The Handmaid’s Tale actress Yvonne Strahovski landed her first Emmy nomination on Thursday and will compete in the dramatic supporting actress category against two of her colleagues, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd, who won last year. (In total, eight Handmaid’s Tale actors were nominated this year.)
Strahovski, who plays ice queen Serena Joy with such subtle aplomb that viewers can’t help but empathize with her at times, told Vulture in a phone interview, “I can’t stop smiling, my face hurts … I’m so happy to have been part of this, and so grateful that the ride has really allowed me the opportunity to dive deep into Serena’s psyche this season, and really get down and dirty with her and her vulnerability.”
The second season of the Emmy-winning Hulu drama proved that life in Gilead isn’t just harrowing for the Handmaids. Viewers saw the Commander (Emmy nominee Joseph Fiennes) beat his wife in one early episode, and later order the severing of one of her fingers — punishment for reading a Bible verse in public, as Serena Joy pleaded with Gilead’s leaders to allow women to study the Bible.
By the end of the season, with the reality of the dark and evil society she helped build dawning on her, Serena Joy makes the sacrifice of allowing Offred (Emmy nominee Elisabeth Moss, who won last year) to escape Gilead with baby Nicole. Strahovski spoke to Vulture about how she straddles the demands of the role, why she feels for Serena Joy despite her actions, and what she thought of her character’s defiant decisions in the second-season finale.
How do you walk the fine line to make viewers feel compassion for a woman who does so many horrible things?
So much is in the writing, which really forces me to walk that fine line between doing despicable things and doing redeemable things. But what I’ve held onto during my performance as Serena is that she, at the end of the day, is human. The very first thing that stood out to me, way back when I read the pilot script, was how miserable she must feel and how affected she must feel by her own circumstances. I thought, Here is a woman who has nobody, and who has nothing, in a world where it seems like she has something. She doesn’t trust her husband. She doesn’t trust her household. She has another woman living in her household being intimate with her husband. These are all things that, at a base level, would just hit a raw nerve and create so much sadness and misery within you. I felt sorry for her in reading the first bit of material about her.
It was a brutal season to watch, and Serena’s journey was brutal in many ways, too. Her husband beats her, her finger is severed, and she willingly gives up her baby. What was the hardest scene…