Lo­cal ac­tress Amanda Brugel’s role in ‘The Hand­maid’s Tale’ is a dream come true

Lo­cal ac­tress Amanda Brugel helps bring Mar­garet At­wood’s dis­turb­ing fu­tur­is­tic novel The Hand­maid’s Tale to life

Village Post - - CONTENTS - by Bron­wen Keyes-Bevan

When Amanda Brugel was a teenager, she wrote an es­say based on Mar­garet At­wood’s The

Hand­maid’s Tale that she sub­mit­ted to the screen­writ­ing pro­gram at York Univer­sity.

The es­say was a hit with the ad­mis­sions board who, upon read­ing it, granted Brugel a full schol­ar­ship. Later, dur­ing Brugel’s sec­ond year at York Univer­sity, she wrote a se­ries of short sto­ries based on the same ground­break­ing dystopian novel.

Her work was so good that her York pro­fes­sor ac­cused her of pla­gia­rism. Af­ter show­ing the pro­fes­sor her sup­port­ing doc­u­ments and prov­ing she had had a decade-long love af­fair with the book, the pro­fes­sor agreed to drop the charges.

Now, al­most 20 years later, Brugel has landed a role in a tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion of The

Hand­maid’s Tale. It is one of the most highly an­tic­i­pated tele­vi­sion se­ries of 2017. It stars Elis­a­beth Moss ( Mad Men, Girl, In­ter­rupted), Alexis Bledel ( Gil­more Girls, Sin

City) and Joseph Fi­ennes ( Shake­speare in Love, Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story).

The show has al­ready gar­nered huge crit­i­cal ac­claim and is ex­pected to win a bevy of awards. Brugel plays the role of Rita and adored her time on set.

“The en­tire project, from be­gin­ning to end, was al­most like film­ing a mov­ing work of art,” she says. Work­ing with an all-star cast

and crew was a life-af­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Ev­ery­one just brought their A game, and then we were in­spired by one an­other, so ev­ery­one just kept up­ping it. It was the best ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve ever had.”

The project may be her big­gest role to date, but Brugel is no stranger to both the big and small screens. She has ap­peared in BBC Amer­ica’s hit drama Or­phan Black and just re­cently came off a stint on CBC’s award-win­ning com­edy

Kim’s Con­ve­nience. In 2015, Brugel snagged a role in the Academy Award–win­ning film Room.

Brugel has also just fin­ished work­ing on Eye­wit­ness, the USA Net­work drama star­ring Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son ( Board­walk Em­pire,

Au­gust: Osage County), which she calls one of the most chal­leng­ing roles she has played.

“I was a little bit ner­vous go­ing into it that I wasn’t go­ing to be able to fill [my char­ac­ter’s] shoes,” she says. “It was the first time I’d played such an emo­tion­ally bro­ken char­ac­ter. I had to go through a con­sid­er­able amount of emo­tional tur­moil.”

The show was filmed in north­ern On­tario, and prior to shoot­ing, the cast spent a few weeks alone in the woods.

“That gave us an op­por­tu­nity to get to know one an­other, get to know our char­ac­ters and bond as a fam­ily,” says Brugel. “That en­abled all of us to go to the places emo­tion­ally that we had to go to.”

Brugel turned 40 this year, and all the signs sug­gest that this will be her most suc­cess­ful decade as an ac­tress yet. She might never have made it to this point how­ever: in her late 20s, the actor was go­ing be­tween Toronto and L.A. strug­gling to land roles. She found the process in­cred­i­bly try­ing.

“You work so hard and you have to rely so much on faith and drive and you get beaten down,” she re­calls.

She even­tu­ally de­cided to quit act­ing. She moved back to Canada and didn’t go out for an au­di­tion for four years. Dur­ing that time she got mar­ried and had a baby (a son, now six years old).

But it was the birth of her first child that gave her a new per­spec­tive on act­ing.

Where pre­vi­ously she had been go­ing af­ter roles — mostly in come­dies — of young, at­trac­tive and ul­ti­mately one-di­men­sional fe­male char­ac­ters, she re­al­ized she wanted more.

“I wanted to play char­ac­ters that were full, three-di­men­sional, al­most tragic fig­ures,” she says.

“I wanted to por­tray peo­ple who could per­haps help other peo­ple get through what they’re go­ing through. That changed my fo­cus. I started ac­tively go­ing af­ter those kinds of char­ac­ters and then ev­ery­thing blos­somed af­ter that.”

Brugel knew she wanted to be an ac­tress “since about the time I could walk.” She was born in Pointe-Claire, Que., but the fam­ily moved of­ten. Her fa­ther worked with Fa­mous Play­ers, the former cin­ema chain that was ac­quired by Cine­plex.

The fam­ily moved around the coun­try to set up new the­atres. Dur­ing her child­hood, Brugel lived in just about ev­ery province of Canada, but by her teenage years, the fam­ily fi­nally set­tled in Oshawa.

Here, Brugel joined her high school’s the­atre pro­gram and even­tu­ally went on to study act­ing at York Univer­sity.

She now lives in Whitby with her hus­band, Mar­cel, and their two sons.

Be­tween a full act­ing slate and rais­ing two kids un­der the age of six, Brugel found time to launch her own char­ity, Brug’s Army. Fo­cus­ing par­tic­u­larly on is­sues that face women and chil­dren, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion re­cently raised more than $30,000.

Brugel is ex­cited for the fu­ture — play­ing in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters and watch­ing her kids grow up. She also has one very clearly de­fined am­bi­tion. By age 45, Brugel would like to star in an ac­tion movie.

“I would love to be a 45-year-old ac­tion star,” she says. Like Jason Bourne? “Ex­actly. But an older, black, fe­male, kick-ass ac­tion star.” Watch this space. The Hand­maid’s Tale airs Sun­days on Bravo in Canada be­gin­ning April 30.

Amanda Brugel has re­vis­ited the work of Mar­garet At­wood at var­i­ous points in her life

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