Nev­er­mind peak TV, we are now at peak At­wood

Ac­claimed au­thor talks books, shows and cameos

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - TELEVISION - Liz Bed­dAl/for meTro; con­TriB­uTed

Mar­garet At­wood is no­to­ri­ously late for in­ter­views. She’s also renowned for not nec­es­sar­ily an­swer­ing the ques­tions you’ve posed, but for giv­ing an­swers to her own unasked queries in­stead, in turn quizzing the in­ter­viewer.

At 77 years old and with more awards and hon­orary doc­tor­ates than are per­haps pos­si­ble to count, the Cana­dian au­thor is eas­ily for­given. If any­thing, these quirks add to her mis­chievous charm and wise aura, and leave you feel­ing as though you’ve just had an im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion about the world rather than hav­ing sim­ply dis­cussed the lat­est in “spec­u­la­tive fic­tion.”

That’s the wide-reach­ing, self-def­i­ni­tion At­wood at­taches to her fu­tur­is­tic, dystopian nov­els like The Handmaid’s Tale and the Mad­dAd­dam se­ries, tomes that are prov­ing to be more rel­e­vant to­day than when she first wrote them. And with a num­ber of her works get­ting the TV treat­ment — Bravo premieres the Alexis Bledel and Elis­a­beth Moss-led The Handmaid’s Tale on April 30 just as Kids’ CBC un­rolls a 26-part chil­dren’s se­ries on April 29 based on the au­thor’s Wan­der­ing Wenda and Widow Wal­lop’s Wun­der­ground Wash­ery — these sto­ries are about to be avail­able to au­di­ences in more ways than ever be­fore.

Add an­other CBC adap­ta­tion in the up­com­ing Sarah Gadon­star­ring Alias Grace and MGM’s de­vel­op­ment of the dystopian of­fer­ing The Heart Goes Last, and the pro­lific — and maybe prophetic — au­thor seems to be ev­ery­where these days.

That in­cludes cameos, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer ti­tles and even work­ing on a po­ten­tial se­quel to The Handmaid’s Tale (al­though the writer is cagey about that last point, nei­ther con­firm­ing nor deny­ing the ru­mours that sur­faced af­ter this month’s re­lease of a spe­cial au­dio ver­sion of the book that hinted at a fol­lowup tale).

“Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer is a very stretchy term,” she says, go­ing back to her var­i­ous ti­tles. “What it meant in the case of Wan­der­ing Wenda is go­ing through sev­eral it­er­a­tions of ideas and be­ing part of those dis­cus­sions. But it didn’t mean that I wrote the se­ries be­cause I didn’t. It also seems to have meant that I have an in­tro­duc­tory cameo at the be­gin­ning.”

The au­thor says that so far she’s im­pressed with what she’s seen of ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Bruce Miller’s take on The Handmaid’s Tale, sim­ply call­ing it “great” and al­lud­ing to more de­par­tures from the open-ended novel in the al­ready an­tic­i­pated sec­ond sea­son.

She also re­veals that her cameos came with their own chal­lenges. She called her Handmaid’s Tale ap­pear­ance “hor­ri­bly up­set­ting” and “too much like his­tory” in a guest col­umn for the New York Times (watch for a slightly phys­i­cal scene be­tween At­wood and Moss’s char­ac­ter Of­fred in the pi­lot), and re­veals less than ideal weather con­di­tions for a top-se­cret stint in Alias Grace, which does not yet have an air date.

For those keep­ing track, TV is just the lat­est ex­ten­sion of At­wood’s brand. Be­tween her nov­els, chil­dren’s se­ries, the third vol­ume of her first graphic novel, An­gel Cat­bird, planned for sum­mer, not to men­tion a plethora of speak­ing en­gage­ments, red car­pets and me­dia events tied to The Handmaid’s Tale re­lease (she’ll be at a screen­ing of the first episode at In­nis Col­lege April 26), At­wood has far from lim­ited her­self cre­atively.

“How is it that I can do all these dif­fer­ent things?” she won­ders. “Al­ways did. Al­ways have. In high school, on one hand I was writ­ing dis­mal poetry but on the other hand I was putting on the world’s only home economics opera.”

Given all that, you can’t blame us for won­der­ing where she’ll ven­ture next. Wher­ever it is, just don’t call her a prophet.

“I’m not a prophet. Hon­est, I’m not a prophet. If I were a prophet I would have cleaned up on the stock mar­ket years ago.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, star­ring Alexis Bledel, premieres April 30. At­wood makes an ap­pear­ance in that show as well as the Alias Grace film (seen be­low right). Hon­est, i’m not a prophet. if i were a prophet i would have cleaned up on the stock mar­ket tears ago. mar­garet At­wood

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