To read more on The Handmaid’s Tale, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now; you can also get the Elisabeth Moss cover online or at Barnes & Noble. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Praise be! Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its second season on April 25. The series, starring Elisabeth Moss and adapted by Bruce Miller from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel, stunned audiences and critics when it debuted last year and it swept awards season, winning armfuls of Golden Globes and Emmys along the way. Its first season finale mirrored the novel’s conclusion — with Moss’s June stepping into a van that will either take her to freedom or possibly to her death. “People ask, how can you take a sacred book and continue on?” says Miller. “Because that’s all you want to know — what happens next?”
In other words, this season pushes past the source material and continues to fill in the imaginings of Atwood — who serves as an enthusiastic consultant on the series. “We’re enormously proud of what we accomplished in year one,” says executive producer Warren Littlefield. “But, year two, we’re more ambitious. With the television world we’re living in, to merely equal what you did previously is not good enough.” A daunting task, to be sure. Says Miller, “It’s hard to sit down and write season 2 when you have a big, fat, Emmy on your keyboard. It’s hard to type around it.” He laughs. “But then you think, I just need to write the show. It helps we were already being a little big for britches — taking a Margaret Atwood book and adapting it — so it’s like, who are you to write this award-winning show? It just makes me feel like I can push harder. We want every episode to be fully packed.”
While tonally and visually in keeping with the first season, the new installment also pushes into previously unexplored parts of Gilead — including a first look at the Colonies, the punishing radioactive wasteland where Alexis Bledel’s Emily has landed. The second episode shows not only what life is like there (with an assist from Marisa Tomei who, along with Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford, makes an appearance this season), but uses flashback to illuminate Emily’s backstory.
We also find out more about Moira’s (Samira Wiley) new life in Canada, helping fellow refugees but also discovering that even though she has physically escaped Gilead, mentally it is still with her, and she’s a different person due to the experiences she’s survived. “This season you see a real three dimensional and complex woman,” says Wiley. “That’s not always a given in television — to see all of these colors in one woman, and not only a woman, but a black, gay woman. She’s every f—ing minority you can think of! Which I know a little something about.”
Moss, who also serves as producer, says audiences should prepare themselves for what’s ahead. “This season is 100 times more complicated and bigger than season 1. I was like….ooof, people think the first season was dark! But we definitely pushed the envelope this year and there’s definitely a couple of things that people are going to have a really hard time watching.”
Take a look at the cover below — along with an exclusive Barnes & Noble edition — and for more on The Handmaid’s Tale pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands this Friday.