The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 is about to be released. With the aid of the star Elisabeth Moss and the two key producers, we will discover how different making this season was. 

The series, first seen in May 2017, is adapted from the classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The story is of life in the dystopian Gilead, a totalitarian society which was formerly the United States. June is the main character of the series. She one of the few fertile women, known as Handmaids, in this oppressive Republic of Gilead.

The Television Critics Association recently showcased the resumption of production of the Emmy Award-winning series. Present were executive producer and star Elisabeth Moss, showrunner and executive producer Bruce Miller, and executive producer Warren Littlefield

Season 3 featured June’s fight for freedom against Gilead. Read on to discover some hints of what Season 4 and the future will bring.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 209 – Behind the scenes with Elisabeth Moss from left, Executive Producer Warren Littlefield and Creator/Showrunner and Executive Producer Bruce Miller on set of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 in Toronto, Canada ©2021 Hulu, photo by George Kraychyk

Real Power

Your character June has a long fractuous history with Aunt Lydia. Can you tell us how it is this season since the teaser was kind of intense?

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah. God, June versus Aunt Lydia. I mean, I think one of the things that we deal with this season is power and what real power means and who has it. That’s what so much of the book was about and what so much of our show is about.

Power isn’t always what it looks like. Power can be dangerous. It can be something that is destructive. I think, for both June and Lydia, they are both seeking power on their own journeys but perhaps in very different ways and with different objectives.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 403 “The Crossing” – June (Elisabeth Moss) endures a torturous interrogation with Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) ©2021 Hulu

Bruce Miller: We’ve got Lydia in this season in a Javert kind of position where she is just obsessed with June. [She] has so much of her personal worth tied up in what June is doing and how much damage June is wreaking out in the world that she feels responsible for.

It’s kind of about who is responsible for someone else’s behavior and how much of those things they take on themselves. And although they are kind of enemies in this story, they are inextricably linked. They spend a ton of time thinking about the other one and what the other one is doing.

So it’s fascinating to have two people who really would like to be both rid of each other but who are tangled up with each other all the time.

Life Changing

Elisabeth, how has your life changed during the course of all of this?

The Handmaid’s Tale, 402 “Nighshade” – Behind the scenes with producer Elisabeth Moss ©2021 Hulu, photo by Sophie Giraud

Elisabeth: I think the most significant way for me is being a producer. I had done a couple [of] tiny films before but never done anything producer-wise on this level. That, kind of, has been the big change in my life, taking that on as a new role.

I said, “I don’t want just the credit, I want to be able to help [and] I want to be able to also learn.” I still am, every day, learning from all of our producers. So, for me, I think that’s the biggest change.

And now I have a production company, and now we are doing a bunch of other stuff.

Shooting Restrictions

The Handmaid’s Tale, 401 “Pigs” – June (Elisabeth Moss) ©2021 Hulu, photo by Sophie Giraud

Was anything directing-wise or script-wise that had to be changed to accommodate COVID ruling? 

Bruce: In terms of rewriting for COVID and changing things for COVID, definitely. A ton of things had to be changed in the show. We reduced the number of people in scenes. A lot more locations where we decided to shoot was a very big question because sometimes we couldn’t get things.

Sometimes we’d get five people in front of the camera. Sometimes we’d get 20 people in front of the camera. We were constantly, the entire season, making adjustments to the script and the story.

But, honestly, the biggest change is it was difficult to get our cast into Canada to shoot. We had to keep people out of episodes simply because they didn’t have enough time in their schedule. I mean, people are very kind to come up and fly for a day worth of work in Canada from anywhere. So many of our cast members, [such as] Clea DuVall, work very hard on other shows.

The biggest change, I think, was casting and the characters who we had.

Elisabeth: With our very rigorous testing and quarantining within the cast, Zone A bubble, we were able to proceed with the performances as we would have wanted to even if we were restricted in numbers.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 402 “Nighshade” – Behind the scenes Elisabeth Moss between shots ©2021 Hulu, photo by Sophie Giraud

Giant plot twist 

At the risk of spoilers, there’s a plot change, a giant plot twist at the end of episode three. Was this due to the shooting restrictions?

Bruce: That wasn’t a decision based on anything but story and June’s journey and the story of the show.

How long is the show going on for? 

We are just going into season four and you guys got your early season five renewal… How much longer do you see the show going overall? Especially as you have the rights to adapt The Testaments as well.

Bruce: Well, as long as Lizzie will play with me, I will keep going.

Every time I come upon a season, I don’t have any idea what we are going to do. And every time I get to the end of the season, I’m thrilled with what we’ve done and can’t believe that. [I] feel like I can go on and on forever.

I think that the biggest thing is that, this season, we are delivering. We are delivering on the things that we’ve set up, and I think that’s very satisfying.

It makes me think there’s a lot of life left in this story.

I certainly am fascinated by what happens in The Testaments, and that’s going to be part of our future. That’s a bigger question.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 401 “Pigs” – June (Elisabeth Moss) consults with another cast member ©2021 Hulu, photo by Jasper Savage

US Capitol attack

In earlier seasons, we learned about how Gilead came to be, and one of those things was an attack on the US Capitol. That has very different context since January 6th, 2021…

Elisabeth: Yeah. I always just return to Margaret’s book, which came out in 1985 and felt incredibly relevant and truthful then. And through our conversations with her, that she never put anything in that book that hadn’t happened or was currently happening. 

Here we are however many years later, and we still feel that relevancy.

Elisabeth directing Handmaid’s Tale Season 4

The Handmaid’s Tale, 402 “Nighshade” – June (Elisabeth Moss) ©2021 Hulu, photo by Sophie Giraud

Elisabeth, you’re acting, producing and now directing…

Elisabeth: I feel like it’s a privilege. And it’s also elective. No one’s forcing me to do this. I love it, and I thrive on it, and really the more pots I can get my hands into, the happier I am.  

I do thrive under pressure, but I have a lot of help with that pressure.

Warren: Because the third hour went so incredibly well, we gave Lizzie an additional block. She’s directed three of the 10 hours, 30% of the season. So, again, she doesn’t take baby steps. She just doesn’t know how.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 209 – Behind the scenes of Executive Producer Warren Littlefield and Creator/Showrunner and Executive Producer Bruce Miller on set of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 in Toronto, Canada. ©2018 Hulu, photo by George Kraychyk

Elisabeth: I just felt that I was up to the task after a few years of watching and learning and working with some really incredible directors. Watching them with the intention of possibly doing it at some point.

I also had incredible scripts, you know. Episode 3 is one of my personal favorites, but I’m a little biased. Bruce wrote it, but I think it’s the best script. I love it. And then I had the incredible episodes eight and nine written by Kira Snyder and Eric Tuchman. 

So I was just really lucky in the material that I got as well, which also takes a lot of pressure off you.  When you’ve got great scenes to direct, it makes your job so much easier.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Final thoughts 

Bruce: After all this time, we are so glad to be back. I understand the show has social relevance and all of the stuff, but just to be back entertaining people. I hope people enjoy it and get a diversion from it.

The Handmaid’s Tale, 403 “The Crossing” – Hannah (Jordana Blake) and June (Elisabeth Moss) ©2021 Hulu, photo by Sophie Giraud

After a nearly two years gap, The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 will debut first on Hulu streaming service on Wednesday, April 28th, 2021.