(Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid's Tale.)
In a world as bleak as the one author Margaret Atwood created for The Handmaid's Tale, it's hard to see a glimmer of hope. In the early episodes of Hulu's new adaptation of the 1985 dystopian novel, that "glimmer" is Ofglen. It doesn't seem that way at first. Elisabeth Moss' character Offred remarks that Ofglen seems just as pious and obedient — perhaps even more so — than the other handmaids. "Handmaids," in this world, is the name given to the women tasked with bearing the children of elite men. But while Ofglen may seem loyal to the cause, she's anything but: she warns Offred that the secret police (aka "The Eyes") are watching her, proving she is, at least, in some way, a part of the resistance. Offred has an ally in this dark world.
Unfortunately, Ofglen's sexuality (she speaks of her wife, whom escaped the regime via Canada) ends up putting her in harm's way. In one of the most shocking scenes of Hulu's new series, it is revealed that Ofglen has been genitally mutilated as punishment for being a "gender traitor."
It's in the scene that Bledel shines as an actress: with the camera square on her face, it's almost as if we can read Ofglen's every devastated thought. Refinery29 sat down with Bledel to discuss her challenging new role, and what it means in 2017:
Kaitlin Reilly: What was going through your mind during that emotion breakdown at the end of episode 3?
Alexis Bledel: "I think I was just trying to feel her utter devastation and confusion. Upon waking up, she doesn't know what has happened to her, but she knows she has these flashes of a lot of pain. She tries to just get up as if she's going to escape the room, which is always her impulse. But, of course, Aunt Lydia [played by Ann Dowd] wakes in. Just the sheer horror of that moment."
How does the show fit into the 2017 political climate?
AB: "There are certainly some eerie parallels being drawn. I've been interested in reading any of the reviews, because journalists have certainly drawn these parallels better than I could being inside the creative process. I don't have the perspective that they have. I spent my time creating my character and being on set. But it certainly is eerie."
What was the hardest scene for you to film?
AB: "Probably the scene in the van, when they drive to the street where they hang the Martha that Ofglen has a relationship with... [The hanging] was a stunt that happened in real time, in one shot."
Do you have any response to the backlash of the cast not calling The Handmaid's Tale an overtly feminist work at the Tribeca Film Festival panel?
"Women's rights are human rights. It's a woman's story. I think it certainly could be categorized as a feminist work. However I think it could be limiting to call it [only] feminist because the reach of the story and the full experience that Offred has is a human story. I feel like it's both: it's a feminist story, and it's a human story. And it's a human story because it's a feminist story. It certainly could be called feminist, to me."
Did you read the book before taking on the role of Ofglen?
"I was cast, and then I read the book... [Reading the book] definitely got me in the mindset of the handmaids. It offered more details to their emotional life. I was able to pick up some physicality that was distinct to Ofglen."
You've worked on two streaming shows: the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix, and Handmaid's Tale for Hulu. Have you noticed any differences in working for a streaming show?
"It seems that the writers and producers have a lot more creative control on streaming platforms, which is wonderful for the entire creative team, because we don't have a lot of limitations that we could on some network shows. However, I don't know how much that has changed, since I was on a network show."
Was there any person you were particularly excited to share the screen with?
"I was so excited to work with Elisabeth Moss, and most of my scenes were with her... We met when we worked on Mad Men, but we didn't have any scenes together."
Do you have a favourite scene that you shot?
"I love the scenes where [Offred and Ofglen] start to trust each other. It's a dynamic that stands alone, because it's not a dynamic that happens often. By design, the handmaids are really isolated. It really says something about those two characters that they are able to connect."
Did you have any reservations about taking on a dark role?
"It seemed like an interesting and exciting acting opportunity, so I think that's what I was thinking."
What do you hope audiences take away from The Handmaid's Tale?
"I hope that it's thought-provoking and a conversation starter... I think it they watch, they will certainly experience a lot of shock and emotion along the way."