10 Fascinating Facts About The Handmaid’s Tale

Hulu
Hulu

For fans looking for a sunny pick-me-up, The Handmaid’s Tale is not it. Based on the acclaimed dystopian novel from Margaret Atwood, the series stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred, a fertile woman in an infertile land, bound to a military officer in middle management of an extremist, theocratic regime. The Handmaids’ job is to bear children following a steep decline in fertility rates, while all other women serve men in roles as cooks (Marthas) and wives (dressed in blue).

Here are 10 things you might not know about the Emmy-winning series, which will compete for another 12 awards this year (including a second run at Outstanding Drama Series).

1. THE AUTHOR HAD A CAMEO IN THE FIRST EPISODE.

Beyond just adapting the novel, the series invited Margaret Atwood to be a part of the production process from the beginning, so she’s had a hand in shaping the new version of the world. She also had a hand in slapping Offred in the back of the head. In the pilot episode, Atwood has a cameo playing an Aunt (one of the cruel taskmasters lording over the Handmaids) who hits Moss’s character during her initiation into the fold. Playing an Aunt was Atwood’s idea; the slap was showrunner Bruce Miller’s.

2. THE ACTORS HAVE TO RELY ON SOUND SINCE THE COSTUMES LIMIT THEIR VISION.

Ann Dowd and Madeline Brewer in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
George Kraychyk, Hulu

The “wings” the Handmaids wear are meant to hide their faces from others as well as obscure their own vision. Costume designer Ane Crabtree said they help “heighten the cages that [the Handmaids] were in mentally, physically, emotionally,” but they also challenge the actors by removing sight from the equation. Moss and others spend a lot of time listening to their scene partners because, unless they’re looking at them straight on, they can’t see them. “What was actually a hindrance became quite a helpful vehicle for a new way of acting,” Crabtree further explained.

3. AMANDA BRUGEL WROTE A THESIS ON THE NOVEL.

Amanda Brugel plays Rita, a Martha who works in Commander Fred’s household, and her connection to the story goes way back. She first read the book in high school and wrote her college entrance thesis on it—an essay that scored her a scholarship. The main focus of her piece? Rita.

4. IT’S THE FIRST STREAMING SHOW TO WIN THE EMMY FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMA.

The Emmy awarded to the Best Drama Series represents the peak of Peak TV, and has been bestowed on such hits as The Sopranos, Homeland, Breaking Bad, and The West Wing. But The Handmaid’s Tale is unique for playing on your computer screen instead of your TV. Netflix tried for years to break into the gang with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, but Hulu sealed the deal with the dystopian nightmare.

5. IT’S GOT A SUBTLE CASABLANCA CONNECTION.

Elisabeth Moss and Max Minghella in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Nick (Max Minghella) doesn’t have a last name in the book, but the creators made him Nick Blaine for the series. It’s unclear whether the connection was intentional, but that makes his name incredibly close to Casablanca protagonist Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart. Both characters are initially seen as out for themselves before they reveal connections to the bad guys and ultimately aid the resistance.

6. THIS IS THE TENTH ADAPTATION OF THE BOOK.

While the novel is enjoying a renewal in popularity thanks to the cultural resonance of the show, this isn’t its first rodeo outside book form. A stage version premiered at Tufts University just a few years after the book was published in 1985; there’s also been an opera and even a ballet. The Hulu show is the first time it’s been done as a TV show, but it was twice performed as a radio play and adapted into a film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway.

7. THEY CHANGED ONE IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THE BOOK TO DIVERSIFY THE CAST.

Samira Wiley and Vas Saranga in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

In the novel, part of the cruelty of Gilead was the resettling (read: banishment) of non-white “Children of Ham,” which meant that every character was white. But producer Bruce Miller couldn’t imagine having such a homogenous cast. “What’s the difference between making a TV show about racists and making a racist TV show where you don’t hire any actors of color?” he said.

8. MARGARET ATWOOD DOESN’T CONSIDER IT SCIENCE FICTION.

Bucking the genre label, Atwood has commented repeatedly that her story isn’t science fiction, because she purposefully ensured that everything that happens in it is something that’s really happened at some time in some society. She’s long considered that something like Gilead could happen under the right conditions, an especially potent thought now that The Handmaid’s Tale costumes are being worn at protests.

9. COMPLACENCY IS A CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THE SHOW.

Reed Morano, who created the look of the show in directing its first three episodes, views the current political climate as a reason to feel more responsible in the art she’s making. She was astonished by the amount of people who don’t vote (she voted absentee while shooting the show in Toronto). “That’s the message, for me at least, in the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. We’re too complacent. We let things happen to us. And you don’t have to let things happen to you. You can affect change.”

10. THE ARTWORK IN COMMANDER FRED AND SERENA JOY’S HOUSE IS STOLEN.

Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

A wry touch that nods toward how Nazi officers stole important, valuable pieces of art from Jewish houses is that the Waterford home is adorned by stolen paintings. But they aren’t random. The show’s producers intentionally picked works currently housed in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, because of its proximity to where the show takes place.

8 Surprising Facts About James Stewart

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For a good portion of the 20th century, actor James Maitland “Jimmy” Stewart (1908-1997) was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men. Stewart, who was often called upon to embody characters who exhibited a strong moral center, won acclaim for films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Vertigo (1958), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). In all, he made more than 80 movies. Take a look at some things you might not know about Stewart’s personal and professional lives.

1. Jimmy Stewart had a degree in architecture.

Acting was not James Stewart’s only area of expertise. Growing up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a hardware store, Stewart had an artistic bent with an interest in music and earned his way into his father’s alma mater, Princeton University. There, he received a degree in architecture in 1932. But pursuing that career seemed tenuous, as the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Instead, Stewart decided to follow his interest in acting, joining a theater group in Falmouth, Massachusetts after graduating and rooming with fellow aspiring actor Henry Fonda. After a brief turn on Broadway, he landed a contract with MGM for motion picture work. His film debut, as a cub reporter in The Murder Man, was released in 1935.

2. Jimmy Stewart gorged himself on food so he could serve the country in World War II.

Colonel James Stewart leaves Southampton on board the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth, bound for home in 1945.
Express/Getty Images

Stewart was already established in Hollywood when the United States began preparing to enter World War II. After the draft was introduced in 1940, Stewart received notice that he was number 310 out of a pool of 900,000 annual citizens selected for service. The problem? Stewart was six foot, three inches and a trim 138 pounds—five pounds under the minimum weight for enlistment. So he went home, ate everything he could, and came back to weigh in again. It worked, and Stewart joined the Army Air Corps, later known as the Air Force.

3. Jimmy Stewart demanded to see combat in the war.

Thanks to his interest in aviation, Stewart was already a pilot when he went to war; he received additional flight training but wound up being sidelined for two years stateside even though he kept insisting he be sent overseas to fight. (He filmed a recruitment short film, Winning Your Wings, in 1942, which was screened in theaters in the hopes it could drive enlistment.) Finally, in November 1943, he was dispatched to England, where he participated in more than 20 combat missions over Germany. His accomplishments earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf clusters, among other honors, making him the most decorated actor to participate in the conflict. After the war ended, he returned to a welcome reception in his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father had decorated the courthouse to recognize his son’s service. His next major film role was It’s a Wonderful Life.

4. Jimmy Stewart kept his Oscar in a very unusual place.

After winning an Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story in 1940, Stewart heard from his father, Alex Stewart. “I hear you won some kind of award,” he told his son. “What was it, a plaque or something?” The elder Stewart suggested he bring it back home to display in the hardware store. The actor did as suggested, and the Oscar remained there for 25 years.

5. Jimmy Stewart starred in two television shows.

Actor James Stewart is pictured in uniform
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After a long career in film through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Stewart turned to television. In 1971, he played a college anthropology professor in The Jimmy Stewart Show. The series failed to find an audience, however, so was short-lived. He tried again with Hawkins in 1973, playing a defense lawyer, but that show was also canceled. (Stewart also performed in commercials, including spots for Firestone tires and Campbell’s Soup.)

6. Jimmy Stewart hated one version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

While Stewart had just as much affection for It’s a Wonderful Life as audiences, one alternate version of the film annoyed him. In 1987, he sent a letter to Congress protesting the practice of colorizing It's a Wonderful Life and other films on the premise that it violated what directors like Frank Capra had intended. He described the tinted version as “a bath of Easter egg dye.” Putting a character named Violet in violet-colored costumes, he wrote, was “the kind of obvious visual pun that Frank Capra never would have considered.” Stewart later lobbied against the practice in person.

7. Jimmy Stewart published a book of poetry.

In 1989, Stewart authored Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, a slim volume collecting several of the actor’s verses. Stewart also included anecdotes about how each one was composed. His best known might be “Beau,” about his late dog, which Stewart read to Johnny Carson during a Tonight Show appearance in 1981. By the end, both Stewart and Carson were teary-eyed.

8. Jimmy Stewart has a statue in his hometown.

For Stewart’s 75th birthday in 1983, his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania honored him with a 9-foot-tall bronze statue. Unfortunately, the statue wasn’t totally ready in time for Stewart’s visit, so they presented him with the fiberglass version instead. The bronze statue currently stands in front of the county courthouse, while the fiberglass version was moved into the nearby Jimmy Stewart Museum.

Top 50 Best-Selling Artists of All Time

Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Victor Blackman, Express/Getty Images

Who are America’s all-time favorite musicians and bands? When it comes to the best-selling artists of all time, The Beatles still rule—yes, even a half-century after their breakup. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these are the 50 best-selling artists of all time.

1. The Beatles

American television host Ed Sullivan smiles while standing with British rock group the Beatles on the set of his television variety series, New York, February 9, 1964. Left to right: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Albums sold: 183 million

2. Garth Brooks


Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

Albums sold: 148 million

3. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley is seen playing the guitar in his 1966 film, 'Spinout'
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 146.5 million

4. Eagles

The Eagles in concert, "History of the Eagles" tour, Grand Rapids, September 2014. Doolin-Dalton
Rachel Kramer via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Albums sold: 120 million

5. Led Zeppelin


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 111.5 million

6. Billy Joel

Albums sold: 84.5 million

7. Michael Jackson


Getty Images

Albums sold: 84 million

8. Elton John

Elton John plays a concert in 2008.
LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images

Albums sold: 78.5 million

9. Pink Floyd

Albums sold: 75 million

10. AC/DC

Albums sold: 72 million

11. George Strait

Albums sold: 69 million

12. Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand
Terry Fincher, Express/Getty Images

Albums sold: 68.5 million

13. The Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones in concert
Getty Images

Albums sold: 66.5 million

14. Aerosmith

Aerosmith performs on stage during the Operation Tribute to Freedom, NFL and Pepsi sponsored “NFL Kickoff Live 2003” Concert on the Mall
U.S. Navy, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Albums sold: 66.5 million

15. Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen performs during the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games 2017 at Air Canada Centre on September 30, 2017 in Toronto, Canada
Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Albums sold: 66.5 million

16. Madonna

Albums sold: 64.5 million

17. Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey performs during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Albums sold: 64 million

18. Metallica

Albums sold: 63 million

19. Whitney Houston

American singer Whitney Houston performing on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009.

Albums sold: 58.5 million

20. Van Halen

Albums sold: 56.5 million

21. Fleetwood Mac

Trade ad for Fleetwood Mac's album Rumours
Warner Bros. Records - Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Albums sold: 54.5 million

22. U2

The Edge and Bono of the rock band U2 perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee
Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Albums sold: 52 million

23. Céline Dion

Albums sold: 50 million

24. Neil Diamond

American pop singer-songwriter Neil Diamond relaxes with his guitar. Diamond is shortly to make his film debut in a remake of 'The Jazz Singer'
Keystone/Getty Images

Albums sold: 49.5 million

25. Journey

Albums sold: 48 million

26. Kenny G

Kenny G performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall
Noam Galai, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Albums sold: 48 million

27. Shania Twain

Albums sold: 48 million

28. Kenny Rogers

Albums sold: 47.5 million

29. Alabama

Albums sold: 46.5 million

30. Eminem

Eminem performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on TBS, TNT, and truTV at The Forum on March 11, 2018 in Inglewood, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 46 million

31. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Photo of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.
By American Talent International, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Albums sold: 44.5 million

32. Guns N’ Roses

Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators At Whisky a Go Go
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Albums sold: 44.5 million

33. Alan Jackson

Albums sold: 43.5 million

34. Santana

Trade ad for Santana's album Santana III
By Columbia Records, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Albums sold: 43.5 million

35. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango presented by The JUVÉDERM® Collection of Dermal Fillers at Dignity Health Sports Park on June 01, 2019
Rich Fury, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 43 million

36. Reba McEntire

Albums sold: 41 million

37. Eric Clapton

Albums sold: 40 million

38. Chicago

Albums sold: 38.5 million

39. Simon & Garfunkel

Pop duo Simon and Garfunkel, comprising (L-R) singer, Art Garfunkel and singer-songwriter, Paul Simon, performing on ITV's 'Ready, Steady, Go!', July 8, 1966
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 38.5 million

40. Foreigner

Albums sold: 38 million

41. Rod Stewart


Getty Images

Albums sold: 38 million

42. Tim McGraw

Albums sold: 37.5 million

43. Backstreet Boys

Albums sold: 37 million

44. 2 Pac

Albums sold: 36.5 million

45. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Albums sold: 36 million

46. Def Leppard

Albums sold: 35.5 million

47. Queen

 Freddie Mercury (1946 - 1991), lead singer of 70s hard rock quartet Queen, in concert in Milton Keynes in 1982
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 35 million

48. Dave Matthews Band

Albums sold: 34.5 million

49. Britney Spears

Britney Spears performs at the 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016
Christopher Polk, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 34.5 million

50. Bon Jovi

Albums sold: 34.5 million

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