The hallways of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills are hushed and dark and nearly empty. The doors to certain rooms are marked with women’s names: SAMIRA, ALEXIS, ELISABETH. When those doors swing open to allow you in, the woman on the other side will be very beautiful. She will be made-up, coiffed, nicely dressed, very poised. She will be eager to greet you, to speak with you, to answer all of your questions.
My door is labeled MADELINE, and it grants me access to Madeline Brewer, the 25-year-old actress who plays Janine on Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, launching its second season Wednesday, April 25. You might remember Janine from when she lost an eye as punishment for disobedience in an early episode, or for her midseason pregnancy, or from the finale, in which she and the baby—sorry, no spoilers, but if you saw it, you know.
Today, Brewer is sitting in a sunlit corner of a well-appointed suite, wearing an orange minidress and high, strappy heels. She is waiting patiently for me to come pepper her with questions about her career (her first role, straight out of college, was an addict named Tricia on Orange Is the New Black; Brewer also appeared on Netflix’s Hemlock Grove and Black Mirror before landing Janine) and perhaps her personal life (she had dinner with Nick Jonas once, and it made a lot of headlines).
I’ve been watching Handmaid’s Tale screeners all morning, previewing its somehow-even-more-fucked-up-than-the first second season, so I come in rattled: There’s something about the contrast between the dark hallways and well-lit jewel box room, the fresh fruit on platters and the publicist in the corner, monitoring our conversation, that feels ominous. But Madeline—she introduces herself as Maddie—is no cowed Handmaid, or even an actress media-trained into giving good sound bite. She’s funny, wry and charming, especially once she warms up to you.
And that’s important to her, that she makes people feel safe and welcomed. Brewer deals with anxiety and depression, which sometimes manifests as social anxiety. “I approach situations with a little more, I like to hope, empathy,” she says. “Because I don’t want to ever hurt someone. I’m a little fragile in that way, because I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to make sure everyone’s comfortable.”
Luckily, she says, her coworkers share the same ethos: “Lizzie [Elisabeth Moss, who plays the show’s lead, June] is the kind of person who scoops you into a big hug when she first sees you, and is like, ‘How are you?’ And you don’t feel like it’s a formality. There’s never been a moment where I’ve felt any level of weird animosity or competition [on set],” Brewer reports, “which I know that there can be. I’ve been on shows where someone was like, ‘You’re in my shot.’ A man. I was like, ‘Excuse me for existing.’”
I recoil. Brewer shrugs. “People do that. It’s the nature of our business! We’re all a little bit vain. We put our faces on a screen and expect people to look at them.” She gestures at the mirrored wall behind her. “I did all of my phone interviews while staring myself in the face. I’m not kidding. I don’t care. I’ll admit it! And I’m just, like, checking myself out. Like I don’t see enough of myself.”
The pressure put on everyone in Hollywood—but particularly young actresses—to appear a certain way means that Brewer is especially grateful for the unprettiness of the characters she portrays on screen, which allow her to escape, even briefly, that type of self-scrutiny. “I find myself most comfortable in something opposite of me, because I live in the Instagram age,” she says. “So it’s really, really liberating as a person, but also as a character, to not be like, ‘I hope I look thin in this.’ I don’t think about that when I’m wearing six layers of robes.”
Letting go of aesthetic concerns helps keep her centered in her performance. On Orange Is the New Black, Tricia was a prisoner worried about feeding her addiction, and whether her girlfriend would leave her once they weren’t serving time in adjacent cells; Janine lives in a misogynist dystopia in which her only role is to deliver viable, healthy babies for a man who owns her like property.
“They don’t give a shit about what they look like,” Brewer says of her characters. “They don’t care! I mean, there is a deep part of Janine that’s like, ‘I have one eye—who will ever love me?’ but that’s a whole other can of worms. On her day-to-day, Janine doesn’t get up and think about what her arms look like. ‘Should I do more push-ups?’ She doesn’t give a shit.”
Brewer, however, lives in America, which may get compared to The Handmaid’s Tale’s Gilead, but isn’t there yet. So she copes with her reality the way most of us do. She decompresses from the intensity of her work by taking long baths: “If it’s been a particularly emotional day, sometimes I go home and cry in the bath, and then I go to bed,” she says. But no matter what, “There’s always a bath. Whether it’s been a good day, bad day, what have you, there’s always a bath. Working or not, there is a bath.”
She favors Lush bath oils for keeping her skin smooth. “I’m super dry,” she reports. “I’m like the driest person. I got a facial yesterday, and the person was like, ‘We need to help you.’” (To be fair, she notes, she’s been traveling like crazy—Los Angeles, Toronto, New York—which tends to take a toll on the complexion.)
Brewer does use Instagram, though not just for selfies. It’s a part of her creative practice, helping her more deeply imagine Janine’s experiences of motherhood—especially important since Brewer doesn’t have kids of her own.
“I actually have a Finstagram, like a burner Instagram,” she explains, “and on it I have pictures of babies I don’t know, which is weird. I have a lot of pictures on my phone of random people’s babies that I found on the internet that I imagine [Janine’s children] might look like, just to try. I pick the ones I think kind of look like me. It’s just this weird thing that I do.”
She also has a manifestation Instagram, “because I’m one of those people. But it’s mostly reminders, reminding myself, keep going, whatever.”
For someone with self-reported anxiety, she seems very open, friendly and willing to chat about just about anything. Is that a decision she made, I ask, to discuss all of these topics so honestly? Brewer laughs. No, she says. This is “just me.”
“You’re not gonna probably ever have a conversation with me where some level of my anxiety won’t come up,” she explains. “That’s just who I am. I have anxiety. It’s a pain in my ass like you would not believe. I have anxiety-induced depression where I can’t get off the couch for days. And that’s fine! That’s who I am. It’s people. That’s just what people are. People who don’t have anxiety, fuck you! No, I’m kidding. I’m just kidding. Everyone has their shit.”
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!
Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, Camille Rowe, The Handmaid Tale‘s Madeline Brewer, and Ray Nicholson (son of Jack Nicholson) will star in the indie drama Now Is Everything, along with Mickey Sumner, Brad Greenquist, Rits Taggard, and newcomer Georgian-American actor Irakli Kvirikadze. Valentina De Amicis and Riccardo Federico Spinotti are co-directing the film, which was written by Amicis, Spinotti, and Matt Handy.
The pic follows fashion photographer, Nicolas Yarna (Kvirikadze), emotionally devastated by the death of his younger brother, Cedric (Nicholson). The mysterious disappearance of Nicolas’ girlfriend, Matilda (Rowe), leads him into a journey of his unconscious where he discovers love and the absence of love.
Two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti (LA Confidential, The Insider) is producing the pic with Marcella Spinotti and Heather Kritzer. Markus Bishop-Hill and Stephanie Rennie will serve as executive producers.
Four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (Chicago, Alice In Wonderland) is also on board. Filming is slated to begin this summer in Los Angeles. The film does not yet have distribution but is intended for the major film festival circuit in 2019.
Netflix is getting a head start on festival season by acquiring the thriller “Cam.”
The film, which premiered at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, stars Madeline Brewer (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Patch Darragh (“The First Purge”), Melora Walters (“Venom”), and Devin Druid (“13 Reasons Why”).
The horror movie is a technology-driven psychological thriller set in the world of webcam porn. It follows Alice (Brewer), an ambitious camgirl, who wakes up one day to discover she’s been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself. As this copy begins to push the boundaries of Alice’s internet identity, the control that Alice has over her life, and the men in it, vanishes. While she struggles to regain what she’s lost, she slowly finds herself drawn back to her show and to the mysterious person who has taken her place.
Daniel Goldhaber directed the pic, which will be co-financed by Blumhouse Productions and Gunpowder & Sky and produced by Divide/Conquer. Goldhaber also co-wrote the story with Isabelle Link-Levy and Isa Mazzei, who penned the script. Link-Levy, Adam Hendricks, John Lang, Greg Gilreath are producing.
“Cam” was one of the big winners of the festival, taking home awards for best first feature and best screenplay.
This morning the list for the 2018 Emmy nominations was announced. In this list The Handmaid’s Tale was nominated for several awards including:
Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series
The Crown • Netflix
Game Of Thrones • HBO
The Handmaid’s Tale • Hulu
Stranger Things • Netflix
Westworld • HBO
Tune in Monday, September 17 for the 70th Emmy Awards on NBC.
In today’s roundup, “The Handmaid’s Tale” launches a campaign with international womens’ rights organization, Equality Now, while the Paley Center for Media reveals their upcoming screening series, which is set to feature a reunion of “West Side Story” cast members George Chakiris, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, and Eliot Feld.
Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and international women’s rights organization “Equality Now” have partnered up to launch a new campaign to fight for equality under the law and urge for people to speak out in support of women and girls’ rights. The centerpiece of the campaign is soon-to-be-released short film “Hope Lives in Every Name,” which features series showrunner Bruce Miller, executive producer Warren Littlefield, and actors Joseph Fiennes, Samira Wiley, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Amanda Brugel, and Alexis Bledel. In the video, they share testimonies that may sound like lines from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but are in fact the words of real women with personal experiences and issues covered in the hit show such as sexual violence, trafficking, and female genital mutilation.
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.”
Watch Madeline on the AOL Build Series talk about The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve added a photo from the event and will add more later today.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Madeline Brewer On That ‘SNL’ Sketch, Working With Alexis Bledel & More
“The Handmaid’s Tale” star Madeline Brewer sits with Access and shares her reaction to the epic “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which Kate McKinnon played her character, Janine. Plus, Madeline shares why she believes Janine has such a positive attitude despite her bleak circumstances. And, what is it like working so closely with Alexis Bledel this season?
– View Source / Watch Video Interview