The Handmaid’s Tale is not a series meant for binge-watching, at least not unless you have a very strong constitution.
The first few episodes of Season 2 of the Hulu series have been so dark, in fact, that it stresses me out to watch even one at a time. And I’m clearly not alone. During a panel discussion with cast members and the costume designer Ane Crabtree in Atlanta on Monday, after students at Savannah College of Art and Design previewed an exhibition of Crabtree’s designs at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, one audience member asked how the actors manage to exit that heavy headspace while they are filming the show.
The answers were varied, but the consensus was that it isn’t always easy.
“We can be in it every day and find it quite difficult to escape,” Crabtree said. “I can only tell you my method is to go on solo trips cross country, anywhere I can see and not speak. When we finished Season One, I was pregnant with anxiety, so much that I thought I would burst. So I booked a train trip up the side of the coast, from Los Angeles to Seattle. It was a really old beautiful train, and a beautiful man who came and took your ticket and brought you your meal, he was a writer, a crime writer, and I just spent days talking to him, or just being silent and listening. There was something about that power of moving, and not speaking, and just making myself sit and look at nature and not violence.”
Amanda Brugel, who plays Rita, the sharp-eyed maid in the employ of the Waterford household, said she uses music to get into, and out of character.
VIDEO: Here's the Full Trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale
“I have a playlist that’s half classical and half gangster rap,” Brugel said. “But at the end of every day, to get myself out on the car ride home, I put my headphones on and the music gets me back to ground zero. Music is my way in and my way out. A lot of us are pretty dark people as well. We’re not light and frothy girls. That helps.”
Ever Carradine, as Naomi Putnam, a Commander’s wife whose Handmaid Janine gives birth to a child for her in Season One, had a simpler approach:
“I drink wine,” she said, to great applause from the audience. “It’s harder to watch it than to act it. Watching episode two destroyed me.”
And Madeline Brewer, who plays the fan favorite Janine (she soldiers on despite losing an eye and having to give up her baby to the Putnams), takes solace in the fact that her character is such an oddball.
“I find it a great deal of help that Janine is so strange,” Brewer said. “So I look at her lines and I say them, and I think, Oh, J. I’m in and out of her all day, because to stay there I would literally lose my mind. And as soon as I take that eye off, I am cross-eyed for at least five and a half minutes.”