Actress Samira Wiley says that her character of Moira is more about nature versus nurture in The Handmaid’s Tale. By Team Viva
So working after Season One, what’s your experience like working on a very important show? Did you learn anything different? Do you feel any more pressure for the second season?
Yeah, definitely, I feel like when you start a project, when you start a show, there’s no way to know how it’s going to be received. There’s no way to know what it’s going to look like when you put it all together. It’s like you’re in a bubble, meaning that everyone that’s working on the show thinks it’s great, but who knows how it’s going to be received.
We knew we were doing something important. We knew that we wanted to make something with a lot of integrity. But to have it released to the world, and have them receive it in the way that they have, to have everyone talk about how timely the show is... we definitely didn’t see all of that coming. I think for Season Two, there’s a sense, at least for me, of a new-found responsibility to get the story right. To make sure that we’re giving, you know, our audience what they have come to know and love about the show. And stay consistent with that.
And yeah, it does feel like a little more pressure, especially with all the awards the show has received. It’s like guys, we got to do that again.
What do you think is the worst aspect of what Moira has to go through in Gilead?
To be honest, I think coming from the perspective of my character, one of the things that is obviously horrible is the rape. But I think for Moira, and for people, women who are gay, it is an affront that is indescribable and just the worst thing that could ever happen to you. To be violated in that way. Any woman, but of course, a women who doesn’t even have intercourse with men by choice, I think it’s indescribably horrible. That’s what I feel is the most horrible thing for Moira to go through.
Moira still picks Jezebels over the colonies at some point. What are your thoughts on that decision?
I think that it’s this dichotomy of what’s the lesser evil? And Moira knows for a fact that if she goes to the colonies she will die. She’s weighing going to the colonies, and you know, doing drugs every day, and drinking alcohol and making herself completely numb to it all.
In that moment she had to make a decision and, thank God she did because now she’s in Toronto.
Can we expect Moira to be in Canada in Season Two?
Yes, Moira’s going to be there in Season Two. I’ll tell you that much. She’s reunited with Luke. And they have to kind of form this makeshift family, and move to a place in Canada called Little America.
She gets a job at the embassy because she was so affected by that moment when she first got into Canada and how much the embassy helped her.
So she has in turn taken that and is helping refugees in the refugee center.
And when you think about Moira being a refugee, you think about how wonderful that is. She’s escaped, and she’s in this new place. But, as a refugee, it’s also terrible because you don’t know the land. You’re not with your people. And it’s this rollercoaster that I think we’re going to see with her, the good and the bad of being a refugee.
From misogyny to refugees, this show has a never ending list of important topics. You’ve been in another show that was also packed with very important subjects. The choices you make as an actress, are they politically motivated?
You know, I wish that I could sit here and tell you yes. But I think for me as an actor, the thing that pulls me toward projects is the heart of the character. First and foremost, before the project, and of course the project is very important itself. But for me, in terms of what attracts me to something, is the heart of the character. And what their essence is, what they’re fighting for. And just from reading something, I say to myself, do I feel I can bring that person to life?
And if the answer is no, it’s going to be too hard of a challenge then I don’t want to do that because I feel like it’s a disservice to the actress could do a really good job. But I’ve been really, really lucky in terms of the projects that I’ve been involved in, that as you say, have been on the forefront of people’s conscientiousness.
A major theme of the show is survival. What do you think drives Moira? How does she find the strength to go, to escape? And how do you bring life to the character?
We always talk about nature versus nurture. And I think Moira’s nature is a person that’s just a bull dog. Like she’s a tough person, she’s got that ingrained in her.
In the scene, where she’s at Jezebel’s and she’s been broken and has the conversation with June, I think she comes back to herself in that moment, in that conversation with her best friend. June is able to say, basically where are you, where have you gone? This is not you. Don’t let the bad people grind you down.
And I think in that moment she comes back to herself and she realises, oh, I’m not a victim, or I don’t have to be a victim.
I can be proactive and I can figure out how to get out of here.
For me, in terms of bringing life to the character, I think a lot of that has to do with all the things that make her a minority. She’s black, she’s gay, she’s a woman. Me being all of those things in my life as Samira, I can tell you that definitely influences the way that I move through the world. So I think that’s one of the things that I can point to.
This is a very dark show but the theme of empowerment is also very present. Do you feel that there is a lot of hope in this story?
Honestly, in the last episode of the first season, doing the escape scene we had drones following me. I was like, this is awesome. It’s was a moment of almost too much joy to even take because Moira’s escaped to Canada. It is a story of survival. It is a story of perseverance. And I think that a lot of times people focus on how dark the show is but the message that we want to keep beating, the under beat of the whole show, is this message of hope.
Were you proud or surprised when you saw the pictures of people wearing Handmaid’s costumes at the Women’s March? What was your feeling when you saw that?
It was definitely surprising, in the best way possible. You know when you’re working on something, whatever it is, you always hope that it impacts whoever’s going to watch it. Whether that’s one person or a bunch of people. You want them to have a conversation they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I want people to think about something they wouldn’t have thought about without seeing the project.
So to see that, and to see how the show has impacted the whole world, and also Hillary Clinton quoted the show... all of those things are very overwhelming and also very humbling to know that something that you’re doing is out there in people’s consciousness.
You’ve been in shows that are very female-driven. Do you think placing women behind the camera as well as in front of the camera makes television more relevant and actually more interesting?
Yes, I’ve been really blessed to be on The Handmaid’s Tale and Orange is the New Black, to be surrounded by so many women in power... the women in the cast, the directors. Even in The Handmaid’s Tale last season, every single director we had was a woman, except for one.
I do feel really naive and lucky to be in this position because I haven’t been surrounded by a bunch of men. And I do think that is completely a reflection of the time that I am working in. You know, thank God that I am working in this time. I think it’s our job really as artists to reflect the time that we are living in so that people can look back and say that was going on.
(Watch Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 every Monday at 10 pm on AXN.)