“Whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing: I have given myself over into the hands of strangers, because it can’t be helped. And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.”
For 33 years readers of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale have wondered what happens after those lines. Those words end her classic novel, sending Offred into an unknown future. The Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale ended its first season the same way: with Offred (Elisabeth Moss) ushered into a black van not knowing whether she is heading to her death or some brighter future. Now the producers of The Handmaid’s Tale are tasked with filling in the pages of what happens next.
“It’s terrifying, but I don’t think it’s any more terrifying than worrying about screwing up the book in the first season,” says executive producer and showrunner Bruce Miller about going past the source material for the TV show. He cites the novel as one of his favorites and like everyone else who has read it has been thinking about the ending for a while now. “Every single person who’s read the book is like, ‘Oh my God what happens next?’ That’s the whole point of the ending. So there’s a little bit of you that’s been noodling that idea for a while. But it was a lot of pressure.”
As early as the first season, Miller and the writers started thinking about ideas for Season 2 and beyond. He has plenty of ideas, everything from the fall of Gilead to following the trials of Serena Joy and Commander Fred. Miller would also just be “happy and fascinated” keeping the story focused on Offred and the effect being a Handmaid had on the rest of her life.
“Our goal was to keep living in Margaret Atwood’s world, the Atwood flavor of things. That was the goal and with that, almost anything we do feels like part of that, a continuation of that story,” Miller said.
The Atwood Effect
For her part, Atwood has been incredibly open to having her classic novel expanded. Producer Warren Littlefield says the author is “without fear creatively.” She was heavily involved in the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and continues her role as a creative consulting producer for Season 2. Both Littlefield and Miller say that Atwood reads every outline and script, watches clips, and even visits the writers’ room on occasion.
Atwood will also help with ideas, but Littlefield says for the most part she “really has encouraged Bruce (Miller), ‘Don’t be tied to my book. Be inspired by my book, but go beyond it.’” Miller says having Atwood involved in the process and approving storylines is extremely helpful. “Just getting a national treasure looking over your shoulder and telling you, ‘Okay, that’s okay,’ is a really good feeling. You can be bolder because you have that.”
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25th on Hulu. Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.