Handmaid’s Tale’s Yvonne Strahovski: Serena ‘Will Know in Her Heart’ That June Was Behind Finale Shocker
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.
Interview: Yvonne Strahovski (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’) talks playing Serena and where she sees her at the end after this explosive season
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.
Full interview: awardswatch.com
Yvonne Strahovski says The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 finale is ‘the most satisfying’ one yet
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.