You know Yvonne Strahovski as the cruel, sadistic, baby crazy Serena on The Handmaid’s Tale. As we approach the middle of season three, Serena grapples with her decision to give up baby Nicole. Off-screen, Yvonne’s life couldn’t be more different–she’s basking in new baby bliss, having welcomed a son last October. Read our conversation below and find out which of her castmates is showering her son with books, and what she calls the “split personality vibe” of having to play someone so miserable when her own life is bursting with joy…
Katie Couric: The Handmaid’s Tale deals with some pretty heavy topics, and your character Serena has had a particularly rough time this season. She lost a finger, she gave up the baby she thought was rightfully hers, and she’s essentially become estranged from her husband (although anyone who’s seen Handmaid’s knows we can’t feel TOO bad for Serena). Do you think this season we might see Serena joining the resistance?
Yvonne Strahovski: Well without giving too much away, I can neither confirm nor deny whether we see Serena join the resistance or not, but I will say I feel like she is definitely on the right path having realized that the best thing for her baby is for her baby to not actually grow up in Gilead. I think the problem for Serena this season is that she is grappling with that very decision that she made at the end of the last season and she is filled with a lot of regret, so I think audiences will find her to be on the side of the gookd guys, the people that you root for. But you never know where Serena’s desires will take her because after all she is very manipulative and will do what she wants.
Katie: You welcomed your first baby, a boy, back in October- blessed be the fruit! I think your happy news was a delightful surprise to a lot of fans, since your character Serena is desperate for a baby but isn’t able to have children. When Chrissy Teigen found out you were pregnant she jokingly tweeted that she was “Feeling very hurt and lied to right now.” Did you get this response a lot?
Yvonne: I think that Chrissy Teigen was probably the most offended, feeling very lied to out of everyone but no I don’t think people were surprised, I just got a lot of ‘blessed be the fruit’ jokes, kind of like what you just did there 😉
Katie: You’ve said before that you think Serena is a terrible person, but so many of her evil actions stem from her desire to be a mom. Has motherhood changed the way you think about her?
Yvonne: I think motherhood in my real life has solidified for me just how badly Serena wants this baby. In having a child you realize that you will do anything for it and Serena believes that Nicole is her baby and so she will do anything for her baby.
Other than that, no I don’t think it has changed the way I think about Serena, it has really just inspired the emotions in playing that desperation to have her baby, to regret the decision of giving her baby away, the need and the primal desire to have the baby returned to Serena.
Katie: You had to jump right back into filming pretty soon after your son was born. Was that hard? How are you and your husband handling being working parents?
Yvonne: Well my husband is a rock star and a truly amazing Dad who comes to work. We all go to work together – me, my husband and my son (and my dog when we are in the States, or Canada – because we can have our dog with us). It was challenging, I’m not actually sure how we did the first bit – well, how we did anything up until now. It’s been eight and a half months but we’re doing it! It was pretty full on to begin with, we went back to work when he was six weeks old and I was breastfeeding on demand as you do when you have a young one so I was just running back and forth from set to the trailer, to set, back to the trailer to feed pretty much on the hour I would say so it was very hectic. We’re very much a gypsy family – we haven’t really been home at all since our son’s been born, only for a couple of weeks over Christmas and a few days here and there in between work so he’s very well travelled but I feel very blessed, very lucky to be able to be together with my family as I work – I’m very grateful, not many people get to do it together, and we get to do it together – hopefully that continues!
Katie: On such a heavy show, does having your son on set lighten the mood a little for everyone?
Yvonne: Oh it really does, every time I bring him to set everybody lights up and he’s such a jolly fellow as well, he loves to have a giggle and he’s quite social, he loves to hang out and meet new people, and play with people’s facial hair. Ann Dowd loves to have a visit, I think she’s bought us the most books that we’ve received from any one individual so our son has a huge collection of books from Ann which is lovely. O.T. has come to visit us in our trailer a few times also. It made it a bit confusing for me, because obviously I play such a miserable character and (especially at the start of season three) we see Serena in all her misery, being quite confused by her decision to hand over her baby – so it was really a split personality vibe from having to go between set when I was deeply embedded in this misery as Serena and then going back to the trailer where I was deeply embedded in the absolute pure joy, magic and hormonal high of having just birthed my gorgeous son who continues to delight us daily with all his funny new tricks.
Katie: The Handmaid’s Tale shows us some pretty grim examples of toxic masculinity. What has the show taught you about how you want to raise your son?
Yvonne: [Chuckling] Be nothing like any of the characters in Gilead? Well, the show has definitely opened my eyes more to clarify for myself what feminism is and what it means to me and how we do live in a world that treats people not equally. Not just women, but people of different cultural backgrounds, religious backgrounds and the list goes on. I am inspired to raise my son in a way that is accepting of all people.
Katie: Thanks so much, Yvonne!
**New episodes of “Handmaid’s Tale” Season 3 are available Wednesdays on Hulu.**