It’s hard to believe that when it comes to the dark dystopian drama that is The Handmaid’s Tale that any punches would be pulled when it came to which horrific scenes would play out on screen before our eyes.
However, according to star Joseph Fiennes who plays the loathsome Commander Fred Waterford, there was one scene that he was asked to film for season two of the award-winning drama that he simply could not stomach.
With plans already in place for The Handmaid’s Tale season three, it’s an interesting insight into where the actors see their characters going next, as the show’s content proceeds to grow darker and darker.
Speaking with EW TV critic Kristen Baldwin, for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Fiennes said the scene in question was supposed to take place between his character and Serena Waterford (played by Yvonne Strahovski) during the season two episode where the dysfunctional married duo travel from Gilead to Canada on a diplomatic visit.
The episode was originally meant to build-up to a scene where Commander Waterford raped his wife Serena, but according to Fiennes he refused to take part in the story-line.
“I guess in many ways, as abhorrent and nasty and evil as Fred is, I have to defend parts of him,” the actor said in a filmed interview with EW.
“In episode nine, we had a moment where Fred was going to rape — after meeting Luke — rape Serena in a hotel room straight after, and it just didn’t track for me.
“I had to go out on a limb and refuse to do it because I felt that even though Fred is who he is, he’s human. And I think that he would be reeling from the interaction with Luke, and that suddenly the reality comes face to face with him and he would be digesting that and trying to understand it, and he wouldn’t necessarily be switched on by being in Canada in a new hotel and trying to heavily persuade his wife to do something that she wouldn’t want to do.”
Fiennes said the scene was altered after he wrote a series of long emails to the producers, stating that both the writers and the actors had done such a good job of shaping the characters over the course of the season, that such a heavy and confronting scene was not needed in order to add to the depth and the drama of the series.
“I had the feeling that Yvonne had tracked Serena so beautifully that her disenfranchisement with the regime and Fred was so beautifully charted it didn’t need a heavy scene to kind of suddenly push her over the edge,” he said. “It’s really about battling for human nuance within a very dark character.”
The Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, follows Handmaid June (played by Elisabeth Moss) as she navigates the world of Gilead, a section of the former United States that has been militarised and organised into newly created social classes. It’s a world where Handmaids are taken into families and ceremonially raped in order to produce children.