It’s hard to work on a TV show like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and not be “jolted” into a “state of consciousness,” according to Joseph Fiennes.
Fiennes plays Commander Fred Waterford, the leader of the oppressive dystopian republic called Gilead in Hulu’s hit series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. The book has been heralded as a feminist classic and (after some initial back and forth) the show seems to be following suit. So it comes as no surprise that Fiennes says he’s become an even bigger feminist after playing the Commander on a set full of iconic women like Elisabeth Moss (the show’s protagonist Offred) and Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy, the Commander’s brilliantly sadistic wife).
In a June 15 interview with Marie Claire, Fiennes said the series has really awoken him to women’s issues ― especially since the “most important people” in his life are his wife and two daughters.
“Certainly the show has jolted me into a much more alert state of the inequality amongst the sexes,” he said. “By virtue of that, I feel much more switched on to feminism, and what it means and stands for. I want my daughters to live in a world where there is equality and parity of pay. We’ve got a long way to go. I read a statistic that if you’re a Hispanic woman it’ll be over 200 years until you achieve parity of pay. So yes, the show has jolted me into a state of consciousness.”
The show has jolted me into a much more alert state of the inequality amongst the sexes. By virtue of that, I feel much more switched on to feminism, and what it means and stands for. Joseph Fiennes
Fiennes also spoke about the eery way the dystopian future depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale” has begun to feel closer to real life over the last year. From the U.S. pulling out of the Paris climate deal to the constant war over women’s bodies and reproductive autonomy, Fiennes pointed to the parallels between fictional Gilead and the United States in 2017.
“When you wake up and you see that America has pulled out of the climate deal in Paris, that sends huge messages about putting coal before the planet. Gilead has suffered from a fragile ecology that is now toxic and affecting fertility rates,” Fiennes told Marie Claire. “There is truth to it ― there is connection, themes, and parallels, sadly. It’s getting sharper and sharper, especially for women ― the autonomy of their bodies, and pro-choice vs. pro-life. Look at the administration, the imbalance of the female presence ― there’s a lot to draw on.”
One silver lining? The protests and resistance the U.S. has seen since President Donald Trump took office.
“It was wonderful seeing the woman’s marches, and seeing numbers bigger than the president’s inauguration,” Fiennes said. “It gives one great heart that there are people present, alert, and awake, and voicing their frustrations. We need more of that.”
Head over to Marie Claire to read the rest of Fiennes’ interview.