HFPA in Conversation: Yvonne Strahovski's Wild Ride

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros July 18, 2018
Actress Yvonne Strahovski

emma mcintyre/getty images

The Handmaid’s Tale Yvonne Strahovski tells why her character Serena Joy Waterford is like a can of worms to HFPA journalist Ana Maria Bahiana.  The Australian-born actress got her first Emmy nomination for the role  - a character she describes as "an incredibly damaged person."
 “That was the biggest standout thing that I've found in her from the get-go.  I went in to read for the role, and I met (Handmaid's writer and executive producer) Bruce Miller in the room.  I hadn't read the novel, and I wasn't familiar with anything Handmaid's Tale at all except for the scripts that were in front of me.”

She understood why Serena was so desperate, miserable, harsh and brutal. “I was imagining what she was like and why she was so cold and mysterious in this pilot episode.  And it immediately struck me that there was no longer trust in her relationship.  There was no longer intimacy, physical intimacy.  There was a huge void between those two people. And she also had these restrictions obviously placed on herself as a woman; she wasn't allowed to do certain things.”

From the beginning, Serena was vulnerable and lonely but tried to cover that up and put on a brave face.  In the second season, she is breaking down. “I think ultimately we're seeing her break down because things aren’t really panning out in the way that she thought they would.  She is willing to break the rules for the sake of this child because Gilead is all about the children and how can we help them and save them and make them healthy.  She would go above and beyond to help this child but to see her husband turn his back on that and on her at the same time.  I think is absolutely devastating and probably the final straw of whatever they had that was holding them together is no longer.”

But there was a twist: in the middle of filming the second season  Yvonne found out she was pregnant. “It's been a wild ride.  My husband and I, we got married and we wanted to try for a baby.  So we started trying and I kept thinking, oh god, what if I get pregnant while I'm playing this horrendous character on this show?  I know how they write for us, the scenes are incredibly emotional or they're upsetting or they're physically challenging.

She was thinking, how she will protect her child from all those emotions and things that they portray on the show. “I just remember thinking, the only thing I kept holding onto was I kept envisioning my baby in a bubble, like a bubble that you would blow.  But it's made of everything that's strong like steel and this safety bubble that the baby was growing in and that everything that I was doing outside of that was my thing and separate and that the baby would be safe in that little bubble.  I've just sort of held onto that this entire time.”

She had some physical symptoms. “I had constant nausea and I constantly had crackers on set.  I had a very strange symptom which is apparently a regular symptom that I've never heard anyone else have where you have to constantly spit.  So excessive saliva.  Once everybody knew I was pregnant, there were cups everywhere on set.  It's so gross but I had to, I didn't have a choice.”

Tune in to find out how her journey from Australia to Los Angeles was, how she settled in a new city while filming TV show Chuck and how has the current women’s movement influenced her.

Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.