Awards Daily talks to Emmy-nominated Yvonne Strahovski about that Season 2 courtroom scene, how motherhood has changed her perception of Serena Joy, and what side her character stands on in the upcoming season.
Yvonne Strahovski and Serena Joy have something in common: They’re both new moms—something that inspired a new outlook for the actress playing one of the most complicated villains on television.
“Sadly, I already had empathy for Serena,” laughs Strahovski. “It’s kind of my job to. It’s not so much empathy, but now having that feeling of being a mom and truly understanding the love you experience when you have a child, that’s so miraculously and other-worldly.”
Strahovski says comparing her own motherhood to Serena’s desire to have that feeling and experience has added dimension to the way she thinks about her character. “I think it definitely will be inspiring moving forward into Season 3. It adds another scope to me as a person, which will inevitably add another layer to playing Serena.”
Commander Brett Kavanaugh?
Not only did Strahovski’s life mirror her character’s, but the show resembled real-life politics when memes popped up comparing Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh to Serena Joy’s plea to let women read.
“Oh, yes, I wasn’t surprised,” laughs Strahovski. “It was really interesting and sad at the same time. Like everything really, it’s sad that we have something in real life to compare our show to. I wish it wasn’t the case.”
For the climactic scene, Strahovski couldn’t even see her audience, which is a testament to her powerful performance.
“When I shot my closeups for that scene, I didn’t actually get to look at the guys at all, because we were kind of far apart. Half the time, when you’re working, they put up flags and things for lighting and your eyeline unfortunately gets blocked.”
Serena Joy is masterful in this moment, even if Strahovski says her character isn’t confident that she’ll be able to change the commanders’ minds.
“I think she’s well aware that it may not work out. I think more so than wanting to go in and really convince them of [letting women be allowed to read], she wants to feel good about doing something that’s truthfully good for her baby and for other people and women. I think she’s been being this crabby, bitter, miserable woman for so long, that I think more than anything it just felt good to do something that felt right, regardless of the outcome.”
Of course, Serena Joy does not win and ends up being disfigured as punishment.
“The way that she gets punished is awful, and I’m not sure she expected that. That’s more of the surprise, that her husband would really go even further than the beating in Episode 8. I think that’s where the surprise lands.”
Season 3 Serena and Offred: Will They or Won’t They?
There’s not much love between the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena, and there’s not much between Offred (Elisabeth Moss) either, even if there’s certainly potential with this twisted female friendship.
“I think they do respect each other. They know each other’s strengths and each other’s weaknesses maybe better than each of them understand themselves in ways. They certainly know how to get under each other’s skin. It’s a very sad relationship. It wants to go in a good direction, but it just never can quite get there. But it’s so fascinating to see that dynamic. You see them constantly trying. It’s very much an uphill battle and it comes crashing down no matter what avenue they go down. But they get so close. It will be interesting to see if we can push that even further in Season 3.”
Speaking of Season 3, the end of Season 2 concluded with Serena cooperating with Offred to save baby Nichole/Holly from Gilead. Does this mean Serena has joined the resistance?
“I think everyone wants that for her. Would it be interesting to see her automatically flip to the resistance? Probably not. I think there are a lot of obvious choices with where each of our characters could go, and I certainly have a couple of favorites of obvious choices in my head. But what I love about what the writers do is that they never pick the obvious choice. They craftly surprise us and then the audiences with where we go. I think we will definitely have an element of surprise in Serena’s journey in Season 3. I certainly enjoyed listening to it when [showrunner] Bruce [Miller] told me. Hopefully everyone else does, too.”
Seasons 1 and 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale are streaming on Hulu.