Samira Wiley plays Moira, a black handmaid in the upcoming television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Executive Producer Bruce Miller has stated having a multiracial cast is one deviation from the book that the series is making.
Bearing in mind that the novel has a white supremacist element, Miller said a huge discussion with the author happened. Ultimately, they decided to have black handmaids because the evangelical movement has been a lot more integrated since the book first came out three decades ago.
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the Republic of Gilead, where a theocratic military dictatorship has stripped women of their rights. Forbidden to read, the women serve as handmaids – vessels of procreation in a place where fertility rates are way down.
A movie based on the book had previously been done. Two teasers for the TV series have been released. In one of them, Joseph Fiennes as the commander is visually prominent. Behind him can be seen the trademark red color of a handmaid’s dress, seemingly discarded after the procreative deed has been done.
Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men portrays Offred, the main protagonist, and a handmaid in the Commander’s household who tries her best to survive and find her daughter. Much of the suspense in the show revolves around Moss’ character as she relies on her instincts to find those she can trust.
Ann Dowd and Alexis Bledel are other members of the cast. Reed Morano directs the TV series that premieres on Hulu this April 26.
Why the book remains relevant today
Margaret Atwood’s novel first came out in 1985, yet its message of female empowerment remains timely. It was only last month, after all, when Women’s March was seen in many of the cities of the United States. Many among the upcoming show’s cast agree.
Said Samira Wiley, “I feel like it’s a responsibility as artists to reflect the time that we’re living in… For me, personal issues and specifically women and their bodies and who has control of it? Does someone else have control of it?” She said it is reflected in the book and also in the television series.
Being a black actress, she appreciates being part of the production and when she read the book, noted that the characters were not people of color. She also acknowledged the “tiny, little changes” that were different from the book.
Show creator Bruce Miller said that though some changes were made, they were mindful of the fact that the material was really connected to the original — Atwood’s book. Following a Super Bowl ad for its upcoming TV adaptation, Atwood’s book Atwood Book soared to number one on Amazon’s bestseller list, as a book buff and editor tweeted.
Joseph Fiennes liked the story of Offred and the theme of empowerment. He quipped, “I loved the story of a survivor…I love that she finds power in a position of nothingness.”
Whether the new show remains on air after one season remains to be seen. What is certain is that its message is timeless and needs to be shared even today.