The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

FOR Yvonne Strahovski, there’s been a handy ben­e­fit in be­ing an ex­hausted new mum while work­ing on the bleak dystopian drama that is The Hand­maid’s Tale.

“Be­ing sleep- de­prived re­ally helps when I have to do sob­bing scenes,” Strahovski laughs dur­ing a break in film­ing on the show’s Toronto set. And no won­der. Strahovski returned to film sea­son three of the hit drama, based on Mar­garet At­wood’s best­selling 1985 novel, when her son with her hus­band, ac­tor Tim Lo­den, was just six weeks old.

“I’ve been film­ing this sea­son while si­mul­ta­ne­ously be­ing a mum and bring­ing my kid to work every day,” she says, exhaling.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of prepa­ra­tion for me this sea­son in that I feel like I’m plough­ing right in and ev­ery­thing feels like just mo­ment by mo­ment be­cause I’m so ex­hausted.”

She may be tired but the Syd­ney­born Strahovski has en­tered sea­son three as the show’s bona fide break­out star.

While Elis­a­beth Moss has turned in another ex­cep­tional per­for­mance as Of­fred, the hand­maiden who has fought against Gilead’s bru­tal, an­ti­women regime, and Joseph Fi­ennes is suit­ably flac­cid as the weak and creepy Com­man­der Wa­ter­ford, it is Strahovski’s por­trayal of the riv­et­ingly com­plex Ser­ena that has made her a rising star.

For the 36-year- old, who grew up act­ing and danc­ing in Syd­ney’s beach­side Maroubra, the ac­claim has been val­i­dat­ing.

“It’s amaz­ing. It’s another notch in the belt in the jour­ney that is my ca­reer,” she smiles.

“We all as humans strive to do some­thing in this life­time, and I’ve cho­sen to have this kind of ca­reer and it’s def­i­nitely mean­ing­ful for me to have recog­ni­tion like that. It felt very spe­cial. The Em­mys, in par­tic­u­lar, be­cause it’s a peer­nom­i­nated plat­form so it’s lovely, it’s re­ally lovely.”

Fi­ennes, who has played many dif­fi­cult phys­i­cal and emo­tional scenes opposite the ac­tress, de­scribes Strahovski’s per­for­mance as “stun­ning.”

“Yvonne brings such a won­der­ful in­tegrity to the char­ac­ter that is not nec­es­sar­ily there in the book,” he says. “There’s a great vul­ner­a­bil­ity and sad­ness, and she in­hab­its that des­o­late jour­ney beau­ti­fully. I have so much ad­mi­ra­tion for her.”

When Watch meets Strahovski, she’s preparing for a fancy ball­room scene (will the Water­fords rec­on­cile?) at Toronto’s majestic Casa Loma, built by a wealthy fi­nancier at the dawn of the 20th cen­tury but never completely fin­ished once he went broke.

There is some­thing about the vast gothic man­sion that suits the darkly op­pres­sive world of Gilead down to the ground. It’s down­right creepy.

Strahovski is decked out in a long, teal (of course) ball­gown while Fi­ennnes mills about nearby in a tuxedo, swap­ping gibes with new cast­mate Christo­pher Meloni ( Law & Or­der: SVU’s Stabler), who it’s been hinted could be the most evil Com­man­der yet.

At the end of sea­son two, Ser­ena was left an emo­tional wreck af­ter al­low­ing baby Ni­cole to es­cape to Canada in the arms of Emily (Alexis Bledel), while Of­fred (Moss) stayed be­hind to res­cue her other young daughter.

At the be­gin­ning of sea­son three, Strahovski says the “bru­tal and mis­er­able” Ser­ena is in a state of “emo­tional de­spair”, her re­la­tion­ship with Fred (Fi­ennes) “is at its worst” and she’s won­der­ing whether she made the right de­ci­sion to let her baby go.

“She is prob­a­bly lean­ing to­wards that she didn’t make the right choice and so she is dis­traught and full of re­gret and prob­a­bly lone­lier than ever, I would say.

“This sea­son, it’s a bat­tle be­tween her mind and her heart and her own demons. She’s trapped in a cage she’s built her­self.”

But it is that du­al­ity that has ul­ti­mately drawn view­ers to the deeply con­flicted Ser­ena.

“I al­ways try to find the heart of why she does what she does or the rea­son for it, which is aw­ful,” Strahovski laughs.

“In a lot of ways, I am like Ser­ena’s best friend be­cause I have to un­der­stand her so well but it’s also a ter­ri­ble po­si­tion to be in be­cause she’s so aw­ful, so I feel very dirty say­ing that I justify all of her ac­tions from afar.”

There has been wide­spread crit­i­cism that sea­son two of the show had be­come too dif­fi­cult to watch.

Strahovski, who has be­gun work in Ade­laide on the ABC drama State­less opposite Cate Blanchett, bats away such con­cerns.

“I have heard that, yeah. A lot of peo­ple take a hard stance with that, like toughen up, this kind of stuff is happening across the world, so you should be able to watch it.”

The show has also found a very par­tic­u­lar sweet spot in a post-Trump America as the war for women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights rages (Alabama re­cently banned abor­tion).

“It’s not like we set out to be a po­lit­i­cal show – we were just try­ing to make a good show, but it is amaz­ing that it has turned into some­thing that has a mean­ing­ful mes­sage,” she says.

But even she ad­mits that tun­ing in as a viewer has of­ten left her in tears. “It’s emo­tional,” she says.

“I sob work­ing on the show and then I sob watching the show. I’m al­ways cry­ing.”



This sea­son, it’s a bat­tle be­tween her mind and her heart and her own demons. She’s trapped in a cage she’s built her­self.

Bal­anc­ing act: Yvonne Strahovski watches over co-star Elis­a­beth Moss in TheHand­maid’sTale.

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