As red-robe-wearing June – aka Offred – in hit series The Handmaid’s Tale, life is a constant struggle for Elisabeth Moss. The series (Season 3 continues Thu., Jun. 20, on SBS) takes place in the fictional land of Gilead, where women’s rights have been taken away. The acclaimed actress concedes the role has taken its toll on her. “Handmaid’s Tale is just the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Moss, 36, who is also a producer on the series, tells WHO. But, she adds, playing June is also “the most fun and the most fulfilling” role she’s played to date. Here, Moss tells us why. (Watch the Season 3 trailer below.)
What changes have you recognised in yourself since playing June?
I do not feel like I can take on necessarily any of June’s arc as my own, which I think is for the best. She really does become a different person this year and she really has a ruthlessness to her that is different. So, I can’t say I would take that from her. I do think the singular drive that she has is very inspiring. I wish I was as much of a heroine as June is. She’s very strong and when she believes in something she goes after it and won’t let anything get in her way. And I think that she’s just as inspiring to me as I think she is to other people. I look up to her in a lot of ways.
Your co-star Yvonne Strahovski last year gave birth to a baby boy. How is she going balancing motherhood with her career?
All I know is that she is a great mum and she has a great partner and the baby’s obviously adorable and it’s really nice to have him around. But she’s killing it. She’s killing it on the female front, being a mum and going to work and, like so many women out there. I think we’re all very proud of her. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from her.
What do you think of some states in the US passing restrictive abortion laws, given you are on a show about the restriction of women’s rights?
I think it’s a pretty terrifying situation that we’re in right now. I think it’s really scary and I think it feels a little bit too much like that period in The Handmaid’s Tale book before there was Gilead, where there were things happening that seemed foreboding. And it’s a little too much like that for my comfort and for a lot of people’s comfort. I fall on the side of choice. You can’t tell people what to do, can’t tell people what to believe, who to love and what to do with their bodies; you just can’t.
What advice do you have for women who are concerned about what’s happening in the US?
I always rely on [author] Margaret Atwood’s advice and she told me to keep an eye on the right to protest. When that’s taken away you’re in real trouble. And the other thing that she said was keep an eye on legislation. It’s not the big election that happens every four years that is the absolute most important. It’s all the steps that lead up to that and it’s in local law. It’s the people who are actually making the decisions in your city, in your town, in your state. That’s where these things begin. And when they get to a certain place it’s maybe too late to stop it.
Do you have strangers coming up to you tell you how much your character means to them?
It feels like people have this relationship with it that is really deep and really connected, and it’s very personal to them. And when they disagree with a character on the show they really hate that character and everyone’s very passionate. That’s a different experience.