‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Why the Actors Relied Heavily on Sound Instead of Sight

There are a few objects used to hinder the handmaids in the Republic of Gilead. As a result, some actors had to see and hear in a “different way,” according to the costume designer of this Hulu original series

Here’s what we know about The Handmaid’s Tale.

Elisabeth Moss attends Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 3 finale
Elisabeth Moss attends Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season 3 finale | Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu

Handmaids wore ‘wings’ in addition to their red cloaks 

In Gilead, citizens wore specific outfits based on their roles. The commander’s wives dressed in teal. The “Marthas” dressed in a brown-gray color. The handmaids, as the fertile women of this country, had a particular outfit. 

The handmaids sported red dresses and cloaks with a white bonnet on their head, which the Aunts referred to as “wings.”

As a white addition to the handmaid’s red outfit, the bonnets used by these characters are meant to symbolize purity and innocence. The wings are also an intentional choice of the country of Gilead, used to impede the handmaids, separating them from the world. 

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The characters of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ relied on sound because of their ‘wings’

The actors behind The Handmaid’s Tale characters were also restricted in terms of their vision. That was predominately due to the bonnets. As a result, the handmaid actors relied on sound while filming parts of this Hulu original series.

“We decided to use that as a vehicle to heighten the cages that they were in mentally, physically, emotionally,” costume designer Ane Crabtree said during an interview with Vulture. “And then use it to reveal the eyes, reveal the emotions.” 

In addition to limiting the actors’ vision, the designer explained that these costumes muffled sounds. As a result, the handmaids had to use their senses in a “different way.”

“What was actually a hindrance became quite a helpful vehicle for a new way of acting, a new way of filming, a new way of designing,” she continued. However, the bonnets were not the only physical hindrance to some actors.  

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There are other physical inhibitors for the actors of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

During season 1, a handmaid named Janine had her right eye removed as a form of punishment. As an added punishment, this character was shamed by the remaining handmaids after confessing her sins. Throughout this series, Janine wore an eye patch. 

However, she wouldn’t be the only handmaid who was mutilated as a form of punishment. Emily appeared as another handmaid in Gilead. Viewers learned that this character was a member of the LGBTQ community. As a result, she was sentenced to “redemption” and was forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM.)

Even Serena Joy, as a commander’s wife, faced punishment for reading. Because women are not allowed to read in Gilead, this character had her finger removed. Her husband did not object to this punishment, either. 

Episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale are available on Hulu.