Yvonne Strahovski is more than just ‘an action hero badass’ in The Tomorrow War
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.
Yvonne Strahovski Reveals She’s Expecting Baby No. 2 with Red Carpet Baby Bump Debut
Yvonne Strahovski is expecting — again!
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.
L’Officiel Monte Carlo & Australia | Interview
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.
Person of Interest: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Star Yvonne Strahovski Makes Leap to Sci-Fi Action Hero in ‘Tomorrow War’
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.”
The Handmaid’s Tale’s Yvonne Strahovski On What’s Next For Serena
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.
Full interview: elle.com