When Donald Trump was elected president, The Handmaid’s Tale was in the midst of filming Season 1, so when the dystopian series premiered a few months later, the themes of patriarchal oppression and sexual assault felt eerily parallel to many of the allegations besetting the Oval Office. Season 2 (which premieres April 29) has become relevant in an entirely new way. In the time between the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and the upcoming forthcoming second season, topics like consent and sexual harassment have become trending topics on social media and made headlines around the world. The show, which airs on Bravo in Canada, may be based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book by the same name, but its themes and central conflicts have felt uncomfortably prophetic.
That’s something we’ve thought about a lot when it comes to the women who star in the show—thinkpieces abound on Elisabeth Moss as handmaid Offred and Yvonne Strahovski as Commander Waterford’s wife, Serena Joy—but what about the men who are acting out the cruelties captured in Atwood’s fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship Gilead? In preparation the highly anticipated second season, which was filmed in the climate of #MeToo, FLARE wondered what the male actors on the show thought about their fictionalized roles—and what they hope other men take from the show. So we asked them.
Joseph Fiennes, a.k.a. Commander Fred Waterford
Joseph Fiennes may be absolutely terrifying as the Commander, but in real life, he hopes the show demonstrates the dangers of a patriarchy like the one under his character’s control—and that it will encourage men to be part of the ongoing conversations around #MeToo, Time’s Up and the patriarchy.
“It is a conversation that is much needed—look at everything since the Harvey Weinstein, what’s been exposed,” says Fiennes. “There has to be a conversation about male psyche, male sexuality, boyhood conditioning, the way that boys grow into men like that—and our show touches on those themes. I think there’s big takeaways for guys.”
Max Minghella, a.k.a. Nick Blaine
Max Minghella—who plays the Waterford’s driver Nick Blaine, later becomes *spoiler alert* Offred’s lover and ally—says he didn’t expect the series to resonate quite this much.
“When I first read the script of the pilot two years ago, I fell in love with the story and as a piece of fiction and I wanted to know what happened next. That was my main interest in doing it,” says Minghella. “The fact that the show has taken on this other resonance is amazing for us… that’s been a fascinating thing to be part of something that actually become relevant in a way that none of us anticipated, predicted or necessarily intended.”
While the female-driven show has obviously resonated with women, according to Minghella, most of the fans that ask him about the show are men. “I think a lot more men watch the show than people realize,” he says. And he feels that season 2 will raise some alarm bells for these viewers.
“It’s a big advertisement for everything not to do and how quickly things can fall apart,” says Minghella. “And it’s very obvious, I think, the parallels between our current administration and what this show is suggesting.”
O-T Fagbenle, a.k.a. Luke Bankole
Unlike Minghella and Fiennes’s characters, O-T Fagbenle’s Luke Bankole is not part of Gilead and has instead, managed to escape to Canada.
Fagbenele says that with the amount of discussion around sexual assault and women’s rights in our post-Weinstein era, season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale will likely be viewed differently than season 1 because fans, male fans in particular, have hopefully begun to re-evaluate their actions and those of their peers. “They may view the show with a bit more of a real-world correlation,” he says. “Just outside of watching a great show, I think the best thing a man can get from it is to be provoked to asking some questions and then finding a patient woman who will go through and explain things in more detail and more personally in a way that he can understand.”
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