Don’t Underestimate Madeline Brewer—She Plays the Underdog but She *Always* Wins
Madeline Brewer is really, really afraid of dogs. So afraid of them, in fact, that she will hardly even go near one when it’s in her general vicinity. With that in mind, we went ahead and hired an Irish wolfhound named Roland to pose alongside her in our Cosmo photo shoot. Roland is a good boy and also the size of a show pony.
In our defense, she did agree to it ahead of time, so when I ask her about it later, why she agreed to shoot with Roland if she’s actually terrified of dogs, the Handmaid’s Tale actress says she wants to get a puppy of her own in the future, and she thought shooting with Roland would be a way to “face her fears.” All 177 pounds of them.
But risk taking almost seems like Madeline’s kink. That’s why she frequently plays the kinds of characters who probably shouldn’t be watched with the whole fam.
She played Tricia, a blonde—with cornrows—drug-addicted prisoner living in Litchfield Penitentiary in Orange Is the New Black. She took on the role of Alice, a cam girl whose identity was stolen, in Cam. And she just finished filming her role as Dawn, a stripper, in Hustlers alongside Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and Cardi B. But you might know her best as Janine on Handmaid’s, the surprisingly honest handmaid who somehow manages to come out of rape, forced manual labor, losing an eye, and giving up a child with a sunny-side-up outlook on Gilead.
In season 3, the rage that’s been simmering inside the women of Gilead for the past 23 episodes has officially hit max capacity, and they’re ready to unleash it on their captors. There’s a pivotal moment in the fourth episode whern Janine tells her former family, the Putnams, that she wants to return to their home to be their Handmaid again. “I just want to be with my daughter,” she says, near tears.
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) promptly loses it, beating Janine with her cane while every leader in Gilead watches and does nothing. June (Elisabeth Moss) finally has to intervene and throw herself on top of Janine to get Aunt Lydia to stop. It’s a moment that’s incredibly hard to watch, and the cast knows it. “We ask a lot of our viewers and the fans of the show. Sometimes it feels traumatizing, but we ask you to stick it out,” Madeline says.
That emotional turn for Aunt Lydia isn’t actually all that surprising. You see these flashes of the women behind the politics throughout the entire show. “These women, you never take away what makes them human and what makes them the women they are,” Madeline says, reflecting on this season. “You just put them in different clothes and in different circumstances.”
She’s not crazy, Madeline clarifies. She’s a battered woman who is suffering with PTSD, all from the life she’s been forced to lead and try to survive. “She’s been through so much at this point that she’s willing to say what she wants to say and just lean into what she’s feeling.” You know, like telling someone you want to sleep with her husband again so you can all be some twisted Gilead version of family. A bold move. By the end of the season, the resistance will be in full effect, but it might look different than you expect it to. “Resistance doesn’t just look like a protest or a march,” Madeline cautions, and she promises “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Madeline hopes fans of the show will start to see Janine in a 3.0 kind of way. Up until now, she’s been the de facto little sister of the Handmaid crew.
“I think they’ll feel less like, Oh, Janine…we’re so proud of her. Aw, she’s doing so well, and we just want to give her a hug,” she says. “I hope they’ll feel like she is an actual member of this resistance and of this fight. I hope they’re rooting for her not just because they pity her but also because they believe in her.”
In some respects, her role on Handmaid’s has absolutely nothing in common with her role in Hustlers. The movie is based on a viral New York Magazine article about a group of New York City strippers who ban together to con a bunch of Wall Street frat-bro clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Madeline plays Dawn, a stripper who joins the con and works under Ramona (Jennifer) and Destiny (Constance). Madeline describes Dawn as the complete opposite of Ramona.
While the ringleaders are busy securing the bag and wearing mink, Dawn is out here wearing a coat that “looks like I bought it at a garage sale,” Madeline says, adding that “everyone looks so different than they normally look,” mentioning Lili Reinhart in particular, who wears bandage dresses and a poof in her hair that looks straight out of the early 2000s. Cardi, by the way, only shot for one day because of her insane schedule.
Ramona and Destiny have rules for all the girls in the group—no drugs and no drinking—because they want to avoid “sloppy mistakes” and incidents that might get them into trouble. But it doesn’t matter, because Dawn is the one who ends up narcing on the whole operation.
Sure, she’s not a Handmaid who’s being routinely assaulted for the “greater good,” but Dawn is another example of a woman who’s making the best of terrible circumstances. The Handmaids of Gilead and the strippers of Hustlers are all just trying to “take matters into their own hands,” Madeline says.
But weirdly, Hustlers is a comedy, despite the fact that the women get all this money by literally drugging their clients and running up their credit-card charges. It was Madeline’s first time in that type of role, and she even got to do some improv, which is one of the hardest acting skills to master (despite seeming so easy). Madeline was nervous to do the movie, in part because of the “badass” actresses she was working with.
On her first day, she had to shoot the scene where she’s wearing a wire in order to implicate Ramona and Destiny in their crimes. Not only was it crazy-important, but she had also been shooting Handmaid’s the literal day before, where the headspace was totally different. She jokingly said she felt like she didn’t even know where she was.
“I was, like, visibly shaking,” she remembers. “J.Lo, at one point, just grabbed my hand. She’s like, ‘You’re doing great.’ It was really, really nice.” From what Madeline says, working with J.Lo is about as amazing as you’d imagine. First, Madeline confirms that she’s the most beautiful person she’s ever seen up close, and for someone who’s been listening to her music since the sixth grade, it was a huge deal to share scenes with such an icon.
“I mean, J.Lo’s a bad bitch, honestly,” Madeline says. “She is so talented and so hard-working.”
Considering three of her past jobs have been Hustlers, Handmaid’s, and OITNB, it’s safe to say Madeline’s worked with a lot of women. Like, a lot. But she also found a boyfriend somewhere in between Litchfield and Gilead. She and Spencer Neville, a fellow actor, met on the set of The Deleted in 2016.
When she talks about him, she’s refreshingly funny for a girl who’s low-key gushing about someone she’s “madly in love with.” At first, she didn’t pay attention to him because he was “too beautiful” for her. (Reader, I can tell you, no guy is too beautiful for Madeline—even Spencer, who is objectively VERY beautiful.)
They were playing boyfriend and girlfriend on the show, so he asked her to get breakfast one morning to “talk about their characters,” she tells me with an eye roll. We all know that move. At some point after that, there was a drunken moment on a beach, and Madeline kissed him for the first time. Now they post pictures of each other on Instagram eating fully loaded veggie dogs at Dodgers games.
Things weren’t always Instagram-level perfect though. They were broken up for most of 2018 because she thought she was too young (she was 26 at the time) to be with the person she’d be with for maybe the rest of her life. In a total flex, she went on a date with none other than a pre–Priyanka Chopra Nick Jonas.
They met at the Golden Globes, and their eventual date was “fun.” “He’s a nice guy. We went out and talked. It was fun,” she says. “He’s a sweet person.” So, what do you talk about when you’re on a date with Nick Jonas? “He’s a creative guy. Like, we talked about creative stuff. It was really cool, but it was…yeah,” she trails off, keeping things vague. Ultimately, that date made getting back together with Spencer tricky.
“We both dated other people, and I obviously went on a date with someone very publicly,” she says. “Spencer’s friends were like, ‘Hey, is your ex-girlfriend dating Nick Jonas now?’ and he was like, ‘What the fuck, Maddie?’”
Thankfully, they were able to work it out, and now she’s back to referring to him as her “angel dove” in a way that would drive you nuts if it were anyone but her. That breakup was part of what made 2018 an “old bitch” (her words, not mine). She tends to be an anxious person, and she says she spent a lot of days just trying to find her own level ground. So she worked on it, and that work has made this year “beautiful” so far.
“Life is short, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed,” she says she realized. “Instead of just constantly pushing, pushing, pushing and moving toward the next thing, the next job, the next event, the next meeting, the next audition…it’s meant to be enjoyed, you’re meant to experience it.”
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Tricia, Janine, and now Madeline, it’s to stop and enjoy life. Because clearly, it could be worse.
In 2019, that attitude kinda feels like fearlessness too.
Category: Photo Sessions
I’ve added a bunch of photos to the gallery including missing magazine scans, photo sessions, on the set photos from Hustlers, and screencaps from the new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. This should get the photo gallery totally up to date for now. Enjoy!
Madeline is featured in the new prime issue of 1883 Magazine. You can buy the magazine in their online shop. I hope to acquire my own issue in the near future. Until then, check out photos from the spread. Soooo pretty!
I’ve added a bunch of missing photo sessions and television and film stills and behind the scenes photos to the gallery. The gallery, to my knowledge, is absolutely complete and up to date and only missing Veni magazine scans which I am working on obtaining a copy of the magazine. Enjoy all the lovely additions!
2018: Photo Session #014
2018: Photo Session #013
2018: Photo Session #002
2017: Photo Session #019
2018: Photo Session #018
2018: Photo Session #005
2018: Photo Session #002
Separation: On the Set
Separation: Behind the Scenes
Logic – One Day ft. Ryan Tedder: Screencaps (Music Video)
April 22 – Tribecca Film Festival (“Braid”)
2018: Flaunt Magazine – Screencaps
2018: Veni Magazine – Screencaps
The Handmaid’s Tale: Behind the Stills
The Handmaid’s Tale: 1×09 – Stills
The Handmaid’s Tale: 2×08 – Stills
The Handmaid’s Tale: 2×10 – Stills
Having your identity stolen or being locked out of your social media accounts is a very real possibility in 2018. Cam, a new psychological thriller starring Madeline Brewer, shows just how dark that experience can be.
In the film, Brewer plays a 20-something girl named Alice who lives a double life as a cam girl, performing sexualized acts via webcam for money from anonymous sources on the other side of the screen. Online, she goes by the name of Lola, filming herself in her plush pink bedroom, and having full conversations with her “fans” on the cam girl service. The more money she earns, the more popular she becomes, and the higher up she climbs in the ranks of popular cam girls men pay to watch. But one day, Alice notices something off—her account has been not only hacked into, but a doppelgänger has taken her place. Alice’s identity has been stolen, and so have her “points” and the money she has earned from performing as Lola online.
Cam is the combined effort of Netflix and the horror production studio Blumhouse (which is responsible for the distribution of a string of high-impact, low-budget thrillers like Get Out, Happy Death Day, and Game Night). Directed by Daniel Goldhaber and written by Isa Mazzei, the psychological thriller draws from some of Mazzei’s prior experience as a cam girl, but its themes of identity theft, techno-paranoia, and invasion of privacy are universal. Brewer, who has starred in a handful of critical television series, with roles on Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the upcoming Captive State, spoke to W about both the drawbacks and positive aspects of social media, and how she keeps her own identity in check despite being addicted to her phone like the rest of us.
Between your performances on Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale, and now Cam, I have to ask, what draws you to roles that live at the intersection of technology and terror?
We live in such an online age now, and there’s really no going back from that. I’ve always enjoyed stories about the supernatural, and with horror elements. I’ve always found them to be enjoyable and entertaining, but they also make you think, and I really enjoy being a part of projects that when you leave the theater or when you finish an episode, you don’t move on to the next one, you sit with it for a second because it forces you to take a look at something in a way that you maybe haven’t quite yet. I was madly in love with Black Mirror long before I was on the show. I’d thought to myself while watching, If they ever opened this up to American actors, I have to be a part of this! Cam takes something that is so universal—everyone is online, there isn’t a person nowadays who doesn’t represent themselves online in one way or another. That idea of being locked out of an account, or to feel that you’ve lost control on this thing that is the Internet, that truly we all use but I don’t think anybody really understands, we all just know that it works.
That’s true, we put so much of our trust into this entity that ends up having so much control over us, and in the case of Cam, I think you make a good point about the universal nature of experiencing that moment of being locked out from your account and subsequently your identity.
Yeah. I think we’ll see this more with the younger generation, the 12-year-olds, what they will be like as 28-year-olds, growing up online and creating their entire personalities and identities online. It seems like losing a part of yourself, or like you no longer have control over this part of yourself, but it’s not. It’s separate and fabricated.
You mentioned loving the horror genre, and the way that this film opens really draws you right into Alice’s world, shocking the viewer with violence and tension fairly immediately. How difficult was that opening scene—the staged suicide—to film?
That was actually my audition scene. I think that they really had to be sure that someone could understand what is happening in the scene and understand the drive to do something that crazy, for lack of a better word. Alice is completely driven by the response that she gets, and climbing that ladder. You have to understand what she’s willing to go through, and what she’s willing to put herself through and subject herself to, and you have to be able to show that she’s kind of naked, emotionally. She’s letting these people who she’s come to have friendships with online allow her to pretend to kill herself, and to egg her on. When I read the script, it was this brilliant portrayal of trolling online. If you have someone actually saying, “I’m going to go through with this, I’m going to do it,” there are people in this world who would say, “Yeah, we want to see this girl kill herself online.” We’re all so desensitized, I think, and we don’t realize that there is a whole, complex human being on the other side of that screen, and we will say horrible things. Right off the bat, it shows that the way we’ve been desensitized and the way we speak to each other online has become subhuman. I love that that’s the big grab in the beginning.
As an actor, how did you approach telling a story that exists at the nexus of both the performative nature of sex work, which is an occupation, and the performance of sharing yourself online, either through social media or other avenues?
You can replace Alice being a sex worker with being an Instagram model, or YouTube star, or Twitch streamer, and the plot line is still the same. Someone is locked out of their account that houses their online identity, and there’s someone else pretending to be them and doing things that don’t represent them. That’s something we can all relate to. We’re all online, we’re all putting cultivated and curated versions of ourselves online.
What was it like on set to film these extremely vulnerable and sometimes sexually explicit scenes? How much of a priority was safety and comfort for the actors?
If there was any element, any brief glimmer of creepiness, I would not have done this movie because ultimately I’m playing a cam girl, but I’m not a cam girl. That’s not my occupation. That’s not what I’ve chosen to do. I have chosen and I have also been chosen to tell the story of a cam girl, but I think that we confuse that for a minute, and think, Oh, you’re playing a cam girl so you’re totally comfortable doing all of this stuff. No, if I were, I’d probably make a lot of money being a cam girl and I could go do that. If there was even a hint of any sort of creepy vibe I wouldn’t have done it because I needed to be absolutely safe and comfortable on this set, and I was at every turn. It was important to me, obviously, but it was also of the utmost importance to all of our producers and our whole crew that I felt safe to do this job. It’s a heavy lift, and we shot it in, like, 20 days, and I’m in every frame. It was emotionally very taxing.
What were those conversations like between you, the screenwriter, and the director?
There was so much collaboration. We sat down and went through the entire script together, and we talked about where nudity was written and if I felt comfortable doing it the way it was written, or did I think there needed to be less, did I think there needed to be more. All of those decisions were based on my comfort level and my decisions for Alice, and Alice’s comfort level, and honoring that and doing her justice. Often times, I was written fully clothed and I was like, “No, I think she should be in a bra,” or something.
How do you, personally, handle juggling your identity between your public persona and the characters that you play?
That is something that, especially after doing Cam, I’m recognizing my own presence online and who I am online. I have my real Instagram, and I have a finstagram, where I post the stupid stuff that I wouldn’t post on my regular Instagram because no one would get it or like it. It’s difficult because now that I’m at a level where I get recognized on the street, young girls specifically will be like, “I love your Instagram,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” [Laughs] They’re like, “Yeah, you just post so much stuff, you’re so glamorous.” I was like, “Dude, what you’re seeing right now, this is actually me. That is a very specific version of myself that is performative and that I pay a decent amount of money to look like because I have to pay people to make me look like that! I’m not a glamorous person.” It’s all part of a game. Hollywood is a game! If you play it right, and you listen to the right people, and surround yourself with the right people who understand who you are and will enhance that and help you make a living out of it, that’s a wonderful thing.
Do you find playing “the game” to be difficult at all?
It’s difficult because you can sometimes get lost in it, and you can lose yourself in it. If I were younger and didn’t have such incredible people around me, I think I would get lost in it. It’s consuming and it’s enticing, and you can get drunk on it, honestly, on thinking that you’re this person everyone else thinks you might be. You have to have a very real and strong support system and a strong sense of self to not be consumed by it, and be chewed up and spit out. That’s how you, in my opinion, stay away from getting lost in the, “Oh, I’m so glamorous, wait, people think I’m glamorous, maybe I’ll try to be more in my everyday life like the person I present myself to be online.” If that’s a better person, that’s great. To me, it’s not a comfortable person.
What do you find to be the good or positive aspects of social media?
There are people that I’ve connected with on social media that I’ve never met, who, especially in this age of everything is available to you online but also people’s opinions on things—people just write their opinions or Instagram Story themselves, and if you follow those people you see that, and there are people in this world who don’t look like you, and if you listen to someone who doesn’t look like you, you will get a good experience. You will see someone who thinks about the world in a way that is completely different from the way you do. I am a petite white woman from South Jersey, and I follow some beautiful, black, full-figured women from the opposite coast who are experiencing life in a way that I will never know and I will never understand. I can empathize and learn and listen, but I will truly never experience that. And that’s the best thing that social media has brought me, is into their world as much as they’ll allow. Into the world of another human being whose experience is different from my own.
In the film, Alice meets up with some of the men she’s communicated with online. Have you ever become real-life friends with anyone you’ve met online?
I mean, I don’t know how much of an actual friendship is a friendship when you’ve never met. You know what, I do feel like, for example, being a fan of people’s work—I follow plenty of actors and actresses online because I appreciate their careers. And all of the sudden, they’re following me, and I send them a message like, “Yo, what’s up! I just saw you followed me. Wanna be friends?” [Laughs] And replying to people’s Instagram Stories. I do that with some of the girls from Dear White People, like Antoinette Robinson, Ashley Blaine Featherson, and Logan Brown. I met them on Instagram before I met them in person. I was just a fan of the show so I followed them all, but I guess they had all seen either Orange Is the New Black or Handmaid’s Tale or something, and we became friends. Netflix family. It also makes it much better that you have friends at parties and events because you’re like, “I know you! We’re friends on the Internet!”
You mentioned having a finsta, and I would guess finstas are still popular because many of us are still finding a need to splinter ourselves off into multiple online identities, which reminds me of the end of Cam, where an entirely new identity is developed for Alice because she needs a job, and despite the horrors she has endured, she continues to work as a cam girl. How do you interpret that ending? Why do you think she keeps going?
I think that, in a very real way, the way I relate to Alice’s ambition is that if somebody told me not to be an actor and not to pursue acting, I’d just be like, “No, you’re wrong. I’m going to keep doing this, and this is my job, and this is what I love, this is my creative outlet. It’s how I make money, this is how I come for a peace of mind. Throwing myself into this makes me a better person.” Those are all true of Alice. I think that you want to say, “Well, she only goes back to this because she’s addicted to being online, she’s addicted to that thrill.” No, she enjoys her work. She enjoys what she does, and she’s passionate about it. She feels like a better, more complete person for doing it, so that’s why she goes back, and that’s why you watch the movie and you don’t want to touch your phone for a few minutes and eventually you’re like, “Well I’ll just hop right back on and talk to people and connect with people.”
We all have a bit of an addiction to being online, I think, but how do you unplug?
How do I unplug? I don’t know that I ever have. [Laughs] Just kidding, I totally have. Often times my boyfriend and I will go up and hike in the Angelina National Forest, like, two hours outside of L.A., and there’s no service there. We kind of unplug and talk to each other. Being in nature is mostly how I unplug. I put my phone on airplane mode and leave it in the car and go out for a hike and just get some fresh air, view some things with my eyes instead of through a screen or camera.
Madeline was out a couple days ago at the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund. She looked so lovely! I’ve also added a photo session of her spread from Vemi magazine. I am trying to find the magazine to buy. I will add scans when I can. Enjoy!
Madeline has been out this weekend attending pre-Emmy events in honor of The Handmaid’s Tale nominations. We’re so excited for her and the series! The Emmy awards are tomorrow night so be sure to tune in. Check out photos from her attendance at pre-Emmy events. She looks magical at the events. I’ll update this post with new photos as they surface. Enjoy!
September 14 – Audi Celebrates The Emmys
September 15 – Television Academy Honors Emmy Nominated Performers
September 15 – Entertainment Weekly Pre-Emmy Party
September 15 – Variety And Women In Film Pre-Emmy Celebration
September 15 – BAFTA LA + BBC America TV Tea Party
2018 – Photo Session #011
September 12 – “Assasination Nation” LA Premiere – recent additions
I just want to say, this is my most favorite photo session of her!! My goodness, she can’t be real. hehe. / end fangirl rant
What is your favorite place to be? To live?
My hometown Pitman, on my front porch with my best friends. I love living in LA and NYC but to be happiest, I need to be near lots and lots of trees.
Favorite thing about the place where you grew up?
It’s my home! It’s tiny. You can walk the entire thing easily. The people there are so supportive and it was a nice place to grow up.
Your favorite was of spending time when you are between jobs?
I love hiking, being in the trees, but i also love to lay on the couch and binge entire docu-series.
Favorite way to do so in your downtime on set?
I read voraciously when I’m working.
I can think of a million thoughts on this question, but what are your favorite things about the character of Janine/Ofwarren?
She’s a badass. Janine looks like someone who has been broken but she really is quite the opposite. There’s always something left to be discovered with her as a woman and a character that is endlessly fascinating to me.
Hedgehog is a movie you recently starred in and produced. It’s a lovely film. What were your favorite and least favorite aspects of producing?
Ah producing in the capacity in which I produced on Hedgehog didn’t involve a lot of actual producing.
Was this your first undertaking into a behind-the-camera responsibility?
Yes although I learn so much through every job. I definitely want to spend more time learning about producing and writing and directing so I can eventually be more hands on in those departments.
You also are cast once again against the incomparable Ann Dowd. What is your favorite thing about working with Ann? About Ann in general?
YES! Ann is a generous, intelligent, warm hug of a human being. I love working with her as an actor because I learn so much about what it is to be gracious and an incredibly hard worker. Ann is a very dear person to me. She is a confidante and friend and comedian and mentor. She’s the best, really.
What is the favorite question somebody has ever asked you in an interview?
Oh I love any questions in which I get to gush about the people i work with.
Just a few things I would like to know about you that I couldn’t figure out how to frame within my (probably tedious) thread above:
In my research for speaking with you, it appears that OITNB was your first professional hiring. Is that the case? Could you talk a bit about how that opportunity came about?
Yes! I had spoken with an agency in NYC after they had seen me in a showcase at my college. I was about to graduate and go to do a musical in Connecticut for a few months. When I got back and was looking for apartments in NYC, I was working at Victorias Secret, and this agency thought we should just start sending me out for some TV stuff just to try it out. First audition, I booked Tricia. I went into that room shaking like a leaf, didn’t have my lines memorized, I was completely terrified. Thankfully, Jen Euston saw potential where anyone else would have seen a scared little girl.
Was it your first acting experience – what were you doing when that was happening acting or otherwise. After getting the job were you terrified?
I did theater since I was 7 so i wasn’t unfamiliar with acting in general but i was TERRIFIED when I was on set. Everyone was so kind and helpful. Once, they called second team and I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t move. Lea Delaria just grabbed me and said something like, Hey come here. If you have any questions at all feel free to ask. I remember what it was like to be on set for the first time.
You imbue each person you play with a beautiful purity, even in the women who aren’t necessarily pure. Do you specifically make a point of finding this emotional arm within the person you play or does it just come about naturally through your, for lack of a better word here, performance?
I do think I try to find an element of vulnerability in every character. I find their “weak” spots. Their moments that make them more human than just character. I’ve been lucky to be on shows in which the writing is outstanding. The writers do most of the work in making these characters whole and nuanced.
What is on the horizon for you in your work both completed and coming up?
My film Cam will be on Netflix by the end of this year I think! I’m so, so proud of that film and the story it’s telling. It’s about a cam girl, a camera sex worker, who in the world of online porn has her identity stolen and she fights to get it back.
Just a few more Favorite questions –
Favorite dress you’ve ever worn?
I wore a Georges Chakra dress earlier this year that made me feel like a punk rock cinderella.
Favorite pair of shoes you own?
I like kicks. I will wear sneakers to any event if you’ll let me (which no one ever does).
Favorite piece of jewelry?
I have a bracelet that says “fucking psychotic” on it. My boyfriend got it for me after knowing me for all of a week. He sees me!
Favorite hair color?
RED. I miss the blonde sometimes but redheads have more fun
Favorite beauty product?
I use mostly all natural Aesop products. My cleanser and exfoliant are Kate Somervile and they are perfect for my skin. I have a Natura Bisse facial peel that is my FAVORITE.
Favorite beauty secret?
My teeth are white as heck since I started brushing with activated charcoal.
Favorite way to end an interview?
Eating food. let’s go!
Madeline was out yesterday and recently and I’ve added photos to the gallery, as well as recent scans and photo sessions. She looks so lovely in all the photos. I’m in awe of her style. Enjoy the photos. I’ll add more as they surface. I have a lot more photos to add in the coming weeks so be sure to check back!
Janine has been to hell and back. Yet the dystopian drama is still the most fun work the actress has ever had.
Madeline Brewer knows the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is hard to watch. “I did not breathe for the first 20 minutes of the first episode,” says the actress, whose sunny personality parallels that of her character in the Hulu dystopian drama: Janine, an improbably, relentlessly cheery handmaid, all red curls and bounciness. “I had to stop watching it and just take a minute to sob, and feel what I was feeling.”
The scene she’s talking about—in which handmaids who refused to stone Janine last season think they are going to be hanged until, at the last minute, it’s revealed to be a cruel, punitive ruse—set the terrible tenor of the show’s sophomore season. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel about a near-future, religiously radicalized America in which an underclass of fertile women are forced to become breeders for political elites, The Handmaid’s Tale has never been easy to stomach. And, unusually, even though she’s in the show, Brewer understands how emotional a viewing experience it can be for the unprepared: “I stopped reading the scripts, and I’m finding it out with everybody else,” she says. “I watch it with my boyfriend and my friends and my mom.”
Isn’t it challenging, watching a show in which her character is raped and tortured, her right eye removed for no bigger crime than insolence, with people who love her? In this season, Janine has been sent to work in the toxic wasteland of the Colonies, and also returned to the civic terrain of Gilead, where she is once more made to have sex each month with her designated commander in the hope that she’ll bear a child for him and his wife. “It makes you think of what people can become and what they’re capable of,” Brewer answers, pondering the show’s dark-mirror reflection of our own society. “It makes you think this of yourself too: Who would I be in that situation? Would I take on the role of the warrior, or would I take on the role of Janine—the eternal optimist, but who’s not ready to fight the fight yet? Would that be me?”
“Optimist” is putting it lightly. The other handmaids are crumbling in the regime’s grip. One abused handmaid detonated a suicide bomb inside a gleaming new government building. Since her own return to Gilead, Emily (Alexis Bledel) is becoming more brittle and angry by the day. June (Elisabeth Moss), prostrated by guilt and grief at the execution of a man who tried to help her escape, has finally internalized Gilead’s lies. Yet somehow, against the persistent hell of authoritarianism, Janine has managed to retain a sense of wonder and innocence. Brewer imbues her with an impossibly springy effervescence; much like a straggling dandelion in the Colonies that she makes a wish on, Janine is the one bright—even funny—spot of the show.
“It’s a real privilege, honestly, to not just be stuck in these intense dark moments,” she says. “Janine’s in her own world by choice. She’s like, No, can’t do that, I’m going to look for the good. This season, she’s just so grateful to be alive, and that is what keeps her going.” Take, for example, the scene in which Janine happily looks on as two women, one of whom is on her deathbed, are wed in the dingy Colonies barracks. The ceremony was her idea. “I think she feels like, I’m doing this because we need something beautiful…. Those two are still in love with each other. That hasn’t been taken from them.”
That is, until her return to Gilead brings her back into the orbit of her baby. Hearing a rumor that baby Charlotte—her Gilead “parents” call her Angela—is very ill, Janine stumbles; all the sunshine is suddenly gone, replaced by a desperate desire to see and touch her daughter again. “It’s excruciating to be away from your child. I’m sure several mothers know what that’s like right now,” she says, referring briefly but pointedly to current affairs. Despite not being able to raise or even see her, Janine has kept Charlotte close. “There’s this part of Janine’s costume, a woven vest,” Brewer explains. Ane Crabtree, the Handmaid’s Tale costume designer, started calling it a web, which naturally evolved into “Charlotte’s web.” “It’s like carrying Charlotte with her through her every day. Just a little piece, even if it’s just imaginary.”
In a future plagued by infertility, motherhood has become so fraught and valuable a capability that the handmaids, bound to sexual labor because of their fertility, have a strange sort of power. In the most recent episode, “Women’s Work,” this plays out explicitly: Because Charlotte is now ailing beyond the point of medical help, Janine is permitted to see her one last time. Her presence, though, is exactly what saves the child. The episode closes with Janine stripped down to her underclothes, holding Charlotte to her chest, and singing Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Wanna Be With You” to a now laughing, happy, healthy girl. “It’s a true testament to human touch, and the importance of a mother’s love,” Brewer says of the game-changing moment. With the handmaids angry and hopeless enough to commit terrorist attacks; with June reminded of what power feels like thanks to a brief, illicit political collaboration with Serena Joy; and now with this indication that at least one handmaid has a mothering advantage over a Wife, there’s a sense that the tide is turning.
But this slightly triumphal moment is a rare one in a season that has showed the growing cracks in Gilead and the ever more brutal ways in which it punishes those who want to destroy it. Simply watching an episode feels like an emotional marathon; what could it possibly be like to film? “I’m very lucky in that as soon as I put the eye on”—the prosthetic scarring over her character’s injury—”I feel more like Janine. And as soon as I take it off, I leave Janine there,” Brewer says. “If I’m on set, I have that eye on, and it feels weird and it itches and it’s claustrophobic. I imagine that’s some of how Janine feels, you know? She’s missing all of this periphery.”
Brewer laughs, though, saying that Nina Kiri, who plays fellow handmaid Alma, will try to surprise her by standing just outside her field of vision. I joke that the prank seems a little rude, and Brewer explains that while filming can be physically grueling—shooting for the Colonies took place 90 minutes outside Toronto, where it was “fucking frigid,” and the air was filled with tiny, throat-clogging feathers to create the evil haze we see on screen—the set is actually, surprisingly, a great place to be: “We’re goofy as hell, but we’re making this just incredibly heart-wrenching show. And it’s crazy to say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had working.” What do they do to decompress between scenes? “Honestly, sometimes we’re online shopping on our phones or, you know, Snapchatting people. Just talking about family and life and getting to know each other as people.”
By this point, Brewer must know Janine incredibly well. Did she have an idea of what Janine was wishing for when she spotted that tiny yellow flower in the barren Colonies? “Yeah,” Brewer says, eyes shining but resolute. Does she want that to be a secret? “I think I want to keep it,” she says, smiling. And what about Brewer herself—does she cherish any wishes about what she’d like people to take away from this demanding, soul-excavating show? That, at least, is something she’s all too ready to share. “I want people to be awake. I want them to be aware,” she says. “The show requires you to do some work. You have to feel. You have to open your eyes and open your heart, and I hope that people carry that into the rest of their lives.”
For herself, the show has already had an impact: “It makes me feel like I need to invest more in sisterhood. In my female relationships and in all walks of life. But it might not make a man feel that. It might make a man feel like, Maybe I need to get more involved in Planned Parenthood. Maybe I need to just shut up and listen.” It might be different for everyone, she muses, whether it’s running for congress (“I’m not qualified,” she whispers) or whatever. But: “If some part of The Handmaid’s Tale makes them feel like, I have something to say, then fucking say it. Please. Just get it out there.”