It doesn’t get much bleaker than HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The hit show, depicting the fictional totalitarian state of Gilead in the years after overthrowing the US Government, acts as a harsh commentary on the divide between social classes and the future of women’s rights.
As this dramatic season comes to an end and we receive news of its 4th season renewal, check out what the cast of the hit series really looks like away from the set. The ever-depressing events of season 3 have left us at Popular Everything a little somber, so we’ve compiled this list of our favorite characters, out of costume and far away from the studio.
June | Elisabeth Moss
Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award-winning Elisabeth Moss has disturbed us in her spectacular performance as June Osbourne. Her recent performance saw poor June spiraling into madness, leaving us biting our nails over what’s in store for this season’s finale.
Like June, Moss appears to be a headstrong character, as one of the show’s editor revealed that in her role as executive producer, Moss pushed for the plot “to be more serious and more focused on the children.” After all, her character has an important message, as Moss observes: “She’s a heroine, but she has no special powers, you know? She has the special powers that a mother has, that a wife has… she kind of rises to the challenges around her.”
Fred | Joseph Fiennes
Younger brother to noted Shakespearean actor Ralph Fiennes, it appears that an inclination for evil characters runs in the family. As Commander Waterford, Fiennes has secured his spot as one of the worst villains of Gilead. Let’s remind ourselves that the real Fiennes isn’t anything like Fred.
A happily married father of two, he’s spoken out about the impact the show has had on his perspective: “What I come away with is feeling that much more protective and much more alert to what my wife and my two daughters might have to put up with in society. I, an average sort of white male, have grown up with great privileges. Now I’m more alert to what a lot of women are up against.”
Alma | Nina Kiri
Fiesty Alma has become one of the important characters on the show through her involvement in the Mayday rebellion group. Now making regular appearances as one of the handmaids in June’s social circle, we have vivid memories of the brutal wrist-burning scene Alma endured as punishment for her defiant behavior.
Having only expected to appear in a single episode, her continued character development stands as a testament to her performance as Alma. With an ever-growing role in the series, we’re looking forward to what’s in store for this budding actress.
Rita | Amanda Brugel
Brugel plays one of the “Marthas” of the Waterford household, the stern Rita, who we see taking charge of the kitchen. Her character continues to elude viewers as not much is shared about her former life. As an outspoken activist and feminist who founded Brugs Army, a nonprofit that works to elicit change for women and children, the real Amanda Brugel is starkly different from the submissive Rita.
Amanda also often solicits important conversations about race and her own experiences as a woman of color in showbusiness. “I was 21 years old when I found out that the entertainment business viewed me solely as black. It imagines us [women of color] to be sassy detectives and sassy single mothers who work in sassy nail salons.” Sigh…
Holly | Cherry Jones
In season two, we see where June gets her spirit as we’re introduced to her mother, Holly Maddox, a hard-line women’s rights activist pre-Gilead, played by the Tony Award-winning Cherry Jones. While it’s unlikely she survived after being sent to work in the colonies, it’s yet to be confirmed what has happened to her.
Jones was already a fan of the show before being offered the role of Holly, after being pushed for by Elisabeth Moss. In an interview with Glamour, she revealed the joy she felt at Moss recognizing her talents. “I just couldn’t believe it, it gave me quivers of delight because I think she is one of the great gifts we have now. It’s that ability she has to be so still and understated and yet bring us into her marrow.”
Nick | Max Minghella
Lover to June and the father of her second child, Nick is introduced to us as the driver of Fred Waterford, before rising to a Commander position in Chicago’s military. He was more recently revealed to have been a member of the Sons of Jacob, the organization that helped Gilead gain power.
Max Minghella takes pleasure in the audience’s inability to read Nick, stating, “I like that he’s somebody who people find somewhat opaque.” However, he reminds us not to judge him too resolutely: “Everything you’re seeing in the show is through June’s eyes, and his actions aren’t always consistent with a good person.”
Moira | Samira Wiley
Best friend to June, Moira makes it out of Gilead and into Canada where we see her trying to adapt to her opportunity for a new life. In speaking to The Huffington Post, Wiley describes how “there are so many different sides to us as women, we’re so complex.” She continues, “we see her as a fighter; someone who is determined beyond all end to escape Gilead.”
Wiley rose to prominence after her performance as Poussey Washington on Orange Is the New Black, where she met her screenwriter wife Lauren Morelli. To lighten her mood after a day of shooting for the bleak series, Wiley professes to watching South Park, “one hundred percent. You just need something to make you laugh.”
Janine | Madeline Brewer
Madeline Brewer is terrific as the somewhat unhinged but no less charming Janine, who we witness enduring the terrifying circumstances put upon her. While often naive, Janine serves to “represent to the other handmaids what could happen if you lose your shit” adds Brewer.
Brewer has close relationships with a number of her Handmaid’s Tale colleagues, notably Nina Kiri and Ann Dowd who, despite their complicated onscreen relationship, is like family to her – “She’s just like a second mother to me. I love her like family.”
Joseph | Bradley Whitford
Commander Joseph Lawrence has sent us through a rollercoaster of feelings since he came to the show in Season two. Introduced as the elusive visionary behind Gilead, his intentions initially weren’t clear, and we feared for June upon her entering his household. While he has largely redeemed himself in the eyes of the audience, Whitford’s engaging performance as Joseph keeps us guessing as to just how moral he really is.
What is particularly interesting is the complexity with his wife Eleanor, whose mental health deteriorates due to this oppressive world Commander Lawrence helped create. “It’s a phenomenal level of nonsexual, nonromantic intimacy. It’s almost I’m so in love with my wife in a real way, but I’ve disabled her. I’ve broken her with what I have done.” Whitford tells AM New York.
Serena | Yvonne Strahovski
Few characters are more determined than Serena Waterford, aspiring mother-to-be whose ruthlessness continues to surprise us. Intelligent and calculating, she was an outspoken supporter of the principles behind Gilead. Her character arc is captivating, as she finds herself as one of the oppressed in the society she helped build.
Happily, Strahovski is at the beginning of her motherhood journey, having given birth last year to her first child. She has an interesting interpretation into what drives Serena’s impulses: “I think the anger is coming from an unidentified regret that hasn’t been realized into consciousness… from the fact that she feels stripped of her identity, ironically from her femininity as well, despite what she was rooting for to begin with.”
George | Christopher Meloni
We knew something was up with the High Commander George Winslow when we were introduced to him and his seemingly perfect life with his wife Olivia, and their suspiciously large family of 6 children. His dominance doesn’t end in Washington DC; it’s clear that he has considerable power that exceeds even Fred’s.
After the recent events in the series involving the Commander, it will be a nice reminder that Meloni in real life is a regular goofball. Star of Netflix’s action/comedy Happy!, the bizarre series is all the proof you need that he’s also a talented comedic actor. He has even declared his love for comedy, emphasizing that to him, “comedy is priceless.”
Aunt Lydia | Ann Dowd
Ann Dowd was fantastically cast as the staunch Aunt Lydia. We were provided enlightening insight into her backstory in episode eight of this season. The story of her life before Gilead shed some light on the events that turned her into the oppressive high-ranking disciplinary she is today.
Dowd has won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role. After the episode that dove into her past, however, she hardly feels like a supporting actress at all. She and her husband work as acting coaches, having even collaborated together on stage in the past.
Natalie | Ashleigh Lathrop
Tame Natalie, or Ofmatthew, shocked us in this seasons eight-episode. While we had only seen her as pious and subservient, her character was used to show how the oppression of Gilead drives people to breaking point. However, we were left with conflicting feelings in realizing June was instrumental to her eventual breakdown.
While the real Ashleigh Lathrop is especially private and protective over information about her personal life, she has spoken about her character arc. “My hope is is that [fans] will, for all of their dislike, still have empathy for this person. Even if she’s not likable, she is pitiable,” Lathrop insists.
Eden | Sydney Sweeney
Now performing in HBO’s new teen drama Euphoria, 21-year-old Sweeney won our hearts as the compliant childbride, Eden. Forced to marry the reluctant Guardian to the Waterford’s Nick, her confusion in her husband’s lack of affection led her to run off with the younger Guardian to the Waterford’s, Isaac.
Despite her flourishing acting career, Sweeney has no intention of letting her success compromise her formal education. The ambitious actress has her sights set on a secondary degree and has enrolled in Business School after graduating as a valedictorian in high school.
Dan | John Carroll Lynch
Appearing as a supporting character to Emily’s story, Dan was her college supervisor before the Republic of Gilead rose to power. He heeds caution to Emily in light of growing discontent towards the LGBT community, despite himself being deemed a “gender traitor”. Unfortunately, it’s because of this that he meets his end.
Aside from acting John Carrol Lynch has been making a name for himself as a Director. His 2017 directorial debut, Lucky, was met with high praise, receiving a viewer rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It follows an old man’s struggle to find meaning in life as he comes to terms with his mortality. Regarded by critic Matt Zoller Seitz as his favorite film of 2017, he concedes, “emotionally it destroyed me.”
Mrs. O’ Connor | Marisa Tomei
Wife to a high-ranking Commander, she is forthcoming about her reasons for being sent to the colonies, having engaged in an affair with another man. While met with hostility by the other “unwomen”, Emily appears to take pity and treat her sickness with antibiotics. It’s later revealed Emily lied, giving Mrs. O’ Connor something lethal for her willing participation in Gilead as a wife, and we are reminded of Emily’s mercilessness.
Known for her roles inAnger Management, My Cousin Vinny and as the new Aunt May in the Spiderman franchise, the Italian American Actress has had to deal with media speculation on her personal life throughout her career. In 2009, she gave the perfect reply: “I’m not that big a fan of marriage as an institution and I don’t know why women need to have children to be seen as complete human beings.”
Luke | O. T. Fagbenle
Husband to June and father to their displaced daughter, Fagbenle plays Luke, the helpless family man haunted by his inability to protect those he loves. As Fagbenle describes him, Luke is the “anti-Liam Neeson”. He takes on the role of father to baby Nicole when she escapes despite the complicated love-triangle he finds himself in with June and Nick.
The actor come musician come writer does identify as a feminist: “I try to encourage myself to act in a way that supports gender equality, and I call that feminist.” He adds, “it’s tough sometimes for men to know how to talk about feminism. [Or] any number of things that you’re not necessarily experiencing yourself. But that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t take place.
Olivia | Elizabeth Reaser
Before becoming a mother to her Commander Winslow’s considerable brood, we know she was a corporate lawyer in pre-Gilead times, reminding us of the subjugation of every woman in Gilead, even the elite. It’s further highlighted in her conversation with Serena, where she acknowledges being prepared to tolerate her husband’s vices.
You might recognize Elizabeth Reaser from shows such as Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Wife, or her reoccurring role as Esme Cullen in the Twilight films. You can find her most active on Twitter, where she outspoken on political issues both in the USA and around the world.
Dr. Hodgson | Karen Glave
The character of Dr. Hodgson mirrors that of Emily’s – both are highly educated and accomplished women forced into their “rightful female role” serving the elite. Where Emily is a Ph.D. holder of Biology, Dr. Hodgson was one of the world’s leading neonatologists who Serena call upon for her expertise, behind Fred’s back, when baby Angela falls ill.
Last seen in Season 2, it’s unknown where her character is at this point, or when we might see her next. You might recognize actress Glave from Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, USA Networks Suits, or Guillermo del Toro’s series, The Strain.
Odette | Rebecca Rittenhouse
For those who don’t remember this minor character, Odette is the doctor and future fiance to Moira, when she’s pregnant as a surrogate mother in the time before Gilead. We are introduced to her as a flashback character, as Moira later discovers she was discovered as a “gender traitor” and sent to the colonies, where she met her end.
You might recognize up-and-comer Rittenhouse as she is one of the stars of Hulu’s brand new Four Weddings and a Funeral, a miniseries loosely based on Richard Curtis’s cult rom-com. It promises to be a “modern update on the 1994 film” featuring a group of American friends who reunite in London.
Sylvia | Clea Duvall
Separated from her wife Emily before the takeover due to the passing of a new law annulling their marriage, she and their son Oliver continue to Canada, with Emily left to suffer at the hands of Gilead. It’s a tense and emotional reunion for their family when Emily makes it out, and we’re unclear about what life without her wife has been like.
Duvall was a familiar face in the ’90s, featuring in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Girl, Interrupted and She’s All That. She frequently engages in conversation around LGBT issues in entertainment, having taken many Lesbian roles in films and TV and openly talking about her own sexuality.
Lillie |Tattiawna Jones
Introduced to us as the new Ofglen after Emily, she was a supporting character who managed to leave a lasting impression. Her disapproval of the Mayday led us to believe she was a cautious character. We were proven wrong Emily voiced her refusal to stone Janine to death, which led to them punishing her by cutting out her tongue. It’s in her final scene we see her fearless side, which comes at the expense of her life.
Canadian Actress Tattiawna Jones has previously appeared in the film The Expanse and TV series Flashpoint. Also not one to beat around the bush, she’s outspoken about her political and social beliefs on social media, as well as frequently posting photos of her Italian Greyhound.
Naomi | Ever Carradine
It is through Naomi’s “pregnancy” that we see the birthing ritual for the first time: when Janine goes into labor, Naomi simulates a labor experience. We gather from her conversations that she is insensitive to those suffering around her, from turning a blind eye to the hardships endured by handmaids to complaining about her crying baby. She is especially cold towards Janine, despite taking the handmaid’s child as her own.
Ever Carradine has appeared in several TV shows since the ’90s, Will & Grace, Law & Order and CSI Crime Scene Investigation, to name a few. She is currently also portraying Janet Stein on Hulu’s Runaways. Aside from her career, she has two children with her musician husband Coby Brown.
Erin | Erin Way
Erin is a previous handmaid in Gilead, who manages to escape through the help of the rebels. She lives in Toronto, sharing an apartment with Moira and Luke. We see the lasting effect a society like Gilead has on a person – Erin is traumatized to a point of mutism. She breaks her silence for the first time in the company of Moira, where she jokes “blessed be the ‘Fruit-Loops'”; mimicking the Gilead greeting and breaking a little tension.
Los Angeles-based rising star, Erin Way has appeared in supporting roles in a large number television series in the last decade, most notably Grey’s Anatomy, The Mentalist, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Alphas. Way was trained as a ballet dancer initially, before falling in love with drama in her teens.
Commander Putnam | Stephen Kunken
We don’t know an awful lot about this commander, but everything we do know is pretty offputting. He is a strong supporter of Gilead’s principles on subordinate women, and having had an affair with the emotionally fragile Janine, promised a future together that he never intended to fulfill. To our delight, his hand is chopped off as punishment for his extramarital crime, at the request of his wife.
Kunken has worked with some Hollywood heavyweights, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Allen to name a few. He has received recognition of his acting talent in his role as Andy Fastow in Enron, the UK Broadway play, where he was given a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actor in a Play.
Ambassador Castillo | Zabryna Guevara
The Mexican Ambassador visits Gilead alongside other government and trade officials in season one. She seems skeptical and, along with June, we are encouraged to feel some hope. All our hopes are dashed when the real reason for their visit is revealed; with an infertility crisis in Mexico, she is looking for mutually beneficial exchange between the two countries, hoping to acquire handmaids…
Most people will know Zabryna Guevara for her role in Gotham as Sarah Essen, the second wife of James Gordon. She has also appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and CSI: Crime Scene Unit, with her first-ever role being in minor character in Law & Order. As well as film and TV work, she has appeared in award-winning theatre productions.
Beth | Kristen Gutoskie
Beth seems like a strong personality, as a Martha with connections to the resistance, who was a skillful chef in her life before Gilead. In season three, she is a cook for Commander Lawrence’s household, having previously worked in a brothel kitchen as well as engaged in a casual romantic relationship with guardian/driver to the Waterford’s, Nick.
Active on television for the last ten years, Kristen Gutoskie has been working as an actress since she was 12, and has made small appearances in The Vampire Diaries and Lethal Weapon. When she’s not acting she has been known to sing, having trained in it growing up.
The Doctor | Kristian Bruun
While a recurring character in seasons one and two, he remains unnamed, only referred to as “the Doctor.” Despite his lack of clear identity, he is particularly memorable in a season one scene. He inspects June and discloses that most of the commanders are infertile, offering to impregnate her during the appointment… Who could forget his chilling words as he peeks behind the curtain – “It will only take a few minutes, honey.” Yikes.
Identifying himself as an actor, producer, and writer, Canadian Kristian Bruun cites Orphan Black and Murdoch Mysteries among the best-known TV dramas he has been a part of. While not initially a main character in Orphan Black, he proudly earned himself a part of the main cast in season three.
Annie | Kelly Jenrette
We only know of Annie before the rise of Gilead; we aren’t given any information about where she might be today. She is the ex-wife of Luke and accuses June of ruining their marriage when she spots her at a yoga class. Through Annie’s character, we see a new side to June when we hear her say to Luke later, “she doesn’t matter because we’re going to get married,” dismissing Annie’s feelings altogether.
Despite her singular appearance in season 2 as Luke’s wife and relatively limited screen time, she was nominated for an Emmy as an outstanding guest actress in 2018 for her performance as Annie; an unusual occurrence as rarely do such low profile actors with limited exposure receive such accolade – a delightful change!
Grace | Paula Boudreau
Not seen since season two, Grace Scott is the wife of Commander Steven and receives Emily after her service to Commander Glen. She empathizes with Emily’s situation, suggesting she doesn’t feel well enough upon ceremony night – a heart-warming gesture of kindness in a bleak reality. However, Emily reminds her that this could only delay the act for so long, to which Grace sadly agrees.
The Canadian-based actress has appeared in J. C. Superstar as Evita,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Titania and The Buddy Holly Story as Maria Elena, amongst others. You might remember her face from commercials across the US and Canada, as she is a frequent face on a variety of infomercials.
Mr. Flores | Christian Barillas
A member of the Mexican visiting delegation, Mr. Flores is an assistant and confidant to Ambassador Castillo, who upon meeting June in season one was mistaken by her to be the Ambassador. We understand he is on the “good” side, as he helps pass messages between June and Luke. It is through him that June learns Luke is still alive. Let’s hope we’re not wrong about him…
Perhaps Barillo is familiar to you as Ronaldo in Modern Family, as assistant-turned-boyfriend to Pepper Saltzman or for his roles in Grace and Frankie or Chuck Lorre’s The Kominsky Method. Born in Guatemala, Barillo identifies as a proud immigrant, often posting about central American social issues on Twitter: “I’m often moved by others’ search for a better life.”
Rachel | Krista Morin
Although we have not seen much of Rachel Tapping in the last few seasons of the series, she does play an integral role in the heated narrative between the Republic of Gilead and Canada. Tapping, a Canadian official looking after Gilead refugees and missing U.S citizens, is a recurring character in the shows first and second season.
Rachel Tapping is played by actress, Krista Morin. You might recognize her from movies such as Spotlight, Exploding Sun and the popular TV series, The Expanse. Like her character, Krista is a strong, go-getter who gravitates towards leadership roles. Morin even started her own production company in 2008 and continues to grow in her career. Something tells us we will see much more of Krista in the coming years.
Isaac | Rohan Mead
In season two, Isaac caught us all by surprise when he went from a brut, subservient guardian to a hopeless romantic, willing to die for love. If you recall, Isaac was the guard stationed at Commander Waterford’s house before falling for the young Eden who was already wedded to Nick at the time. The pair had plans to escape Gilead before they were caught and forced to meet their demise.
The role of Isaac was portrayed by Ontario native, Rohan Mead. Mead has appeared in a variety of TV shows including Impulse, and Damnation. It’s hard to picture this young, up and coming star share the same aggressive tendencies that Isaac showcases when he is seen punishing a handmaid at the start of season two. We are sure Mead was happy to reveal Isaac’s sensitive side towards the end of the season, even if that meant killing off his character.
Commander Cushing | Greg Bryk
As a recurring character in the second season, Cushing is seen enjoying the patriarchal society of Gilead, participating in diplomatic activities and overseeing development projects. We also witness Cushing interrogating June after her near escape in season two. We last see the Commander after Serena forges an arrest warrant and he is taken custody for apostasy and treason.
Wow, actor Greg Bryk, who portrayed the role of Cushing, definitely looks like a different person in real-life. The Canadian film and television actor, known for his roles in Saw V and Shoot ‘Em Up has recognized the irony of his roles. His IMDb page features this with a quote of him saying, “It’s funny, I’ve stayed home and raised my kids for large portions of their life. And I’ve made cupcakes and volunteered for the tea at Montessori. And yet I play monsters.”
Emily | Alexis Bledel
Bledel has surprised us in her drastically different and challenging role as Emily. One of the shows main LGBT characters, she is separated from her child and wife and forced into handmaid subservience, as well as labor in the “colonies” (concentration-like camps for criminals.) Having escaped to Canada, her journey in season three sees her trying to rebuild her relationships with Sylvia and their son, and fight the autocracy from the outside in.
A notoriously private person, there are little known details about the Texas-born actress. She has once admitted that her sights were set on Architecture in her youth, today settling for home renovation projects in her spare time: “It’s fun for me because it’s creative and I can kind of control it.”