O-T Fagbenle, who plays Luke on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, talks to Awards Daily TV about his adventure episode and being an atypical TV cheater.
The fate of Luke, Offred’s husband, in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale remains unknown throughout the book, so when the character is introduced in the Hulu series and presumed dead, many audience members probably assumed the worst. O-T Fagbenle, who plays Luke on the series, says he had to keep mum on his character’s whereabouts.
“They actually threatened to cut off my arm or cut out one of my eyeballs if I released too much information,” Fagbenle jokes.
After Offred learns that Luke is alive, Episode 7 follows what happens to Luke following the car chase in the pilot episode. The episode titled “The Other Side” is a departure from the previous episodes in form, focusing on Luke and new characters instead of Offred and providing audiences with a glimpse at life outside of Gilead and how the rest of the world is functioning in this new society.
“The tone of the show is so beautiful, almost Japanese and Elizabethan in its restraint, and so much of it is about the subtleties and nuances of breaking those unsaid rules. I was concerned how Episode 7 would fit in, which is like a big old adventure across the country with gunfights. [Showrunner] Bruce Miller helped me understand that at this point in the season, it provides a contrast and a release valve, and also insight into the bigger world. It helps build that tapestry, to have that kind of contrast.”
Contrast is a good word for what Luke offers as a character. For one thing, despite being married, he still engages in an affair with June.
“They have what we English call ‘banter’, which is they have fun talking with each other. They make each other laugh, so it’s just a great kinship. Of course, there’s lots of sexual attraction.”
When June asks him to leave his wife, he responds rather immediately with a resounding, “OK.” Many television series and movies depict men in this situation hem-hawing around the answer, wanting to have it both ways, but Luke is different.
“That moment was something we discussed quite a lot, Bruce and I. Bruce is great at subverting expectations. What we discovered is that Luke knows he’s completely in love with June. I think for Luke, in that moment, it was almost a relief for someone else to vocalize it.”
And of course, June would be the one to vocalize it because she’s the Alpha in the relationship.
“That different power dynamic, and much of this journey for Luke in this season and hopefully the next, is discovering and coming to terms with his inner strength, which June has in abundance.”
The Evolution of Luke
Luke has to summon a lot of inner-courage in “The Other Side,” when he learns how to shoot a gun and forces himself to team up with a resistance group in order to reunite his family, despite wanting to go on his own independent journey to find his wife. Deep down, he knows he could die if he went on his own.
“He’s in a very impossible situation and it’s a situation that lots of people who are made refugees find themselves in. There’s no way to get back to his family without going on some sort of suicide mission.”
Someone Luke includes as part of his “family” is Moira (Samira Wiley), who he experiences some friction with in earlier episodes. But when it comes down to it, he loves her like June does.
“Lots of us have cousins which aren’t really our cousins. We all know what that is. For as much friction as there has been between Luke and Moira, she is part of his family.”
Luke gets closer to finding his family In the final moment of Episode 7, when he’s handed a note from June. Many characters might be skeptical in this moment. Is this really my wife? But Luke knows undeniably that it’s the love of his life.
“It’s classic June that really boils down to the essence. June is in a pressure cooker and when she wrote those words down, that’s really what she’s being distilled down to. Her love for her husband and her desire to save her child. There couldn’t be anything more June than that.”
The Handmaid’s Tale streams on Hulu.