When The Handmaid's Tale launches its third season, it will come cloaked in resistance — as timely a development as possible, according to executive producer Warren Littlefield.
"I think we'll get to go to another place for year three, which is the resistance, the fight," Littlefield tells The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from the Hulu drama's third season. "June has had to battle for survival, and I think it leaves us in a place where she's able to look beyond herself, beyond the battle for her unborn child in year two, and for Hannah. It feels like it takes us to a bigger place."
The season two finale, "The Word," sets the stage for a third season in which Elisabeth Moss' June (best known to viewers as Offred, her name as a handmaid within Gilead) nearly escapes from the fascist nation. Instead, she chooses to entrust her infant daughter with her fellow handmaid Emily (Alexis Bledel), also in the midst of the escape attempt, while June opts to stay behind in search of her oldest daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake), still trapped somewhere in Gilead.
Showrunner and creator Bruce Miller has described his vision for the third season with a four-word phrase: "Blessed be the fight." Littlefield echoes that sentiment, saying it's one that aligns with the modern political moment. He specifically references President Trump's recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court as an example of the need for resistance.
"I think it is about the fight, and I think that [fight] takes many, many forms, as does citizenship and the privilege of citizenship," he says. "I think we're thematically very much on track. And I think the journey has been earned, and I think we're ready to hit the next dimension — and that's one where I think there's a sense of June as a warrior and rising."
The forthcoming battle in season three is a resistance that comes springing forth from the shadows. Given its themes and the world it's set in, The Handmaid's Tale was steeped in darkness throughout its second season, from guardian Nick Blaine (Max Minghella) being forced to marry a teenager, to that same teenager (Eden, played by Sydney Sweeney) being executed in the penultimate episode of the season. For some viewers, it was too much darkness to weather in the face of an endlessly brutal news cycle. From the Handmaid's team's perspective, season two's content was not only necessary for the stories ahead, but was tonally consistent with the world in which we live. As Littlefield puts it: "I feel like year two of Trump was pretty dark as well."
"We saw this year that you may get out of Gilead, but that doesn't necessarily mean your free," he continues. "That was true for June at the Boston Globe, haunted by what happened within that building. And that was absolutely true for Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley) in Little America, that they really couldn't feel freedom because of what they had experienced and the responsibility that they feel. And so, I think those themes really, really all came together, and particularly with the 180 degree turn that June makes as she turns away from the escape vehicle and flips up that hood and marches towards an unknown battle — but she still takes that road."
The Handmaid's Tale writers' room is currently working on the third season, and has been for a month, according to Littlefield. "There's an excitement," he says of the current atmosphere stemming from the stories currently under construction. "There's a tremendous intellectual curiosity that the entire writing staff possesses to work to understand everything about the world around us, about every possible fascist regime, every denial of human rights throughout the globe, and all of that information. It's a furious exchange of articles and emails and discussions as we figure out what the path is for our characters in Gilead. What does that look like in year three? It's incredibly stimulating."
Season three, expected to arrive in 2019, follows on the heels of the Hulu drama's sophomore run, which primarily crafted its own story beyond the scope of Margaret Atwood's original novel. With that said, Littlefield feels there was a sense of "Atwoodness" about season two, which he expects to carry into the third season.
"The colonies were referred to but never visited in the book, and so it was completely appropriate that we would bring them to life," he says. "And I think as we move into the journeys for these characters for year three, we continue to carry our Atwoodness forward. We would never want anyone to look at this show and feel it was divorced from Margaret's vision. I think we're always trying to complement it. And I'd be willing to bet that Bruce told you the person who has the least concern about staying close to the book is Margaret. She's like, 'Go, go. You've got this. Go.' Without fear. She's been adapted into plays, into multiple operas, into a feature film. She's not a stranger to that process. And she really just encourages. But I think we probably feel the burden of that mantle maybe even more than she does."
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