The Handmaid’s Tale: Novel2Screen’s Sneak Peak

Yup.  That’s me with Elisabeth Moss!!!!

Last week I had the privilege to be a guest at SAG’s nomination committee screening of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Thank you to my friend Nicole Maggi (shameless plug here – she’s an amazing YA author and you need to check out her books: the Twin Willows Trilogy and The Forgetting) who invited me to this exclusive event that reminds me why it is so great to live in this city.

The night was amazing!  My knees were shaking because of how giddy I was to see a panel with the creators of this amazing, ground-breaking show.

The evening was divided into three panels, each opened with a short video about the TV show and elements of production.  The first panel included the show runner Bruce Miller, Director Reed Morano, Executive Producer Warren Littlefield, Production Designers Julie Berghoff and Andrew M. Stearn, and more.

The panel talked about their vision for the show.  Reed addressed how important this production was for her as a mom of two daughters.  One executive producer, who I will refrain from using his name for I fear I will attribute his comment to the wrong person, discussed how this show transcends gender.  Yes, it is considered a feminist show, but what does that mean?  For him this show was so important to make as a father of daughters and a transgender child.

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Director Reed Morano with Samira Wiley

They also discussed how they didn’t realize in the fall of 2016 when shooting that The Handmaid’s Tale would become so eerily relevant since the 2016 election, now that bans are being attempted to keep people of particular religions out of the U.S., now that hate crimes are on the rise, now that this country has a president who has no respect for women.

I’ve often commented on how much I love the cinematography of The Handmaid’s Tale. This panel mentioned that they would use a wide angle lens on close ups of Elisabeth Moss, forcing the audience right there with her in the moment.  You can’t get away from the details and tension it creates.

They also made the construction crew building the addition on to the back of the house next to Fred and Serena look bad because they threw up Nick’s carriage house in 6 weeks and the construction crew had been working for months on a small addition.  Secret of production: Nick’s garage isn’t large enough to house a car, but it did block the house next door perfectly.

The second panel focused on costumes, hair, and make-up with Ane Crabtree, Karola Dirnberger, and Burton LeBlanc.  There was talk about the perfect shade of red for the handmaid’s, how a specific color scheme was chosen for each group of Gilead, how every costume was made for the show.  HM tiny

Ane mentioned only three items were rented.  One being the sheer blouse on Moira in Jezebel’s.  She stated she wanted complete control over the costumes and that it is easier to make your own costume than waste hours trying to find an item that simply won’t work.

And hair is practical, meaning you aren’t going to find elastics on the actors.  They use in their hair what would’ve been allowed in Gilead.  Now, you’re gonna be looking closer, aren’t you?

And sometimes make-up means no make-up.  The actors felt free to truly express themselves stripped of make-up.  It’s amazing how much raw acting make-up will conceal.

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The cast came out in the third panel: Elisabeth Moss, O-T Fagbenle, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Joseph Fiennes, and Madeline Brewer.  The casting directors joined them on stage as well.  Yvonne and Joseph touched on their characters and how dangerous power can be.  Max stated when you are on set with a cast of actors like those surrounding him they will always help raise you to their level.  And the casting directors said they fell in love with Madeline’s shoes at her audition.  Oddly enough, that helped her stand out among the crowd of actors vying for her role.

After the panels there was a meet and greet with the cast and production team.  My knee-jerk reaction was to flee.  I’m a wall flower at heart, and in awkward situations I tend to make the awkward more pronounced.  But they were serving free wine and munchies.  Nicole and I hung out near the kitchen door, snagging appetizers on their way to and from the kitchen.  We talked mainly about the mini chicken tostado.  It was especially tasty.

Then we caught eye of O-T.  Then Madeline.  The cast and crew were mingling among the crowd!  Nicole desperately wanted to ask the Ane Crabtree her thoughts on protesters using her designs.  Alas, we couldn’t find her.  We did stumble across Elisabeth Moss.

“Should we talk to her?” Nicole asked, nervously.

“Hell yeah!” I said, leaving my wallflower persona by the kitchen door.  I picked up an extra wine and headed outside.

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Elisabeth Moss with Nicole Maggi (l) and Chris Cookson (r)

Elisabeth Moss was so gracious and chatty.  She talked with us for quite a while.  And we even snagged a cool pic.

I asked her her opinion, not as an actress or producer, but as a reader, of the end of The Handmaid’s Tale novel.  She shook her head and said she wouldn’t reveal her thoughts.  She just can’t.

One of the highlights of the night was when I told Elisabeth what Rebecca, my awesome co-blogger who couldn’t make it, said about her acting in the show.  Nicole told Elisabeth about our blog, so I gushed about the show and then mentioned to her that Rebecca said that Elisabeth can convey on her face emotions and words that other actors can’t do with an entire monologue.  Elisabeth said it was the most wonderful thing to hear, and she couldn’t believe it, and it was best thing she’s heard all night.  She then said she was going to tell her mom.

Then she paused, looked at me, and said , “Wait.  This is in print?!” To which Nicole was like – “Hell yeah!  On the internet!”  And Elisabeth lost it again and went on about how she’s gonna call her mom and say like a little kid “OMG, mom, you won’t believe what this lady at the event said!!!”

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Yvonne’s tall.  I’m short.  There was an awkward moment of figuring out how to frame us both in a picture.  Lol.

We talked to Yvonne as well, partially because my co-worker has a crush on her and I needed a picture to rub in his face the next morning.  But she thanked us for finding some sympathy for her character.

Nicole chatted to Madeline about her prosthetic over her eye.  Madeline said it is fine for a while, but after 12 hours it really starts to hurt and pull on her eye lashes.  12 HOURS!

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With Madeline Brewer practicing our best Handmaid’s pose.

I asked her if at any point in the audition process did she feel like she got it.  She laughed and said, “Absolute not!”

We finally had a chance to chat with the show runner (aka main boss) Bruce Miller. Nicole mentioned how awesome everyone was and how friendly.  He said he has a no douchebag policy.  I asked him the same question I asked Elisabeth and if he talked to Margaret Atwood about her opinion on the end of her book.  He said he and Atwood talked about everything – except the ending of the book.

I also got to ask him about the Luke episode and where exactly is that church and the borders of Gilead.  He said that area is on the outskirts of Gilead.  Gilead is large, and the war is still happening at that time, but most of it is in the city.  Those are the far reaches where men still have pseudo normal lives.

Nicole asked him why, despite the multi-racial cast and the portrayal of gays and lesbians in the show, are all the commanders white.  She also wondered if there would ever be a commander who did not want a mixed race baby.  He said in Gilead fertility trumps all.  But they did discuss adding a storyline addressing that very issue.  They simply didn’t have time this season.  But there are more seasons to come.

When we asked what he thought of the costumes being used at protests, he said, “That’s when I knew we made it.”

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Rebecca, this one’s for you!

Photos courtesy of Hulu and MGM Television.

Follow us on Twitter: Chris @ACCooksonWriter and Rebecca @DownWorldNovel.

Like our Facebook page Novel2Screen for more updates on your favorite novel-to-screen adaptations, including soon to come weekly recaps of The Handmaid’s Tale and Chris’s recent interview with Jason Michael Primrose!  

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7 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale: Novel2Screen’s Sneak Peak

    1. Thank you again! It was awesome and inspiring. Yes, we aren’t making it up when we say everyone was so friendly and appreciative when I told them thank you for doing justice to my favorite book.

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  1. Oh man, you would’ve loved this then! They talked a lot about costumes and set design. The Aunts are purposefully dressed in World War I military/friar brown. Every color was specifically chosen for a reason. The furniture are antiques. Attention to detail is in everything – even with the lamp in Offred’s room. They said they made sure the cord to the lamp in her room was short so a handmaid couldn’t use it to hang herself.

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