National Newswatch

TORONTO — The continued relevance of "The Handmaid's Tale" still astounds star Elisabeth Moss.

Now in its fifth season, the TV adaptation of Canadian author Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel has found new resonance in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent  reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion.

Moss said she takes no satisfaction in the parallels between the show's plot of patriarchal oppression and the real-life rollback of reproductive rights.

"The relevancy isn't something we take joy in," Moss said in a video interview ahead of the premiere of season 5 on Wednesday. "It would be a much happier situation for us if … the show was a wild dystopian future that nobody ever thought could happen."

Moss insisted that the Toronto-shot series, which has recently been renewed for its sixth and final season, remains firmly rooted in the realm of fiction, and isn't intended as commentary on current affairs.

Still, Moss said she's moved that so many viewers have seen their struggles reflected in her character, June Osborne, and her fight to survive and resist the totalitarian regime of Gilead, in which women are stripped of rights and treated as property of the state.

"We're not trying to offer catharsis to people for large political issues. But we are trying to provide a space for marginalized communities that may not have a voice," said Moss, who is also a director and executive producer on the series.

"All we can do is tell these characters' stories. The fact that people find hope in it, or truth, or some sort of connection is something that goes beyond what we even thought we would do."

This season of "The Handmaid's Tale" sees its protagonist trying to reconcile her new-found quiet life in Toronto with the trauma she endured in Gilead, where she was among the fertile women known as "handmaids" forced to bear children for the ruling elite.

As Gilead's influence seeps across the Canadian border, June finds herself caught between a desire for vengeance and her domestic duties as a wife and mother.

No longer defined by the subjugation of Gilead, or her rebellion against it, June is faced with a new question, said Moss: "Who is she?"

"Finding that person is a big story of season 5," she said. "It's a long journey to get there. But she's trying and failing sometimes."

Moss noted that this season's storylines were set long before Roe v. Wade was overturned this summer.

She credited the perceived prescience of "The Handmaid's Tale" to the author of its source material, Atwood.

"Her knowledge of the world ... her knowledge of how history is cyclical is astounding," said Moss. "I know how proud they are of her in Canada. We're proud of her as well around the world."

The two-episode premiere of "The Handmaid's Tale" will air on CTV Drama Channel at Wednesday at 9 p.m. Season 5 is set to stream on Crave and Prime Video. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2022.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
Click here for more political news headlines
🔔 We're about to launch our newsletter! Make sure you don't miss a beat. Sign up for our newsletter