to safety. And she eschews Jimmy Choo heels to be photographed barefoot.
Witnessing Strahovski interact with her newborn son and husband, actor Tim Loden, who visit her at her cover shoot, makes it clear that she deserves her numerous accolades, including two Emmy nominations, for portraying the villainess on Hulu’s dystopian drama series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel. Now in its fifth season, “The Handmaids Tale” depicts life in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was once the United States. Ruled by a fundamentalist regime, Gilead treats women as property of the government. Any fertile woman becomes a Handmaid assigned to a Commander and their barren Wife, and is subjected to monthly rape in order to procreate for the couple.
Serena Joy is one of the influential Wives, and as viewers discover, an integral architect of Gilead. Her onscreen husband is Fred Waterford, played by Joseph Fiennes, who was killed at the end of season 4 by their former Handmaid, June, played by Elisabeth Moss. “[Serena] is devastated in her own way about the loss of Fred and then she just gets right back into revenge mode,” Strahovski says about her character’s storyline this season. “We haven’t seen this unhinged version of Serena. She loses her mind and wants to get back at June with vengeance.”
For STYLECASTER’s World of Style issue, Strahovski sat down to discuss Serena Joy’s complicated moral fabric, fashion’s role in delineating social classes in Gilead and the show’s eerie propensity to mirror current events.
SC: How has Serena evolved throughout the seasons?
She goes from one end of the spectrum to the other, and then sits in the middle in that gray area between good and evil, but never quite makes it to the good side. Which is probably why she’s an interesting character to watch. [Laughs]. Audiences do end up rooting for her, as she and June in past seasons have gotten closer or when she’s shown a friendlier side. Then she just backflips and goes right back into being her true self.
Serena often receives more ire than Fred. Why do you think that is?
It’s a woman against another woman. It’s representative of this hierarchy of women at the top in the political game versus women at the bottom, which is displayed in the wives and handmaids. The dynamic where one woman is supportive of basically enslaving another woman for rape every month for her own benefit.
Is it fun to play a character like Serena who’s very flawed?
Initially it wasn’t, but it’s fun now. It was difficult for me to come to terms with how evil she was at times and try to justify everything because, at the end of the day, it’s my job to humanize her. It’s not like I’m playing a villain for villain’s sake. She’s a woman who is also surviving in a terrible situation.
Initially, when we met her way back in the pilot, she didn’t trust Fred. Fred had obviously had an affair with a previous handmaid. She’s got her own bag of things that have wounded her and traumatized her. I’m not saying that’s an excuse, it’s a platform for a regular person having gone through certain things to turn you into something. Serena’s turned into a bit of a monster and like all characters in Gilead, she is surviving in her own way and the only way she knows how to.
What do you think motivates her?
Honestly, the fact that she’s lonely. She had a slither of hope with Fred and having someone she could rely on, and that smashed into pieces. She tried with June, and I think June might have tried with her as well. She’s so lonely and so devastated by the fact she has no one. She will go to great lengths to sabotage.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods star Zachary Levi has long been hopeful for a Chuck movie and now it sounds like it might be getting closer to becoming a reality. During a recent appearance on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast, Levi offered an update on a movie continuation of the fan-favorite television series and Levi said that he thinks that they’re “close” to making something happen in that regard—though nothing is official just yet.
Levi started talking about how he’s been trying to make a Chuck movie since before the television series was over and even spoke about how the reunion via Zoom had served as a “great reminder” to everyone involved about how great the show was.
“I’ve been trying to make a Chuck movie since before we even finished the show,” Levi said. “Like, I was always like, for almost no money budget and no time, we were basically making a mini action movie every week anyway. And so, if we have a little more budget and a little more time, we could make some really killer little Chuck movies and put them online or whatever the heck. I’ve been literally trying to do this since 2012. And dude, I feel like the time is nigh. Yeah, I’ve had some very good, promising conversations with the creators, Josh Schwartz, and Chris Fedak. We had a really lovely get-together and catch-up.”
He then went on to thank fans for their patience and say that he feels like they are getting close to making something happen.
“I don’t know if this is an official announcement or not, but I will tell you that for all of you have been patient, thank you for your patience, I have not stopped trying and I will not stop trying. I’ve joked that even if I’m a geriatric Chuck, we’re gonna do it one day… But I think we’re close to making something happen, which I’m super excited about. And I think it works perfect because now, y’know, it’s a Warner Bros. show, it’s owned by Warner Bros., and I think that with all the streamers now and HBO Max, we could easily start making some movies and putting them there.”
This isn’t the first time Levi has spoken about the idea of making multiple Chuck movies for a streamer. In 2018, he told fans at Heroes & Villains Fan Fest San Jose that he wanted to do a Chuck movie every two years for Netflix, movies he described as one-off installments. And Levi isn’t the only Chuck star who would be down for some sort of revival of the series. Matt Bomer, who played Bryce Larkin in the first two seasons of the series, told ComicBook.com last year he’d consider a return—though admittedly given his character’s fate in the series it would be a bit of a challenge.
Chuck debuted on NBC in 2007 and ran for five seasons, centering around Chuck Bartowski (Levi), a computer whiz who receives an encoded e-mail from an old college friend working for the CIA that sends the only remaining copy of a program containing the United States’ greatest spy secrets into Chuck’s brain. Chuck finds himself on top-secret missions, working alongside CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), NSA Agent Colonel John Casey (Adam Baldwin), and his bumbling best friend Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez).
Nominations were revealed Wednesday morning for the 28th annual SAG Awards, one of the bellwether guild events in the awards-season calendar.
After this morning’s nominations, guild members will vote from January 19-25 ahead of the awards ceremony now set to air on TNT and TBS on February 27 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, a departure from the guild’s usual Shrine Auditorium locale.
In 2021, the SAG Awards were held as a one-hour virtual ceremony delayed to April because of the constraints of the pandemic; for now, an in-person event is planned, complete with a red carpet. There are also plans for a virtual backstage for winners.
Television Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series THE HANDMAID’S TALE
ALEXIS BLEDEL / Emily Malek
MADELINE BREWER / Janine Lindo
AMANDA BRUGEL / Rita Blue
ANN DOWD / Aunt Lydia Clements
O-T FAGBENLE / Luke Bankole
JOSEPH FIENNES / Commander Fred Waterford
SAM JAEGER / Mark Tuello
MAX MINGHELLA / Commander Nick Blaine
ELISABETH MOSS / June Osborne/Offred
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI / Serena Joy Waterford
BRADLEY WHITFORD / Commander Joseph Lawrence
SAMIRA WILEY / Moira Strand
The Handmaid’s Tale star, 39, and husband Tim Loden welcomed the newest addition to their family earlier this week, she announced on Instagram Thursday. The pair are also parents to 3-year-old son William.
“An angel joined our world this past week ❤️,” Strahovski wrote. “Welcome to the family my love ❤️ I love you so very much ❤️ #mamaoftwo #❤️.”
Strahovski revealed that she was expecting on June 30, debuting her baby bump on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of her action movie The Tomorrow War, which she costars in alongside Chris Pratt. “I’m having a boy,” she told Entertainment Tonight at the event.
Back in July 2019, Strahovski told Glamour U.K. about returning to work to film Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale after giving birth to her first baby back in October 2018. She said her husband brought their baby to the set of the drama, in which Strahovski plays the villainous Serena Joy.
“It was definitely one of the hardest and most challenging moments ever in my entire career. Coming back to work with a newborn and all the sleep deprivation that comes with that, plus I was breastfeeding,” she recalled at the time.
“… I was running in between set and my trailer, breastfeeding on demand and doing scene work. It was crazy being all ‘miserable Serena’ and then coming in and having so much joy looking at my baby, and then going back into the scene and then coming back again and breastfeeding and being happy,” added Strahovski.
The star also opened up about the emotional side of returning to work.
“I think there’s pros and cons to both ends of it. I was devastated to begin with, if I’m honest. It was like a ticking time bomb, knowing that I was going to go back to work and that I was going to have to part with my baby for the hours that I would be on set filming,” she said. “Even knowing my husband was there with him, I was still dreading being apart. Emotionally, I just didn’t want to let go and be away.”
“But in hindsight looking back on it, I think that because I knew I was going back to work, I appreciated every single little moment that I had with him — including the breakdowns in the middle of the night, where I was just so tired that I was crying and nothing else was happening at the moment, except you’re just devastated that you’re tired,” said the Emmy nominee.
“Even those moments were oddly appreciated because I knew that this was going to be it,” she added. “Time flies so quickly with little ones, you know, and the next day they change and they’re not so little anymore and that’s the only time that you get.”
Hannah’s fate, revealed
While Harrison has yet to tell Dexter about Hannah, Phillips revealed her fate on the Dexter: New Blood Wrap Up podcast. He was discussing Harrison’s life when he revealed Harrison had been placed in the foster care system after Hannah died of cancer.
“Harrison has traveled the world to find his father, having thought that his father had died in the hurricane in the last episode of season 8 and then having learned that indeed from a letter that Dexter had sent Hannah, Yvonne Strahovski, that Dexter had indeed survived,” he shared, around the 35:00 mark. “And as any teenager with a laptop can do, he found his father, from Argentina to Miami to Oregon to Iron Lake, New York.”
Phillips continued: “[It shows] how obsessed he is, how much he needed a father. He was alone in the world. His mother had been murdered, his stepmother had died of cancer, he was shipped off to the foster care system in the U.S., and he was a teenager. Nobody wants a teenager and so he was mal-treated and said basically, f*** it, I’m gonna go find my father. And he did.”
Strahovski first revealed she would not be in the show in a May appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. She didn’t know how the revival would address Hannah’s absence but shared a fun theory that Harrison had maybe killed her. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything,” she added.
When it comes to her new film The Tomorrow War, Yvonne Strahovski was hooked from the start.
“I thought the script was such a page-turner when I first read it,” the Handmaid’s Tale and Dexter actress tells EW. “And I just loved the way that [my] character was such a surprise.”
Directed by Chris McKay, the sci-fi actioner follows Chris Pratt’s Dan, a veteran and high school teacher who gets recruited to fight a war in the future against an invasive alien species that’s decimating mankind. Strahovski plays a brilliant military scientist from the future codenamed Romeo Command, who is charged with creating a biological weapon to destroy the enemy extraterrestrials. In other words, the fate of humanity pretty much rests in her very capable and combat-ready hands (no pressure!).
Ahead of the film’s Friday release on Amazon Prime Video, Strahovski dished about why her character isn’t your typical badass, what it was like fighting aliens, and why she wished she’d gone to the gym before production started.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your character has a lot going on: She’s a fighter, and she’s also a scientist kind of in charge of making sure the world doesn’t end. How did you prepare for a role like that? Was there a lot of training? YVONNE STRAHOVSKI: We definitely had some military training, just in terms of being able to handle the weapons, because there were certainly a lot of them, especially for me. So we definitely did that. I probably should have gone to the gym or something a bit more — or at all — before I did this movie, I’m not sure that I anticipated doing that much action. [Laughs] But I’m so thrilled. I loved being back in that action space. It’s such a great part, and it’s really fun to get back into it and do some really cool stunts and just play and get physical.
You in particular had some very up-close and personal scenes with these aliens. How did you film those, and what was that experience like?
Typically, we would do three different takes for the same kind of shot. So you do a take with nothing at all and just kind of pretend that there’s something there. And then you would do the take with the person in the gray unitard. And then you would do a take with a prosthetic. They built a prosthetic of the top half of the alien, so the head and the front legs that was controlled by guys basically puppeteering it from behind. I thought it’d be easier to have someone there or the prosthetic alien there, but I actually really enjoyed doing it to nothing. I think I found it very freeing to just sort of be able to use your imagination and just kind of create something.
So many of your scenes take place in this really cool futuristic lab. How much of that was actually built?
That whole set was pretty much built. Yeah, that was in a studio. It was all done. It was incredible. Yeah, they did an incredible job with the whole lab, in the inside of the lab, and in that area where the alien ends up in. And the rest, you know, the exterior was power plants.
The sets were great. It feels like a big summer blockbuster movie.
Yeah, it definitely was. And I think it’s a special one just because of how it has that really beautiful family thread through it that grounds the movie, even though it’s got all this amazing action and aliens. It’s got all these surprise elements within it that I’m not sure that audiences are expecting.
Your character is so interesting too, because she doesn’t hesitate at all. Even in the face of certain danger, she just straps in, takes charge, and gets it done.
Yeah, I like that about her too. There’s so much bubbling under the surface there. She does totally put [worries] away and she puts her brave face on and faces the unimaginable. But she also faces her heart and her inner demons, which was what was so compelling to me about the character and what I really liked. She isn’t just like an action hero badass, there’s this really great grounding element to her.
Do you feel like after the last year we’ve all had, a film about the end of the world plays differently?
Yeah, I think it definitely plays differently in the sense that we’ve all been in this pandemic and isolation from one another, and humanity, we’ve all been in this one pandemic boat. There’s a theme in the film of humanity kind of coming together for one common goal and how we handle that. I mean, obviously the end of the world is a little more extreme, but still, we’ve all been living in a very extreme situation. So there’s definitely some really interesting parallels.
What do you hope the audience gets out of the film?
I just hope they have a great time. This is like, grab your loved ones, your family, turn the lights off, and get your popcorn out and just enjoy the ride. I think this will take people places that they’re not expecting, and it’s just fun. It’s wild. I think people are ready for [summer blockbusters]. People want to see something like this. It’s time.
On Wednesday, the Handmaids Tale actress, 38, revealed she is pregnant with her second child, debuting her baby bump on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of The Tomorrow War.
Strahovski, who stars in the military science fiction film opposite Chris Pratt, sported a full-length white turtleneck gown that hugged her bump. She paired the dress with a chunky gold bangle and diamond earrings.
This will be the second child for Strahovski and her husband, Tim Loden. The couple are also parents to son William, whom they welcomed in October 2018.
Strahovski announced her first pregnancy, not on a red carpet but on Instagram back in May 2018.
“I am very excited to finally be able to share my special news — I’m going to be a Mama!” she wrote alongside a photo of her baby bump. “So very exciting to watch & feel this little Peanut growing every day!”
She’s since used the social media platform to gush about her son.
“My heart has melted into a billion pieces a thousand times already,” Strahovski captioned a black-and-white mother-son photo after his birth. “We have been blessed with the greatest joy of our lives, our baby boy. Welcome to the world Peanut, your parents love you beyond measure and you are already my little dream boat. My heart has been stolen!”
Earlier this month, Strahovski spoke to PEOPLE about filming The Tomorrow War.
The Australian actress plays scientist/military leader Romeo Command, part of a team of time travelers from 2051 who recruit civilians (like Pratt’s high school teacher Dan Forester) to help fight a ferocious alien race trying to wipe out humanity 30 years in the future.
“We did do a lot [of stunts],” Strahovski said, of shooting the action thriller. “I remember being very impressed when Chris did a one-handed slide down a rope coming out of the helicopter, while shooting your semi-automatic. That was super badass.”
Pratt, who also serves as the film’s executive producer, was pretty impressed by Stahovski’s skills too. In fact, he told PEOPLE he knew she was perfect for the intense, stunt-heavy role almost from the moment she stepped on set.
“On Yvonne’s maybe second day [filming], she had to climb to the top of this 200 or 300-foot tall power plant in Atlanta and essentially do a catwalk,” Pratt, 41, recalled. “You’re on a wire suspended on a rig, but if you fall, you’re actually going to mess yourself up because you’re going to be careening off a beam before they catch you. And she did it seamlessly!
“I had been practicing this thing all day,” he continued. “I had absolute vertigo. I was freaking out. You could tell that for a brief moment she was nervous and she just zipped it all up, got super tough and nailed it right away. It was pretty impressive.”
“Zipped it up including the poop in my pants,” joked Strahovski.
Congratulations on the latest releases of The Tomorrow War and The Handmaid’s Tale. In The Tomorrow War, we see the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrives from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: “Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species.” The Tomorrow War is also focused on another subject that has fascinated the writers and readers alike since Enrique Gaspar’s “El Anacronópete”, 1887 and HG Wells’ “The Time Machine”, 1895 – time travel. Your character plays a prominent role when it comes to science in the future, do you think your character was also related to the discovery of time travel? Possibly, though she does specify around the time that the character gets introduced that she has a PhD in Biotechnology with an emphasis in genomics and immunology. So, maybe!
The movie also touches on the Butterfly Effect of time travel with directly relates to your character.Are you as fascinated by Science Fiction when it’s getting so realistic and probable, at least through the eyes of the films these days?
I am fascinated and amazed by it, but more so through the likes of articles. I recently went down an A.I. rabbit hole and was amazed (and slightly concerned) to learn about just how much technology is out there on it – often not really in our control. Once you give A.I. the power to think by itself, it does. And humans don’t necessarily know what these super computers are doing.
When I’m watching movies I’m more interested in the alien aspect of it. The Tomorrow War is 100% percent a movie I would choose to watch – and I don’t get to watch too many.
Your other release is a Season 4 tv series adaptation of the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale – the story of life in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. Your character Serena Joy / Mrs. Waterford is a major character, finds herself captured in Canada. Where would we see her progress towards the finale?
This season Serena is doing everything she can to get out of detention in Canada and out into the real Canadian world with her baby. She uses anyone she can to her advantage, especially Fred & Mark Tuello. She is as manipulative as ever but with a new flare for freedom – whether she is conscious about it or not.
Do you think there is a chance for her to switch sides from Gilead to the US/Canada?
I don’t think she wants to go back to Gilead. Pretty sure she would be hung for her crimes of selling herself and Fred out to the Canadian government. Or they would make her a handmaid. Now that she is, in fact, a fertile woman with child.
Are you excited that the show is green-lit for Season 5?
I am excited to see where Serena’s story goes, especially if it is a whole new world in Canada. I can see her becoming a political figure with a following there and picking up where she left off pre-Gilead and writing books about her points of view.
You are versatile as an actor transforming easily between protagonist and antagonist characters while keeping the audience thrilled by your ability to find reasons to like your characters nonetheless. What is your acting secret?
That is very kind, thank you! I just really, really, REALLY enjoy doing a deep dive into the complexities of the human psyche and the grey area that a lot of human behavior plays out in. I am fascinated by the many shades of emotions we have as humans and how they propel us forward, along with our deep intuitive knowledge.
Playing characters on both sides of the spectrum brought you an Emmy Nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale, an AACTA Award for Best Actress in Stateless (ABC/Netflix) among other Awards and Nominations. How do you choose your projects especially when it comes to tv series when you have to be vested in your character for a number of years?
I look at the character I am going to play – how different it is from anything I have done before, how I can deep dive with the character in ways I perhaps have not as an actress before, and what does the character represent on a more global level. I also look at the writing and who will be involved in the making of the project as well as the overriding themes in the project and what it might be saying about human society and the world we live in.
While your latest projects are all dystopian, you are a proponent of protecting the environment. Do you think we as a society over-consume especially at the expense of public welfare and environmental protection? What do you think needs to be implemented in order to protect the environment and not end up in actual dystopian reality?
We definitely over consume. I think the bigger and more urgent problem though is that we lack the protections for our earth that we actually need to survive as a human species ourselves.
I find it unreal that a) that fact is lost on a lot of people and b) leaders have not prioritized heavy protections for our oceans and rainforests and focused on re adjusting our agriculture industries to actually be more sustainable and planet friendly. There is so much hope out there and many people coming up with real and livable solutions but yet the implementation of these seems to be at a snail’s pace. We are running out of time & biodiversity. If we lose our biodiversity and the habitats they live in (ocean/rainforest) we lose us.
As we all faced a difficult pandemic, how did you stay motivated and keep in touch with your friends and family?
I am away a lot for work, often in different cities or countries away from my dearest. So I’m well attuned to using facetime to keep in touch with family and besties. That part didn’t feel that much different.
But to combat the void that needed to be filled with seeing my nearest and dearest in person, my husband and son and I organized various distanced camping trips outdoor in nature. We could be distanced, spaced out as we sat around a campfire, and everyone would just bring their own food. Those are some of my best memories.
You love to explore natural environments and national parks. Can you tell us the most memorable places you visited?
Zion, horseshoe bend, Lake Powell, Yosemite, Yellowstone, basically anything in Utah & Arizona, Joshua Tree – the list goes on. My list is even longer for where I’m yet to go!
If you had a chance to give your younger self a piece of advice, what it would be?
Relax honey, it’s going to be ok.
A week after sending an audition tape for an American dramedy, Chuck, in 2007, Australia-born actress Yvonne Strahovski received a call saying she’d landed one of the lead roles, a CIA agent, in the pilot. She booked a round-trip flight to Los Angeles but would never use the return ticket.
“Lo and behold, one thing led to another, and that was that. Here we are 14 years later,” says Strahovski, 38. Her career can be described as a steady trajectory of success, including The Handmaid’s Tale — season four wraps June 16 — and The Tomorrow War, which marks her first starring role in a big-budget popcorn pic. In the film, out July 2 on Amazon, Strahovski brings Sigourney Weaver-esque nerves of steel to her role (opposite Chris Pratt) as an alien-battling scientist.
Strahovski — who followed Chuck with a turn on Dexter as the titular serial killer’s girlfriend — largely eschews the Hollywood spotlight. “I just love the outdoors and camping,” says the actress, adding that she and her husband and their young son “took some of the best family nature trips that I’ve ever had” during pandemic-induced downtime.
It was her casting on Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale that garnered the actress her first Emmy nomination (in 2018) for her star turn as the villainous but complicated Serena Joy Waterford, who finds the tables flipped on her in the latest season. “Serena is definitely villain-flavored but with a twist,” says Strahovski. “It’s always been interesting to watch June [Elisabeth Moss’ character] and Serena in opposition to each other. They are two women living in an oppressive society at opposite ends of the spectrum.” And that’s set to continue when Handmaid’s returns for season five.
In building her career, “I’ve really fought for the opportunities that come about where I’m not pigeonholed. I’m thrilled with the sort of scope I’ve been given,” says the actress, who starred last year in the Australian limited series Stateless as a woman unlawfully detained under Australia’s controversial mandatory detention program for all non-citizens without valid visas.
Growing up, Strahovski made home movies as a tween with her dad’s camera — her parents were Polish immigrants — and starred in high school plays before attending the Theatre Nepean, an actor-training institution at the University of Western Sydney.
The calm, collected actress isn’t worked up over the fact that The Tomorrow War isn’t getting a big-screen release. Paramount and Skydance were set to open the sci-fi epic in theaters last year but had to delay its release because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, Amazon Studios picked up the movie in a megadeal valued at $200 million.
“So much has evolved during the pandemic. In a lot of ways, it might actually have more eyeballs on it because people can watch it at home,” she says. “I feel like people are really aching for something of this kind of movie that has such an old-school kind of super action. We’ve been in isolation for the past year, and there’s this cool theme in the film about all of us coming together and standing up for one common goal, which is a really cool parallel between what we’ve been all experiencing in real life.”
Spoilers for season 4 episode 10 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Wilderness,” below.
In a jaw-dropping season 4 finale, one of The Handmaid’s Tale’s most prominent villains gets his long-overdue comeuppance. It’s been obvious for a while now that Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) wasn’t long for the world; unlike his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), he didn’t have much of a strategic brain, instead seeming to think he could walk into a comfortable post-Gilead life in Canada despite his war crimes. But he learns a lethal lesson in the closing moments of the season, as ally after ally (Mark Tuello, Commander Lawrence, and even Nick) betray him to June (Elisabeth Moss). As Fred begs for mercy, June leads a pack of ex-Handmaids in a Salvaging against the disgraced Commander. After hanging him on “the Wall,” she mails Serena his wedding ring—and one of his fingers.
With Fred out of the picture, Serena’s future looks more uncertain than ever. She can’t go back to Gilead after Fred betrayed the regime, and, as she noted in a recent episode, without the privilege conferred by being a Commander’s wife, she could become a Handmaid. But staying in Canada is also perilous, with June now on the vengeful warpath and Serena’s baby due any day.
“The knowledge that June was the one who ripped [Fred] apart, that’s the scary part for Serena,” Strahovski tells ELLE.com. “That’s the biggest threat. And if she goes out into the real world and gets released, especially if she gets to keep her baby, that’s the part that will constantly have her living in fear. To Serena, June is capable of anything, including ripping Serena or her baby to shreds.”
Below, Strahovski digs into the impact of Fred’s death, what Serena’s next calculated move could be, and the complex relationship and uncomfortable parallels between June and Serena.
I’m getting the sense that everybody involved in the show is just thrilled to see Fred go, including Joseph. Is that how you felt when you heard this was going to happen?
It was, but honestly, my jaw was on the floor when I read it. I’m slightly biased because I’ve spent so much time with Joe, and he is the nicest guy ever. I mean, our families know each other! So it was also sad for me to be reading it, just as a friend of Joe’s, to know that he’s going. I remember shooting my last scene with him at work, and then it was wrap time, and I couldn’t help but cry.
It felt like Serena was trying to make a clean break from Fred at the end of last season, but then the pregnancy changed all of that. What is the nature of Fred and Serena’s relationship at this point?
If I have to put a headline to it, it would be “business transaction.” I think for the first little bit, she wasn’t going to use Fred at all—she was still thinking for the longest time that she would get off and not need him. But then with the arrival of June and everything else, she realized that she really did need to make a business transaction with him and move forward to solidify her chances of being free. But I don’t think there was any kind of love there. Nothing can be really saved between them at this point.
It also feels like she becomes a bit conscious of what she and Fred represent as a unified front in the public eye, right?
Yeah, exactly. It’s solidified when they walk out into the crowd and realize they have a fanbase in the real world in Canada. It’s those kinds of things that Serena takes away, puts in her back pocket, and realizes she can use to her advantage down the line if she needs to. And that means transactionally sticking by Fred’s side for a little bit and wearing that teal dress as he so irritatingly tells her to do.
Before we get into the finale, I want to talk about that scene in episode 7, where June finally gets to let loose on Serena and just scream at her. That was such a cathartic scene to watch, but what do you think is going on for Serena in that moment?
I thought a lot about that scene in the lead up to it. My initial thought was that Serena wouldn’t really be that emotional, that she’d be a bit more arrogant in her reaction just to piss off June even more. But I think the emotion is both a mixture of genuine emotion and also manipulation. Because Serena really does need June to forgive her, predominantly because she really does fear that her baby might be born unhealthy, or be taken away from her; that God will strike her baby down. She has that belief embedded in her, both from Gilead and from her own personal religious beliefs.
I was definitely surprised at first that Serena was so deferential and emotional, but that makes sense. It’s not that she’s genuinely feeling the weight of what she’s done to June.
She’s also aware that June’s a lost cause to her. There’s no salvaging any kind of friendship that they might have had an inkling for in an earlier season. Whereas with Rita, it was a different story. She thought she could really manipulate Rita back into some kind of a power dynamic, where Serena is, of course, the one in power, by pretending that everything’s great and fine and dandy. But she knows June’s much too savvy for that nonsense.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Season 4 finale. May the Lord open!
The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Serena Joy Waterford is many things, but a fool is not one of them.
So when she eventually learns what the rest of us do at the end of the Season 4 finale — that Fred Waterford has gone to that great commander’s council in the sky — it won’t take long before she zeroes in on a certain former handmaid who might’ve been involved.
“I can’t imagine that not crossing her mind,” Yvonne Strahovski, who plays the aforementioned commander’s wife, tells TVLine. “I can imagine June purposely telling Serena about it, because she wants Serena to live in absolute fear.” (Check out what Elisabeth Moss and showrunner Bruce Miller had to say about the hour.)
When we talked with Strahovski about the events of the season-ending episode (read a recap), we covered a lot of ground — what Serena did and didn’t know, the Putnams’ visit, Mrs. Waterford’s future — but of course, we kicked off the conversation with…
TVLINE | My condolences on your loss.
Oh! [Laughs] Thank you.
TVLINE | We’ll get to Fred in a moment, but let’s backup to when the Putnams visited. Do you think that was the first time that Serena really considered that she and/or the baby might wind up back in Gilead?
Yes. I do. I think it definitely was a massive reality check for her, to have a big piece of Gilead come in to her, to meet her and visit her, and for her to realize that. The way that Naomi was speaking to Serena — and then, obviously, she knew what Warren Putnam had said to Fred — it was very much a manipulative visit on their part, which was definitely noted by Serena. The severity of the situation really hit home for her.
TVLINE | It was shocking to me that, even as a detainee in Canada, she has way more freedom than a non-detainee woman in Gilead.
Yeah. Which I think gave her the confidence to embrace it a bit more, and indulge in her relationship with Mark Tuello, and indulge in putting her foot down a little bit more with Fred. And indulge in her mind [about] what it means, what the finish line could really be for her.
TVLINE | Do you think that Serena has any inkling or suspicion that Fred might not make it to Geneva?
No. I think she thinks that that is what will happen, for sure. I can see her perhaps concocting a plan that maybe she’ll try and figure him out later, as in maybe she’ll take him to court personally or something. I don’t know. I’m just kind of thinking out loud, because you made me think of it. But other than that, no. I think she thinks he’s going to Geneva, that this is actually happening.
TVLINE | Do you think Serena has it in her to build a future where she can maintain the status that she and Fred have achieved, only without him around?
One thousand percent. Oh yeah. I feel like she’s got that planned out in her brain already. She’s always five steps ahead in some way, shape or form…
I can see her becoming a political figure, and having success with her fan club in Canada, or something, you know? [She could] keep preaching what she used to preach, pre-Gilead. I can see her totally taking control, and being that person. But then again, I really think the fear of God is going to be put into her when she finds out what’s happened.
TVLINE | Do you think, once Serena finds out that Fred is dead, she’ll have any suspicion that June was involved?
Yes. I feel like she’ll know in her heart. They know each other so well, I can’t imagine that not crossing her mind… I can imagine June purposely telling Serena about it, because she wants Serena to live in absolute fear, if and when she gets out of the detention center. I mean, could you imagine?
If you knew that someone was out there, outside, capable of doing something like that to your husband or your partner, and then, you’re trying to live out in the real world, with a baby? I just think that is the most paranoid existence you could ever live, knowing that June has done what she’s done.
The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood and adapted by Bruce Miller for television, is a brilliant albeit terrifying dystopian story about the new world’s order where women are forced to bear the children that are then taken away from them.
The Hulu Original has been talked about on a weekly basis since the fourth season premiered. With June (Elisabeth Moss) now free, the Waterfords – Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) – must prepare for and face trial in Canada for their actions in Gilead, including rape.
Serena, as brilliantly portrayed by Strahovski, is up against a formidable foe. With only one episode left in season four, she’ll do anything to get out and be free, especially since she’s now pregnant. Strahovski was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Serena in 2018, as well as a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series in 2019. With The Handmaid’s Tale‘s fourth season eligible for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, the actress has a great chance to repeat a nomination and possibly win for her portrayal of Serena in the show – as she certainly should.
The series’ new season is a heartbreaking spectacle, with each episode leaving us speechless. One scene in particular from episode seven, “Home,” written by Yahlin Chang and directed by Richard Shephard, forces us to return to the beginning and observe the works of karma as June visits Serena in a detention center. The reunion is, to say the least, violent, and it’s one of the most electrifying moments in season four.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Yvonne Strahovski about the aforementioned scene, among other things. She also told me about her experience playing Serena, and we even exchanged a few sentences in Polish, which made my day.
Zofia Wijaszka: I’m here talking to you on behalf of AwardsWatch because I really want you to get that Emmy nomination [laughs]. How are you doing?
Yvonne Strahovski: Oh, thanks [laughs]! I’m doing good. How are you?
ZW: Oh, it’s going. It’s quite hot here in Los Angeles. It’s kind of too hot for me because I’m all the way from Poland, I moved here five years ago and I still cannot get used to this heat.
YS: Oooh, a to Pani mówi po Polsku? [translation: So you speak Polish?]
ZW: Tak, tak, dokładnie! [Yes, exactly!] I remember, actually, I was watching one of your interviews with a Polish journalist. And then, I think, she asked you about speaking in Polish and you started speaking in full-blown Polish. And I was just, whaaat [laugh]?
YS: Yeah, I know. I guess not a lot of people know it was my first language.
ZW: Yeah, definitely. But yes, I wanted to talk to you about The Handmaid’s Tale and, you know, I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale since it started, and I’ve always been intrigued by your character because, you know, it’s kind of a love-hate relationship with her.
ZW: I want her to stand up [against Gilead] and, you know, I cheer for her and then I hate her sometimes [laugh]. So I was wondering how it feels to play someone cruel and a total opposite, especially as a woman, knowing that Serena is essentially against them?
YS: Yeah. I mean, it’s been an interesting ride playing Serena. I think I’ve gone through all the kind of rollercoaster dips and highs with her. And I’ve kind of ended up in a space where I feel like I am her best friend, but that also feels really like an ugly thing to say [laugh]. Because she can be such an ugly human being. I have felt conflicted, at times, playing her because there is a lot of choices that she makes that I do not agree with, but at the same time, my job is to really understand her and understand what really humanizes her. So I think that’s where I feel most like her best friend, because I understand her, then I can justify everything that she does and why she does it and have empathy for her. While objectively not agreeing with her. So I guess that’s kind of confusing, but it makes sense in my brain.
ZW: No, I completely understand because I also am very conflicted sometimes. Because I like her and then she does something and I’m like, really, why?
YS: Yeah [laughs].
ZW: I really enjoyed, in the earlier seasons, when Serena and June actually collaborated together against Fred and Gilead. They have such a fascinating chemistry and a power dynamic that is just through the roof, especially in the new season. And is there anything that helps you two, you and Elisabeth, to keep this dynamic going?
YS: Oh, I think we’re just so invested in the show and in our characters that it just kind of becomes explosive when we get to do scenes together. I’ve always loved our scenes. They’re so well-written, and they really give us a lot to play with. The stakes are so high and we’ve both just kind of managed to create, you know, these characters that have a lot going on. And so when the two meet, it is explosive and I find it to be the most fun and I’m pretty sure Elisabeth enjoys those scenes as well. Even though they look traumatic to an audience, I really love the opportunity to do those scenes.
ZW: Yeah, they’re really something. And you’ve played Serena for many years now. Is there something in particular that intrigues you about her?
YS: The way her brain works intrigues me the most and how it clashes with what her heart desires. I’m pretty fascinated in general by that aspect in most people in real life and the characters that I play. But in particular with Serena, when you have someone like her living in the circumstances that she’s been living in, and also being oppressed by Gilead, but also being one of the oppressors – it’s a very complex situation and it’s never really that black and white in her head, even though her actions sometimes seem incredibly black and white, and definitive in her mind. I think it’s a constant tug of war between the things that she wants and desires versus how she truly feels about everything. So that’s the most fascinating thing about her.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for last Wednesday’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Progress.”
Yvonne Strahovski was just as shocked as everyone else by her character Serena Joy Waterford’s surprise pregnancy this season on The Handmaid’s Tale, but she says the real surprises are still to come.
“It’s really interesting. I mean, it kind of reads like a slap in the face, doesn’t it?” she tells EW of the pregnancy. “I guess that’s what it is to June and the other characters who got out and are now in Canada.”
Serena and Fred (Joseph Fiennes) have spent the season – and pregnancy – in a detention center in Canada awaiting trial for their Gilead crimes, while their former handmaid June (Elisabeth Moss) has finally gotten free and reunited with her husband and friends up north.
For those who don’t quite know how to feel about Serena, or whether we should ever trust her, Strahovski says she can relate. “I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her either,” she says with a laugh. “I think for the first few seasons people were kind of trusting that perhaps she could turn a corner and she could change, but I think what was really important for me to explore this season was kind of the freedom in which she allows herself to kind of really be more strategic in how she wants her future to evolve.”
She continues, “Specifically, I’m using the word freedom even though she’s in detention, and she doesn’t really seem so free, but I wanted to play around with that. That energy of freedom in her relationship with Fred, with Mark Tuello, with June and with Rita, the key people that she sees in her limited time and space, and how everything really does become strategic at this point, because she’s in prison essentially.”
One of the season’s most dramatic reunions so far was when June went to visit Serena in prison, and as she begged for June’s forgiveness, June stood over her and yelled at her in very much the same way Serena did to June in season 1. “It is hard to trust her because you see the wheels turning in her brain even when she’s begging for forgiveness from June,” Strahovski says of that scene. “I think there’s a huge genuine part of her that really does want that forgiveness, but it’s purely for selfish reasons. I think she believes that God is going to turn around and kill her baby if she doesn’t beg for forgiveness. It’s not because she is really that sorry, I don’t think.”
The final minutes of last week’s penultimate episode revealed that Fred agreed to give up Gilead’s secrets in exchange for his freedom, setting in motion what could be an explosive finale. Strahovski can’t say much, but when asked about the finale, she says that when she read the script, her “jaw was on the floor.”
“I’m genuinely excited about what everyone’s going to think about it, because for me personally, it’s the most satisfying season finale that Handmaid’s has had to date, so it’s just exciting,” she teases. “I can’t help but smile when people ask me about it, because I just can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
The season 4 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale will be available Wednesday on Hulu.
Awards Daily talks to The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Yvonne Strahovski about twists and turns in Season 4 and speculation about baby-daddies. *Spoilers Ahead*
Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu sees Yvonne Strahovski’s Serena Joy being treated a bit like a handmaid. She’s kept in tight quarters with no freedom (although it’s pretty fancy-looking for a detention center) and she’s pregnant (remember that last hoorah-in-the-sack for the Waterfords?).
Suddenly Serena’s obsession with getting baby Nichole back from Canada has taken a backseat to this miracle pregnancy.
“I think her pregnancy does divert her attention a little bit actually,” says Strahovski. “It’s probably so overwhelming for Serena to have the physicality of being pregnant, all the feelings wrapped up in something she’s been wanting for so long.”
The baby couldn’t come at a worse possible time for Serena, as she and Fred (Joseph Fiennes) are separated and are using each other to try to stave off prison time for their discretions in Gilead.
“Serena is quite ally-less at this point, even more so in the sense because the love and relationship with Fred has really dwindled down to a business transaction in a lot of ways.”
Using ‘Friends’ to Her Advantage
One of the most captivating aspects of Season 4 is its ability to explore how people react to trauma. We see it with the handmaids like Emily (Alexis Bledel) and Moira (Samira Wiley), but we also see it in Serena’s blind ignorance to the atrocities that took place in Gilead, especially when she’s visited by Rita (Amanda Brugel).
Serena asks Rita to see her at the detention center and is counting on PTSD and a bit of Stockholm Syndrome to put the former Martha on her side in the case against Fred.
“Knowing that Rita is probably suffering from some kind of abuse trauma, Serena takes advantage of that and tries to perpetuate that same relationship they had in Gilead and use it to her advantage, pretending like nothing has changed, pretending that whatever connection they had in Gilead was true. There isn’t anything really to talk about other than to carry on how we were and see how [Rita] responds.”
At first Rita tentatively treats her as a friend, until she realizes Serena is trying to get her to testify on her behalf.
“If there is a real portion of a relationship there, I think it’s a sliver. Serena is really being strategic this year. All of her relationships are strategic at this point. Her relationship with Mark (Sam Jaeger) is also strategic and like-wise with Rita and June.”
The Season 4 Showdown We’ve All Been Waiting For
For four seasons now, we’ve all wanted to see June (Elisabeth Moss) verbally eviscerate Serena to tears, and in Episode 7’s “Home,” we get it. Serena thinks that this is her chance to seek forgiveness, while the handmaid formerly known as Offred sees it as an opportunity to tell the Commander’s wife the real reason why she’s pregnant: so when she loses the baby she can feel a fraction of what the handmaids felt when their children were ripped from them.
“I think there’s a huge part of her that does believe that God might take that baby away or someone will. In whatever spiritual sense, she believes that by having June’s forgiveness that might alleviate the risk that something terrible is going to happen to the baby.”
Strahovski also believes that June’s forgiveness matters to Serena because of their bond as mothers to baby Nichole.
“The common tie is that they both care deeply for the child and they’ve always had that connection, even though they disagree on many other things. It makes sense to me that Serena would want June’s forgiveness because at this point she wants to protect her own baby, the baby that’s growing inside her.”
Plus, Serena is just evil.
“June is a better person than Serena and Serena knows that.”
Who’s the Daddy?
Season 4 also tackles the idea of being caught up in the world of Gilead, of escaping but wanting to go back. Could Serena ever go back and be a commander’s wife again?
“I think that’s an incredibly confronting thought for Serena to have because by having that thought she must then admit all of her wrongdoings in the truest way.”
And even if she had the opportunity, it’s not like she and Fred are headed toward a reconciliation.
“She’s reached the last straw of what she can handle and live with [with Fred]. It’s very hard for Serena to ignore that she probably loathes Fred, which is really complicated as well. She still feels pain about him and the relationship and the relationship that was lost and the fact that it is a business transaction relationship now more than anything. Do I think she would help him out in a terrible situation? Maybe not.”
At this point, she might even be wishing Fred weren’t the father. . .but is he? Strahovski plays mum and laughs.
“I’ve heard, what if it’s Mark? Someone was saying what if baby Nichole was really Fred’s child, because if Fred is the father of Serena’s child, then why not Fred be the father of Nichole? There are so many possibilities here.”
(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Episode 408 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” titled “Testimony”).
After facing June (Elisabeth Moss) in private on last week’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) was forced to once again confront her victim on Wednesday’s hour — but this time in a courtroom full of people listening to June list the atrocities that Serena and her husband, Commander Fred (Joseph Fiennes) Waterford, committed against June while holding her captive in Gilead.
The scene in which June recites Serena and Fred’s crimes in her testimony also includes Fred firing back at June’s allegations — which the audience knows to be true — and Serena doing her very best to look like the innocent, pregnant wife. While that act might not work on “Handmaid’s Tale” viewers who know what the Waterfords are capable of by this currently airing fourth season, it is working in-universe, as the couple walks out to their car at the end of the episode to find a large cheering crowd supporting them in their legal battle.
“I remember reading it and thinking, ‘Oh, my God — why is there a fan club?’ And then catching myself, thinking, ‘Oh, of course.’ I mean, this is totally what is happening in real life,” Strahovski told TheWrap. “There are fan clubs for all kinds of things and all the things we’ve seen, all the kind of extremist behavior out there, there’s a fan club for it. And it’s confronting, honestly.”
She added: “Those are the parts of playing the role that have always been a little bit confronting. And find yourself kind of the face of both of both the make-believe version and the face of the real lives… There’s the real-life stuff that’s going on and then people make parallels to the character of Serena or the character of Fred. So it is confronting playing as the actor, playing that role, being the face of it.”
There are two episodes left in “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 4, with a fifth season already ordered at Hulu. While Strahovski was not about to give anything away, she did tell us this in regards to where the season finale will take us:
“I’m going to go as far to say I feel like this season finale might be the most satisfying one yet. I personally feel that way. I remember reading it with my jaw on the floor, just thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to be epic.’ And epic it is. So it’s very hard to talk about it without spoiling anything, but I think that’s all I can say. Yeah, the satisfaction factor A++.”
Strahovski was on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen when she was asked whether she’s involved in Dexter Season 9.
“I’m so sorry to break it to everybody, but I haven’t heard anything about the reboot,” she replied. “So it doesn’t seem that Hannah McKay’s making a return. I have a theory that perhaps, um, perhaps uh Harrison has already murdered her and is following in the footsteps of his father. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”
As it turns out, she’s not the only one who isn’t returning
Strahovski joins a growing list of actors who seemingly aren’t returning to the show, including Julia Stiles (Lumen Pierce) and James Remar (Harry Morgan). Remar even claimed in a video shared in May that none of the original cast members were invited to appear in the revival.
“They didn’t ask any of the original cast back, so I don’t know what they’re doing…” he said in the clip, which was re-posted to Reddit. “I really have no idea. It’s too bad because all of us wanted to go back. But, you know, it’s their show, so they’re gonna do what they wanna do.”
However, Dexter newcomer Jamie Chung contracted his claims when she told People the revival features “a lot of familiar” faces. She didn’t name anyone, but there has been lots of speculation that Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan) might pop up, possibly as the voice inside of Dexter’s head. As of writing, Carpenter has not directly commented on whether she’s involved in the revival.
TV Productions > The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-2019) > Season 4 > Screen Captures > S4x01 [Pigs]
TV Productions > The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-2019) > Season 4 > Screen Captures > S4x02 [Nightshade]
We first told you that Skydance sold the Chris Pratt sci-fi film The Tomorrow War to Amazon Studios for $200M, and now that deal has closed with the streamer setting a July 2 drop date in 240 countries and territories. It’s the second Paramount release that Amazon has picked up after Coming 2 America which was a record-viewed hit for them. That Eddie Murphy title was snapped up by Amazon for $125M, as Deadline first told you. Tomorrow War‘s most recent theatrical release date was July 23. At one point before the pandemic, the movie was scheduled to release at Christmas last year.
In The Tomorrow War, written by Zach Dean, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: 30 years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.
“The Tomorrow War will be a global event that will surprise and delight our customers around the world,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “Director Chris McKay has brilliantly crafted this unique, action-packed sci-fi escape that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats and tug on their heart strings with its father-daughter storyline. We couldn’t be happier to continue our relationship with Chris Pratt—who brings such dynamic star power to the film—along with David Ellison and the Skydance team, as we share this exciting film with fans.”
“I’m so proud of this incredible cast and crew who worked under challenging circumstances to create a unique, original sci-fi action movie… something that’s increasingly rare. Watching this team of actors and artisans effortlessly blend action, horror, comedy, and drama was a dream come true for me … and I hope will thrill audiences this summer,” said director Chris McKay.
“It is fantastic to once again partner with Amazon to release another film from the Skydance canon,” said Skydance CEO David Ellison. “Jen and the marketing team have had great success in making film premieres on the Amazon platform must-see events and with Chris Pratt headlining, everything goes up to another level.”
While Coming 2 America was largely pushed on Amazon’s streaming service, the movie was released in a handful of theaters over its opening weekend of March 5-7. Amazon claimed that Coming 2 America was the most watched movie in a given weekend for a streaming service in 2021 without publishing any figures on March 8. A month later, Nielsen followed up with a report supporting the streamer’s claim that during the week of March 1-7, Coming 2 America racked up 1.4 billion minutes of viewing, giving Amazon its first No. 1 Nielsen streaming win.
“We fight,” declares Elisabeth Moss’ June in the new teaser for the upcoming fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale. As you can see above, that’s an understatement if this latest look is any indication of the season to come.
And more Handmaid’s Tale is coming soon-ish.
With what seems like more action and battle scars than before, Season 4 of the Emmy winning dystopian drama based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed 1985 novel is set to launch on Hulu on April 28.
Similar to previous seasons, this 10-episode cycle of the Bruce Miller showrun Handmaid’s will return with three episodes at once. The remaining seven episodes of Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd and Max Minghella co-starrer will then drop weekly on the Disney control streamer.
Back nearly a year and a half after Season 3 concluded with June and a cadre of other Handmaids and Marthas facilitating the escape of a plane full of children out of the oppressive former USA to Canada, Season 4 sees Moss’ character recovered from her bloody injuries and instigating a new insurgence. Across a boarded up and derelict urban landscape that feels brutally familiar after the past year we’ve live through in the real world, the Resistance attacks the weak underbelly of the regime in hopes of a better tomorrow.
“No matter where the war finds you today, remember we are still here,” enjoins the voice of Radio Free America.
However, don’t expect the war to end anytime soon.
It was announced back in December at Disney Investor Day that The Handmaid’s Tale has been renewed for a fifth season. So, the battle continues on many fronts for now rebel leader June and the women and children of an America gone very wrong.
The Handmaid’s Tale is executive produced by Moss, Miller, Warren Littlefield, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Eric Tuchman, John Weber, Frank Siracusa, Sheila Hockin, Kira Snyder and Yahlin Chang.
Amazon Prime Video has been busy trying to use the pandemic to their advantage by snapping up titles formerly scheduled for theatrical release like Coming 2 America and Without Remorse, and now they’ve got their eyes on the sci-fi action film The Tomorrow War. The movie from director Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie) is set in a futuristic conflict against an alien invasion, so humanity decides to level the playing field by drafting soldiers from the past to fight the war. The film stars Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Betty Gilpin, Keith Powers, Sam Richardson, and J.K. Simmons.
Originally slated for release on July 23rd, Paramount decided to court streamers and now Variety reports that Amazon Studios is poised to sell for roughly $200 million, although “insiders stress the sale has not been finalized and financial terms have yet to be determined.”
Even if it doesn’t reach $200 million, that seems like a dizzying total for a film where Pratt’s star-power is still debatable (I’d argue his biggest successes were because of the Marvel, Jurassic Park, and LEGO brands while left to his own devices you get Passengers; that’s not a statement on his acting ability as much as it’s difficult to any actor to “open” a movie). Paramount definitely seems to be getting the better end of this deal because I doubt a film without a built-in brand would come anywhere close to sniffing $200 million domestic, although who knows how it would perform internationally.
But those numbers don’t really matter to Amazon, which would get to tout an action sci-fi movie starring Chris Pratt on its service. If they want to compete with the slates of Netflix, Disney+, et al., Amazon is deciding it needs more blockbuster content, and The Tomorrow War fits the definition of a “blockbuster.” We’ll see if it was worth the price tag when it likely debuts on Amazon later this year.
Ahead of its Season 4 premiere, Hulu has renewed its flagship drama series The Handmaid’s Tale for a fifth season. The announcement was made Thursday by Dana Walden, Chairman of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television, during the Disney Investor Day.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States.
The series, produced by MGM Television and internationally distributed by MGM, stars Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Amanda Brugel, Bradley Whitford, and Sam Jaeger.
In season four, June (Moss) strikes back against Gilead as a fierce rebel leader, but the risks she takes bring unexpected and dangerous new challenges. Her quest for justice and revenge threatens to consume her and destroy her most cherished relationships.
The Handmaid’s Tale is executive produced by creator/showrunner Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Elisabeth Moss, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Eric Tuchman, John Weber, Frank Siracusa, Sheila Hockin, Kira Snyder and Yahlin Chang.
The drama was nominated for 54 Primetime Emmy Awards over its first three seasons, winning 15, including best original drama, the first drama series win from a streaming service, as well as lead actress in a drama series for Moss.
You can watch a video of cast members sharing news of the renewal below.
Dua Lipa has watched The Handmaid’s Tale four times — but how much does she really know about the show? Emmy-nominated actress Yvonne Strahovski, who plays the troubling Serena Joy on the Hulu series, put the pop singer to the test in Billboard’s latest episode of Quizzed.
“Four times?” Strahovski asked in disbelief when Lipa admitted to how many times she’d watched the show.
“Every time I would tell a friend about it, and they hadn’t seen it, I was like, ‘Oh, well I’ll watch it with you.’ So I just watched it four times,” Lipa replied, before adding that it definitely doesn’t get easier to watch the emotional scenes. “It gets harder and you get almost more emotionally invested in the storyline to the point where my boyfriend’s in the kitchen and needs some help, and I’m like, ‘Well, of course you want me in the kitchen!’ He’s like, ‘OK, we need to stop watching this show.’”
While Lipa struggled at the beginning of the True or False first round, she hit her stride with a string of correct answers. When accurately identifying that Nick did not want to sleep with Eden because of her age rather than to prove that he wasn’t a so-called “gender traitor,” the singer asked Strahovski if she remembered the scene the right way.
“Um, yes? You’ve seen the show four times. I haven’t,” the actress replied with a laugh.
After the next two rounds, the pop singer ultimately ended up earning a “gold medal” from Strahovski, “not only for answering the questions, but for watching four times.”
“I won’t shy away from that,” Lipa responded, accepting the honor.
At its best, Dexter was one of the sharpest shows on TV – a barbed, subversive serial-killer drama that dared audiences to side with Michael C. Hall’s mass-murder (albeit one with a stringent moral code, taking down the baddies who avoided legal justice) and watch with baited breath as he narrowly evaded detection from his own police squad. That freshness made it all the more disappointing, then, when the final seasons went completely off the boil – culminating in a finale that often ranks in lists of the worst (or, most disappointing) endings of all time. All of which made the recent news that Dexter is returning for a one-off revival series on Showtime both surprising and rather exciting – a chance to maybe alter the show’s lasting legacy.
And that’s partly how showrunner Clyde Phillips sees is. Speaking on The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast, the series boss (who left the original run after the much-celebrated Season 4) opened up about what exactly the new series will be – and posited it as a ‘second finale’ for Dexter. “We want this to not be Dexter season nine,” he said, adding that the new series will pick up several years after the original ending. “10 years, or however many years, have passed by the time this will air, and the show will reflect that time passage. In so far as the ending of the show, this will have no resemblance to how the original finale was. It’s a great opportunity to write a second finale for our show, and Showtime was very gracious about that.”
By the sounds of it, the new series won’t walk back the events of the Series 8 finale – but it should continue them to a more satisfying place. “I believe that [Michael C Hall] was not completely satisfied with it, and this is an opportunity to make that right, but that’s not why we’re doing it,” Phillips said. “We’re doing this because there is such a hunger for Dexter out there. […] We’re 10 years later. We’re not undoing anything. We’re not doing movie-magic. We’re not going to betray the audience and say, ‘Oop, that was all a dream.’ What happened in the first eight years happened in the first eight years.”
It’s early days on the revival series yet, but current plans have it down for an autumn 2021 release. Here’s hoping Dexter manages to retrain as something other than a lumberjack within that time.
Inspired by true events, the limited series Stateless, now on Netflix, is centered on the stories of four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention center in the middle of the Australian desert.
Among those strangers is Sofie Werner, an airline hostess on the run from a dangerous cult who winds up being detained in her own country. Sofie is played by Yvonne Strahovski, who is also known for her roles on Chuck, Dexter, and most recently, The Handmaid’s Tale.
I recently spoke with Strahovski about her role as Sofie on Stateless and what she learned from working on the series. We also talked a bit about The Handmaid’s Tale.
“When I read the script and I was preparing to go to Australia to shoot Stateless, I kept thinking, ‘Nothing really can be more intense than The Handmaid’s Tale right now.’ Coming off of that, I just thought that Stateless would be perhaps a notch under that, but I was very mistaken. So, as I got myself into the mode of playing Sofie Werner, I realized, ‘Wow, we’re really in for it.’ And I was. It was an incredibly intense journey, but I definitely loved going down it. I learned so much and we’re really proud of the work,” Strahovski said.
Strahovski’s character on Stateless is extremely complex, and as an audience, we have the chance to see her varying emotions as she struggles to find her way — and eventually winds up in the detention center. Strahovski spoke a bit about the challenges of playing Sofie.
“It was a little daunting at first just on paper, but as I sort of melted into her, I don’t know. It’s always a very intuitive process for me, going into the deep dive of emotions into someone like Sofie. So, although it did seem intimidating at first, it just flowed. Once we were there, it was just such a great team of people as well, which also helps. I really connected with our setup director Emma Freeman, our DP, Bonnie Elliot, was extraordinary. Oftentimes, I just felt like I was dancing with her in scenes and it was just me and her or the cameraman, Tim [Walsh], who was extraordinary as well. It’s just a very connected set which is always really such a bonus.”
“It’s a bizarre story as well, how she gets involved in this cult and then wants to run away. But my starting point with Sofie was that she just felt like this bright light and a free spirit — and that she was getting crushed from all angles and she really wanted to be free. Free from her family, which was oppressing her in a lot of ways, and free from her own mind as well, and from her parents’ desire to put her in a hospital to treat her mental illness. Which is why she gets sucked into that cult in the first place — because it’s her new family — and that ends up crushing her as well,” Strahovski explained.
“It’s this journey of going down this road of watching this person disintegrate and lose themselves, and then obviously [she] ends up in a system that absolutely didn’t see her or what she was going through in terms of her mental health.”
Throughout the limited series, Sofie’s sister is searching for her and eventually does find that she’s been mistakenly placed in this detention center. But Strahovski noted that this isn’t necessarily a happy ending for the character.
“I don’t think it’s a happy ending for her. I think the system fails Sofie so dramatically that even though she has been found physically by her family and her sister, I think she has lost herself forever because the system failed to see her struggle and her mental health … and did nothing about it. It was exacerbated to the point of no return for someone like Sofie, I think.”
“Obviously the story is about how the system fails people. And then this really weird unique case of a white Australian woman being tied up in a detention center in Australia, and that not being addressed, and how people are forgotten,” Strahovski noted.
Stateless is inspired by true events, and that includes what happens with the character of Sofie Werner.
“I think what’s really interesting in the real-life case of what happened with Cornelia Rau is that it took a white Australian woman for people to notice what was going on at these kinds of places. There’s many aspects of the story that are important, but I think that’s a really valid one and as the person playing the white Australian getting caught up in the detention center, which is not the norm, I think it’s important to mention that. That that’s what it takes, often, for people to realize that they need to pay attention to something that is going on, even if they don’t deem it as relatable to them,” Strahovski continued.
“That’s exactly the problem — or one of the many, many problems in a system like this. That needs to be pointed out.”
Strahovski went on to discuss the importance of these kinds of stories and what she learned from working on the series.
Yvonne Strahovski returned for her third season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” this past TV season, playing the complicated Serena Joy Waterford. The actress was nominated for her first Emmy Award for the second season two years ago.
Strahovski recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria about Season 3 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the experience of getting nominated at the Emmys and her recent reunion with the cast of “Chuck.”
Gold Derby: Yvonne, you star as Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, and I see her as neither villain nor ally but something more complicated in between. How do you describe her to people? Is she evil? Is she misunderstood, or something else? Yvonne Strahovski: I don’t think she’s misunderstood (laughs). The way I see it is she sits in the midst of her own complicated layers and twisted-up version of who she is. I think the majority of people would see her as a villain, and there’s certainly a lot of hate out there for Serena Joy, as there should be, but she is a complicated woman, for sure. She’s constantly battling her inner demons and her inner feelings.
GD: When I spoke to you a couple years ago I said that your character, Serena, had become so pivotal to Season 2 and I couldn’t have imagined that even in Season 3 she even became more important to the storyline. You were given a lot of really great work to do, a lot of really great material. What were your thoughts when it was mapped out for you what Serena’s journey would be over Season 3? Were you excited, nervous? What was the feeling for you? YS: I was excited. Obviously she’s given up baby Nicole and the absolute loss of that. I was really happy to explore that because we did get to touch on Serena’s more vulnerable side throughout Season 2 so in hitting Season 3 it was really about pouring out this kind of uncensored emotional version of Serena that is even more heightened when she’s around someone like her mother, those scenes. I was a little taken aback when I first found out that she would come to change her mind, but of course she would. She’s Serena Joy. It’s exciting. It’s exciting for me to play something like that, to really move through all those emotions only to figure out that very selfishly, she actually can’t do the greatest thing for her daughter and let her go into a newer and safer world. She must have her back because she can’t deal with her own emotions. She’s consumed by the need to be a mother, which is also partly a mask for her. It’s masking a whole lot of other stuff that she’s really not facing as she’s living in Gilead.
GD: Yeah, I never thought of it that was actually, that it is a mask for her, but before we go into Season 3, while we’re between Season 2 and Season 3, a really amazing thing happened to you a couple years ago when you were nominated for an Emmy, your first one, I think, for your role on “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Can you take us back? It was a while ago now, because you weren’t eligible last year. It was a weird thing that a lot of Emmy watchers would know, that “The Handmaid’s Tale” was only eligible in certain categories, but back when you were nominated, do you remember the morning of and how you felt when you saw your name being read out? YS: I was very thrilled (laughs). Yeah, it was my first Emmy nomination so I was really, really excited. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. This is my career and what I’ve chosen to do with my life. It’s all I’ve ever done, actually. To have arrived at the point where I’m part of a show that is received so intensely, I think is the right word for it, and to be recognized as a key player in that show is really, really beyond wonderful.
GD: And then do you have a favorite moment or highlight from the actual Emmy night itself when you think back to it? YS: I’m blanking. That wasn’t the one where I was pregnant, was it? Yes, it was. I was fully pregnant. I was so close to my due date. From the excitement of being there, it’s so mind-blowing when you’re there ‘cause you see all these actors that you’ve grown up watching on television and you’re half between excitement and intimidation, just enjoying the night and all the things that you’re feeling and I thought, “My god, my water’s gonna break, give birth right here on the red carpet because I’m so overwhelmed.” But that didn’t happen, thankfully (laughs). It did cross my mind, though, that it was gonna happen.
GD: It was pretty cool and obviously soon after that Season 3 commenced on Hulu and we’ve got plenty of things we can talk about in Season 3 so I just thought we could cover some of your highlights. You got lots of episodes that you might wanna choose if and when you get nominated again and I thought episodes like “Useful,” where you co-starred alongside Laila Robins, who plays your mom, Pamela, “Unknown Caller” is a really good one where Serena is temporarily reunited with Nicole and then also towards the end when the Waterfords are in Canada. There’s lots to choose from. Have you got something in mind as your best work for Season 3 that you enjoyed doing or that you really liked? YS: I think for me, the one that comes to mind first and always has, I think it was [Episode] 5 where I reunite with Nicole. There’s so much to power through in that episode and I really love the stuff with the mother as well, with Serena’s mother, and that journey, the stuff where she walks into the water and it’s a metaphor for her drowning in her own emotions and really not knowing which way is up, but that scene really sticks out for me with reuniting with baby Nicole, just because it was a moment where Serena could really get lost in a very pure and raw emotion of being reunited with the baby but it’s so clouded with all this other stuff that’s happening because of Luke’s presence and the circumstances in general that she has to cross the border to see her child. It’s a very arranged thing that’s being watched by people like Mark and Luke and then maybe unknown people as well that are observing this from afar. It’s such a tainted experience for her, so I loved playing with the duality of having to still be the manipulative Serena whilst automatically losing herself in the emotional side of that reunion and what that would really feel like for her.
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/15/20 – While Season 4 of the critically-acclaimed Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s famous novel, The Handmaid’s Tale may currently be on pause, as it has been for a cool minute (or, more accurately, like a million minutes, but I mean who’s counting?) because of the ongoing scourge that is COVID-19, The Hollywood Times was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on a Live Q & A Session with Elisabeth Moss (June/Offred), Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy Waterford) and Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia) hosted by Film Independent. And yes, I said “scourge”! A dramatic series demands a dramatically-toned piece! And just in time for a new season of “What Fresh Hell,,?!?!”, also known as EXISTENCE, what could be more relaxing than a catch-up sesh with these three brilliant actresses?
The ladies all seemed chipper despite their forced hiatus, except of course for Yvonne, who’s got a brand new baby keeping her busy these days. She shared a lovely bit of behind-the-scenes trivia with us about how careful the producers had to be in order to make sure she didn’t appear pregnant, especially since the whole backstory of Serena Joy is that she’s completely infertile. Oh, the irony! Haha! For my part, I say they did a terrific job of it because I sure couldn’t tell!
As for Ann? I hope I’m still brimming with the same bright, warm energy that only comes from Ann Dowd, who simply exudes the exact inverse persona of the woman she plays on the show. She’s like Mirror Universe Aunt Lydia, opposite in nearly every way imaginable: she’s like a glass of Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks on a cold winter’s eve. The Aunt Lydia that Aunt Lydia wishes she had.
On a more somber note, I find Lydia’s backstory to be the most complex of any of the female characters. She seems to be a woman who’s always struggled with her own sexuality on a deeply private level, primarily because of her religious beliefs. She seems to have already been grounded in her faith, by the time we even see her flashbacks, so I was curious as to how much Ann knew about Lydia’s backstory. According to Ann, she was just as in the dark as most everyone else. There were things about Lydia’s character that Ann was surprised to discover were the real motivations behind some of her choices, so it’s been quite a ride for most of the cast as well!.
One constant criticism we often hear as entertainers, and especially as actors, is that we’re too political or too vocal about our opinions. Well, as actors we’re tasked with a monumental feat of human psychology: becoming another person. Most people have a difficult enough time trying to become their own person, let alone someone else concocted entirely out of one’s imagination. Once you study acting, you’re essentially becoming a student of psychology and sociology. We are constantly dissecting the motivations of the characters, just as we do in the real world, begging us to segue into the startling parallels between what we see in The Handmaid’s Tale versus what’s happening in the United States right now: the rise of Christian Nationalism and escalating political extremism, fueled in large part by the current administration’s unwillingness to condemn both sides.
But how did these women come to be where they are now? They all wanted simply to make the world a safer, better place, right? Honestly, I think that’s true for Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia. Elisabeth and Yvonne find that both of their characters do have redeeming qualities, even in spite of the fact that June has been forced into situations where her own moral compass has been jilted a little south south of “Sanity”, to put it mildly.
It begs the next question: What is Gilead really about, and how did it come to power from the outset? Is this a case of Christian Nationalists leading the blind, angry Conservatives into a revolution they didn’t really ask for, or is the problem here that the fundamentalist Christians who believe the US is a Christian nation are just being led astray by atheistic anarchists hell-bent on reviving a long-standing “Old World Order” (theocratic oligarchy)? Ann and Yvonne shared some terrific insights into how their characters are each able to “shut off” their sense of right and wrong in order to survive in a world they created that is, essentially, cannibalizing them.
To that end, we asked whether or not we’ll be seeing an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s recent follow-up to the original novel called The Testaments any time soon. While we weren’t given any kind of official solid answer on that, Ann did say that there will be alignment between her character’s story in the novel with the events of The Handmaid’s Tale. In other words, we should expect the continuity of Lydia’s character to jive with what we’ve already seen in the show so far. Woohoo!
There has never been a more culturally or temporally-relevant series than The Handmaid’s Tale. I enjoyed the opportunity to chop up the major themes of the show, as well as the chance to catch up a bit with these tremendously talented and inspiring actresses. Elisabeth Moss’s “Shirley” is available to stream now on Netflix, Yvonne has a new project called “Stateless” and Ann’s still getting requests for a line reading from “The Leftovers”, which actually sounds like something we need to reboot just for her! Hey, I’d watch that!
“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.”
Press pause on your Jeffster mixtape, order a Subway sandwich from Postmates, and get ready to see your favorite Nerd Herd together again at a virtual Buy More.
Entertainment Weekly is kicking off its EW Reunions: #UnitedAtHome series by bringing together the cast and creators of NBC’s beloved spy comedy Chuck.
The show’s stars Zachary Levi (Chuck Bartowski), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker), Adam Baldwin (Colonel John Casey), Joshua Gomez (Morgan Grimes), Sarah Lancaster (Ellie Bartowski), Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome), Vik Sahay (Lester Patel), Scott Krinsky (Jeff Barnes), and Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike), gathered on Zoom, along with co-creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak to reminisce about their time on the series.
They also performed a table read of the script for “Chuck Versus the Beard,” episode 9 from the show’s third season. The episode was hand-picked by fans on social media after a call-out by EW and Levi himself to help us decide which script to revisit.
Also joining in the fun were three special guests: Brandon Routh, Cedric Yarbrough, and Diedrich Bader, who all appeared on the fan-favorite episode, which originally aired March 8, 2010. And lucky Chuck superfan Kyle Fox also got the chance to read some lines with the cast.
For those who don’t have an intercept trapped in your brain to help recall the details of the episode, “Chuck Versus the Beard” was the first one that Levi got to direct, and more importantly the episode where Chuck finally comes clean to his best friend Morgan about being a spy.
During the virtual reunion, Fedak notes that Chuck’s confession to Morgan “was one of those things where we built so much of the season to this moment, and it was such a huge thing, that it still was amazing.” Levi adds that “in a Zach/Josh relationship I was so f—ing happy that all of the sudden we could now collaborate in the spy world and get to do more fun stuff together, and as a character, as Chuck, I didn’t have to keep lying to my friend all the time.”
With everyone in good spirits running back the episode, the cast also opens the door on the possibility of reuniting for a Chuck Versus the Movie, with Levi joking “I’m just trying to get 90 minutes worth of content from [co-creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak].”
The EW Reunions: #UnitedAtHome series benefits organizations helping our community in the fight against COVID-19. Each cast works with EW to choose a charity to support. The Chuck reunion is supporting Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund where the show’s fans have already raised more than $31,000 to help local food banks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cast of the popular TV show, which aired its final episode in 2012, is reuniting for a virtual table read of an episode chosen by the fans.
Zachary Levi, who played Chuck in the TV series, posted a video to his Instagram page Tuesday explaining that fans can vote through Entertainment Weekly, and the cast will record the table read on Zoom in one week once the episode is chosen. The final recording will then be aired the following Friday.
The table read is part of Entertainment Weekly‘s EW Reunions: #UnitedAtHome series, which will put on TV reunions aimed at bringing entertainment to those isolated at home as well as benefiting Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
Participating cast members include Levi and Yvonne Strahovski, along with Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Mekenna Melvin and maybe even more, depending on which episode is chosen.
“You get to vote on an episode for myself and the rest of our cast and our incredible creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz to do a table read of on Wednesday,” Levi said. “We’re going to do all kinds of other fun bells and whistles to it, and then on Friday it will be released to the world for your entertainment consumption during this crazy quarantine time.”
Strahovski also posted a video on her Instagram, noting that the cast “wanted to pay it forward” by raising money for Feeding America to help those who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you are able to donate please do,” the Handmaid’s Tale actress said. “If you are unable to donate that is OK as well. Obviously this is an incredibly difficult time for so many people and many people are experiencing unimaginable loss and I wanted to acknowledge in this video and also thank everybody who is working hard out there on the front lines to get us through this crazy period of time in history.”
“We are very excited to come together and do this read through and hopefully bring some cheer back into the world and do something for people in need,” Strahovski added.
Hulu’s Emmy-winning dystopian drama series The Handmaid’s Tale is shutting down production amid escalating coronavirus pandemic and a national emergency declared in the U.S.
The drama has been filming its fourth season, which marks the directorial debut of Emmy-winning star Elisabeth Moss. It is produced by MGM Television, whose shows are all in various stages of winding down, as are virtually all Hollywood productions. That includes MGM TV’s series Fargo and pilots thirtysomething(else) for ABC and Circe for HBO Max, as well as reality series Survivor, whose Season 41 production start was recently postponed.
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Birth Name: Yvonne Jaqueline Strzechowski Birth Place: Werrington Downs, New South Wales, Australia Date of Birth: 30 July 1982 Height: 5′ 9¼” (1.76 cm) Mother: Bozena Strzechowski Father: Peter Strzechowski Siblings: –
Yvonne Jaqueline Strzechowski (born 30 July 1982), known professionally as Yvonne Strahovski (/strəˈhɒvski/), is an Australian actress.
Strahovski was born in Werrington Downs, New South Wales, Australia the daughter of Piotr and Bożena Strzechowski; her parents immigrated from Warsaw, Poland. Her father is an electronic engineer, and her mother is a lab technician. Strahovski began acting lessons at age 12 and spent her high school years attending Santa Sabina College, Strathfield. She attended the University of Western Sydney’s Theatre Nepean in 2003 and co-founded a small theater company.
Strahovski started acting during her schooling years when she played Viola in the school production of Twelfth Night. She appeared in film and television roles in Australia, including a turn on satirical show Double the Fist and as Freya Lewis in the Australian drama series headLand. She has also appeared in Channel Nine’s Sea Patrol.
Strahovski sent in her audition tape for the TV series Chuck while in the United States auditioning for roles in other shows, namely NBC’s 2007 series Bionic Woman. She was contacted by the producers of Chuck the next day to come in and run lines with Zachary Levi. The producers called her back a week later letting her know she had been cast as Sarah Walker. Six months later, she moved to the United States. Strahovski adopted the more phonetic spelling of Strahovski as her stage name in place of Strzechowski at this time, at producer Josh Schwartz’s behest for the sake of easier pronunciation.
Strahovski speaks fluent Polish, and employed it in a brief exchange with a colleague in the Chuck episode “Chuck Versus the Wookiee” and again in the episodes “Chuck Versus the Three Words” and “Chuck Versus the Honeymooners”. Although she portrays an American in the series, she briefly spoke in a “Hollywood” Australian accent in the episode “Chuck Versus the Ex”.
Strahovski appears in Mass Effect Galaxy, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 as the voice of Miranda Lawson. She had her face scanned and animated so she could portray Lawson in Mass Effect 2.
Strahovski voices Aya Brea in the English version of the Parasite Eve spinoff, The 3rd Birthday, which was released on March 2011 for the PlayStation Portable. She also appeared in a CollegeHumor sketch in April 2011, parodying the music styles of Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber.
In 2010, Strahovski received the Teen Choice Award for Choice Action TV Actress for Chuck, as well as a nomination for Spike Video Game Awards for Best Performance by a Human Female for Mass Effect 2. In 2011, Strahovski was nominated again for the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Action TV Actress. In 2011, Cosmopolitan Magazine (Australia) named Strahovski the Fun Fearless Female of the Year, along with Favorite TV Actress.
In December 2012, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, for which she won a Theatre World Award. Strahovski was honored along with Liam Hemsworth for their work in international roles with the 2012 Australians in Film Breakthrough Award.
In 2014, Strahovski joined Fox’s TV series 24: Live Another Day cast as Kate Morgan, CIA agent. Later that year, she was cast as Rene Carpenter on the ABC limited series The Astronaut Wives Club. In 2016, she starred, along with Adrien Brody, as Caroline Crowley in the film noir Manhattan Night. She was featured in Maxim Hot 100 from 2009 to 2013.
Since 2017, she has starred as Serena Joy Waterford in the acclaimed Hulu drama series The Handmaid’s Tale. For her performance, Strahovski earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2018.
Strahovski is a supporter of PETA and appeared in an ad for their “Adopt, Don’t Buy” campaign.
At the 2017 Emmy Awards, Strahovski revealed that she was married to Tim Loden, her partner of six years. Their first child, a boy named William, was born in October 2018.