The cast of a new adaptation of dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” insisted on Friday they did not set out to make a feminist statement, but some hoped the TV show would inspire viewers to take political action.
The upcoming Hulu TV series, based on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s bleak portrait of a totalitarian near future where women are forced into sexual servitude, is seen as having new relevance at a time when many American women feel their reproductive rights are under threat.
However, writer Bruce Miller and star Elisabeth Moss said they were initially drawn to the complex characters and script rather than the wider cultural issues.
“For me, it’s not a feminist story. It is a human story because women’s rights are human rights,” Moss told a panel at the Tribeca film festival, where the 10-part series was launched.
“I never approach anything with any sort of political agenda. I approach it from a very human place,” said Moss, best known for playing Peggy Olson in the hit TV series “Mad Men.”
First published in 1985, “The Handmaid’s Tale” imagines a U.S. society where women are forbidden to read, cannot control money and everyone spies on each other. Pollution has also caused widespread infertility and a shrinking population.
Joseph Fiennes, who plays Offred’s master, Commander Waterford, said: “For me, it was the writing, not politics.”
Miller said work on the show first started 18 months ago – long before Hillary Clinton lost her bid to become the first woman in the White House and Donald Trump was elected U.S. President, prompting an estimated three million Americans to take part in women’s protest marches the day after his inauguration.
Actress Ann Dowd, whose cruel Aunt Lydia controls rebellious handmaids with cattle prods and ritual humiliation, said she hoped the series would fire up viewers to take to the streets to defend women’s rights.
“I hope it has a massive effect on people. I hope they picket the White House … I think we should never underestimate the power of morons,” Dowd said.
Executive producer Warren Littlefield said he hoped audiences would take to heart the words uttered by Offred – “Don’t be sorry. Do something” – as she fights to survive and overturn the system.
“That’s the message we want to carry out to the world. It’s ‘do something’,” he said.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” begins on Hulu on April 26.