TO­TALLY UN­SYM­PA­THETIC

ONE OF THE STARS OF THE NEW ADAP­TA­TION OF THE HAND­MAID’S TALE ON WHY PLAY­ING THIS PART WAS “RE­ALLY HARD.”

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar -

When you first ask about her char­ac­ter in The Hand­maid’s Tale, cur­rently air­ing on Bravo, Yvonne Stra­hovski doesn’t have a whole lot of good things to say. “She’s brit­tle, un­sym­pa­thetic. She’s hard, harsh and un­ap­proach­able,” says the ac­tress over the phone from Los An­ge­les, where she has lived for more than 10 years since mov­ing from Syd­ney (which ex­plains the oc­ca­sional hard D and R in her other­wise Aussie ac­cent).

Stra­hovski, whom you’ll rec­og­nize from her time as a se­cret agent on the late, la­mented Chuck, plays Ser­ena Joy in the TV se­ries. The char­ac­ter has been mod­i­fied a bit from the way Mar­garet At­wood wrote her in her clas­sic dystopian novel of the same name: She’s still the wife of one of the pow­er­ful men who run the Repub­lic of Gilead (cre­ated af­ter a group of Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ists over­throw the gov­ern­ment and in­sti­tute a sys­tem of deeply con­ser­va­tive val­ues that in­cludes a class of women called “hand­maids” who ex­ist solely to pro­cre­ate with elite men), but this Ser­ena Joy is younger—she’s the same age as Of­fred (played by Elis­a­beth Moss), the hand­maid who serves her hus­band. “I’m one of the ‘bad guys!’” says Stra­hovski. “My strug­gle was to find the beat­ing heart of her—to hu­man­ize this char­ac­ter who makes hor­ri­ble de­ci­sions.”

Given the times we live in, the show has at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion for the terrifying pic­ture it paints of a so­ci­ety in which the rights of women are oblit­er­ated al­most overnight. Stra­hovski ac­knowl­edges the par­al­lels, but she is more in­ter­ested in the fe­male power dy­namic that the show ex­plores. “It’s this sit­u­a­tion where, on pa­per, you have one woman in this hier­archy who’s tech­ni­cally up the food chain and one who is at the bot­tom,” she says. “In a dif­fer­ent world, these women might have been friends—so the fight for that power cre­ates a great dy­namic.” n

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