Just a few days ago, dozens of women dressed in red capes and bright white caps that almost completely covered their faces gathered in Washington DC to protest the hearing in which Brett Kavanaugh, nominated for Supreme Court Judge, would raise his position on various issues related to women’s rights. But this is not the first time that has happened, for months, the world has seen how activists from different countries – all women – dress as the characters of The Handmaid´s Tale, the revolutionary series inspired by Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that tells the story of a group of women trapped in a futuristic society that transforms them into sex slaves to give children to the most powerful, to draw attention to the most pressing social issues and try to make a positive change in the world.
The protests were inspired by the characters who, day by day (or rather chapter by chapter), demonstrate that the fiction that Atwood imagined in his 1985 novel is not so far removed from the reality of millions of men and women around the world and today it is more relevant than ever.
Madeline Brewer, who you probably remember for his work on Orange is the New Black and Hemlock Grove, has played Janine, the one-eyed rebel since the show’s first season. At first, her character lived, like many of us, in a bubble that allowed her to escape from her reality and prevented her from understanding everything that was really happening, but now, in a new season, Janine is no longer here to tolerate more abuse and her attitude took a 180 degree turn (one that we should all emulate) and that is quickly forcing her to become part of a resistance that is just beginning.
Brewer is aware that this is not just another series about a future that will never happen (spoiler alert) “there is an episode in the season in which June is practically being ripped from Hannah, her daughter, and (in the United States) it premiered just two days before all these mothers, children and fathers were ripped from each other at the border. Obviously the show is fiction, but all these atrocities that are committed come from something that is happening to someone somewhere in the world, that’s the way Margaret wrote the book, “he recalls.
During her visit to Mexico, we met with the actress in a lounge of the emblematic hotel St. Regis in the heart of Reforma, where he told us about his character, the most painful moments of the series and what it means to be part of such a popular and important show in the midst of the movement and the cruel policies that separated dozens of mothers from their children, pending the premiere in Mexico of the second season.
This is what he told us (and if you want to watch the series, you can do it every Sunday at 9pm on Paramount Channel).
On what it was like to work on a series that reflects so much the real world:
I feel very privileged and honored to be a part of this show, not only as an actress, but also as a person and an American citizen. I think now the show has a more important purpose than just entertaining. I think the purpose of art is to put a mirror in front of society and tell it “this is who you are with all your greatness and with the horrible things we do to each other and that is a unique gift that the show has to offer” . The Handmaid´s Tale It shows the beauty of friendship, of being a woman, of love and relationships, but also how absolutely cruel and horrible people can be when they are in positions of power and how they choose to use it.
On the message of the series:
Well, I think the main thing is to create awareness, tell society “this is what you are, this is what you do” and if you can’t tolerate watching it on television, these things that frustrate you, make you feel things or even cry, then get up and go do something about it. Things like this are happening right under our noses and watching the series requires that you not only think about being entertained, but that you feel, think and question what is happening in the world and plan how you are going to react to all this. The most important thing about the series is that it teaches us all the importance of helping and not being defeated by all the terrible actions that we see in the world.
On Janine’s new attitude:
Being Janine again was a unique experience, being Janine in general is quite an experience starting because I have no eye, but by bringing Janine from the edge of her sanity, bringing her back to reality, I was able to explore and understand much more about her situation . Her attitude and decoction in season one comes from her not being able to deal with what’s going on, so she (mentally) went elsewhere and created her own reality, but, after escaping death and accepting that she may never return. To see her children, she now has a new respect for her own life and the lives of those around her. She decides to keep seeing the good in the world, to understand that not everything is bad, and that was incredible, it is a kind of subtle resistance. That is the way she resists and that is powerful too.
On having to work with only one eye:
Well, as an actor, wearing a prosthesis is fun, but also complicated, but that also helps you put on a “second skin.” You get used to it, but it’s complicated. You can’t see what’s on one side of you, you lose your peripheral vision, and many on set take advantage of that to tease me and scare me, or I end up bumping into them accidentally.
On the different forms of resistance:
I think a very important issue. In season 3 it will be the one of resistance that we see starting to take shape this season. In the series, Janine has her own form of resistance and that is true for everyone, we are not always going to react with anger or violence. I think we can learn a lot from the little forms of resistance in the show. I think as a viewer you can see how little things, like working together to challenge authority (when necessary) can make a big difference. I’m not saying we should go around breaking the law, but I think there are ways to resist and be active in the community and the government that are more subtle, starting with speaking what we think, but it is important that we do something.
On not reading the script and the most shocking moment:
I honestly do not read the script, it sounds irresponsible but I swear it is not, I like to watch the series and be surprised by what happens so if I do not see my name I do not read those parts of the script and that is why I end up very surprised, in fact in the In the end she couldn’t stop screaming and was mad at everyone. While watching the scenes, one of the most shocking is in the first season in which everyone is sitting in a circle, Janine is in the center telling about her case of sexual abuse, and they all start yelling and pointing their fingers at her while saying that it was all his fault, that it happened to teach him a lesson, and that is something we really do with many people who have suffered some sexual abuse today. We essentially blame the victim, but when you see what happens so explicitly in the show, then you realize that this is really wrong. That keeps giving me the creeps.
About the red capes:
It’s amazing to see how those layers have become a symbol of resistance and to know that I am part of it. On the set it is very strange, you are surrounded by women dressed in red and suddenly you forget where you are or in what time, but then you see how a handmaid takes a cell phone out of her boot and it is a very strange feeling. Wearing the capes feels weird, it never really leaves you, not even when you take it off, but it’s amazing to see how well they work to convey the message of the show and their symbolisms.
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For Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale is a reflection of reality