the handmaid's tale season 2

Showrunner Bruce Miller, star Elisabeth Moss, and producer Warren Littlefield were on a Television Critics Association panel for the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. Despite trailers indicating substantial departures from Margaret Atwood’s book in the sophomore season, the creators of the Hulu show promised season 2 would still depict the book.

“I don’t think anything we do is post-Atwood,” Miller said. “I think we’re all living in a currently Atwood world. In the first season, we diverted quite a bit from the book in ways that people didn’t notice. That made me feel really good. In season 2, we saved a lot of things we couldn’t cover in season 1. We kept a nice long list. It’s an expansion of that world. We were noodling around in that world and just going further, not exiting that world at all.”

Season 2 will visit The Colonies, which are only referenced but never seen in Atwood’s book.

“It’s a pretty forbidding world,” Littlefield said. “Although in the narrative for the book, she never goes there, in episode two, we go to the colonies. It’s an expansion of our world.”

This is where a certain guest star will appear.

“In episode two, we were lucky enough to have a Colony story and have Marisa Tomei guest star,” Miller said. “It was very cold for her, but a pleasure for us.”

The season premiere picks up with June/Offred (Moss) on the run from Gilead. That is a new element not present in the novel, but it should not suggest the entire season will depart from the world of The Handmaid’s Tale.

“I don’t think it’s going to be different than season 1,” Miller said. “It’s going to be The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s Offred’s journey through Gilead. The first season was shaped through that. Hopefully, looking back on season 2 you’ll see a shape. The great thing about season 1 is we just followed the characters through their difficult problems instead of trying to put a plotline ahead of them. I wouldn’t predict too much of season 2 from season 1, or episode three from episode two.”

June is pregnant with a baby over which Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) claims ownership. This provides the timeline for season 2.

“So much of this season is about motherhood,” Moss said. “You could say the first season was as well. I definitely feel we locked into the idea of motherhood this season in a whole new way. Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child growing inside her as a ticking time bomb. The complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world she might not want to bring it into. If she does have a baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. It’s a very big part of this season, getting bigger and bigger [mimes her literal growing stomach] as the show goes on.”

As dark as The Handmaid’s Tale gets, there is still room for macabre humor in June’s narration. Moss enjoys this as a way to represent Atwood’s voice.

“There’s a lot of good funny bits,” Moss said. “It is a dark season, though. I would say arguably it’s darker than season 1, if that’s possible. My favorite thing about the voiceover is it’s Margaret’s voice. It’s the tone she hits in the book. That dark sense of humor Margaret has in the book, it’s become June’s voice. There are moments when it’s just dark and maybe she should just shut up.”

The success and acclaim of The Handmaid’s Tale have afforded the producers a slightly bigger budget with which to develop the world of Gilead and The Colonies.

“We did get a bigger budget,” Littlefield said. “Part of it is the expansion of our world, creating Colonies and also using the narrative approach of multiple timelines, we’re able to see how did Gilead come about? How did it all happen? To follow our characters as well as follow the historical events of the creation of the world, it was a bigger show. Both MGM and Hulu embraced that we were ambitious and we’re still in a world of television. It’s a pretty controlled budget but we got more to do it.”

Success has not changed Miller’s game plan, though. Sometimes a show that enjoys first season success will milk it for all its worth. Miller is moving right along.

“In success, rethink nothing,” Miller said. “No, we haven’t slowed down. I think we’re moving at the pace we want to with the story. […] That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this. If you get lucky enough to hit the ball out of the park, you don’t want to have nothing to do. We haven’t changed our storytelling pace or focus. The only thing we’ve been able to do is build up characters we can follow.”

Season 1 directors Mike Barker and Kari Skogland are directing season 2 episodes as well. Half of season 2’s directors are women, said Littlefield.

“Kari Skogland is doing four hours for us this year,” Littlefield said. “We just hired Dana Reed, who Jane Campion championed to us.”

Reed Moreno, who directed the pilot, is welcome back any time she’s available.

“This year, we would’ve loved for Reed to come back,” Miller said. “She would’ve loved to come back. She’s so busy and successful.”

The Handmaid’s Tale returns April 25 on Hulu.

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