Samira Wiley Reveals ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Scene That Was Hardest to Film
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 was already in production when the pandemic hit. Safety restrictions forced production to shut down for six months. For the fans, that meant a delayed release of season 4. But for the cast and crew, that meant losing the chance to film during the summer instead of winter like they’ve had to for every other season. The unexpected changes resulted in one scene having another layer of difficulty, according to Moira actor Samira Wiley.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4.]
How COVID-19 changed ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
The pandemic didn’t just delay season 4 production — it also sped up the entire plot. Showrunner, executive producer, and writer Bruce Miller told The Hollywood Reporter the pandemic made him question the pace at which he told the story. This resulted in him rethinking how many seasons The Handmaid’s Tale will have, as well as when June would escape Gilead. Had the pandemic never happened, fans might have had to wait another season to see her make it to Canada.
The Handmaid’s Tale ran out of content from Margaret Atwood’s book after season 1. The creative team has been working with Atwood to progress the story ever since. But The Handmaid’s Tale sequel, The Testaments also revealed Atwood’s vision for what happens to June, so they’re working off of that to a degree as well.
Weather made ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Episode 6 hard to film
Elisabeth Moss made her directorial debut in season 4, which was always part of the plan. But she found herself directing two more episodes because of the pandemic and taking on more responsibilities when she wasn’t directing.
Moss directed episodes 3, 8, and 9, and Wiley said she became a leader for many of the other episodes. She told Elle they had lots of conversations about how Gilead changed June and Moira when preparing for their tense scenes on the boat to Canada. And one scene in season 4 episode 6 was particularly hard because of the emotional reality of the scene, but also because the weather was brutal. She said:
“We were on this boat in the middle of Lake Ontario for a week filming this episode. We worked from about 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night, at least 30 minutes away from shore. It was December and it was windy and the boat was tiny, and there was acting that needed to be done. [Laughs] It was just a whole lot to deal with. I think it probably informed the scene; I wasn’t the only one in those conditions, Moira was in those conditions as well. We tried to use what was happening to our advantage and to elevate the scene. But I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”
COVID-19 made ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ production even more expensive
No one who worked on the show this season will forget what it was like to work around COVID-19 restrictions. Miller was hardly ever on set, despite being the showrunner. This meant he had to watch Moss carry out her directorial debut through video calls.
The last scene from her debut, “The Crossing,” took viewers back to the Red Center from season 1. The flashback comes after the shocking deaths of Alma and Brianna, June and Janine’s friends they met in the Red Center. It was a poignant moment. But filming it during the pandemic made it wildly expensive, according to Miller.
Between the cold winter affecting the boat scenes and COVID changing all of their best laid plans, The Handmaid’s Tale cast crew had their hands full. But Wiley told The Hollywood Reporter their performances weren’t affected by the new obstacles.
“I think all of the actors on this show take our jobs very seriously and understand that the story we are telling is not a light one,” she said. “So I would like to believe that, regardless of the circumstances, the outcome would have been the same. What is written on the page, pandemic or not, we want to give it the same authenticity and the same truth to it.”