‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Ever Carradine on Naomi Putnam’s Return
In The Handmaid’s Tale, characters are not presented as absolutes. Everyone is nuanced, including the villains. Of course, one thing is certain: Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) knows how to make an entrance. In “Progress,” the ninth episode of the fourth season, Naomi travels to Canada to pay a visit to Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski).
A few days before the episode premiered on Hulu, Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with Carradine to discuss Naomi’s motives, working with Elisabeth Moss, and the future of The Handmaid’s Tale. Carradine also shared her hopes that fans would be excited about Naomi’s surprise appearance.
From the sound of heels clicking down the hallway, it is obvious someone from Gilead is about to grace the screen with their presence. Sure enough, Naomi appears in the doorway with a huge smile that quickly falls into her trademark judgemental glare.
“I love the moment where you don’t know if it’s Naomi,” Carradine said. “And then the fact that it’s me just like making myself at home in her cell. So I think it’s such a funny reveal.”
[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 9 of The Handmaid’s Tale.]
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Ever Carradine of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ explains Naomi’s life in Gilead
As a Wife to Commander Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken), Naomi enjoys a life as Gilead’s elite. She resides in one of the largest houses in the district, has a daughter through their former Handmaid, Janine (Madeline Brewer), and was Serena’s closest frenemy. When it comes to Naomi’s history, little is known. Like fans, Carradine hopes Naomi and Warren will receive a flashback in a future episode.
“Stephen Kunken and I, he plays my husband, we’re just sort of waiting with bated breath for our backstory episode,” Carradine told Showbiz over the phone. “But I think that she either came from a ton of money or not… Like, all this arrogance is sort of justified because she was super spoiled or she wasn’t at all.”
In Gilead, there are some characters who are simply trying to survive the regime while others take pride in Gilead’s ideals. Even though Naomi’s husband is a founder of the country, Carradine thinks Naomi’s support of Gilead is mostly about keeping up appearances.
“I think that that’s something that’s so interesting about the show is kind of just witnessing everybody’s collective, the collective toll that living in Gilead, something that they all created, is taking on their spirit and their souls,” Carradine shared. “Nobody is totally happy in Gilead, even the highest of the high up of the food chain. So I think Naomi likes to pretend that everything’s peachy sort of all the time.”
Elisabeth Moss directed the episode
Moss stars in The Handmaid’s Tale as June Osborne. In season 4 of the Hulu series, Moss made her directorial debut and directed three episodes, including “Progress.” For Carradine, this was a dream come true because Moss understands the dynamic between Naomi and Serena.
“To have Lizzie [Moss] as the director was like one more level of comfort because she’s also been there, sort of right there through Naomi’s entire story. So I knew she knew exactly what we needed to get,” said Carradine. “She knows Naomi and Serena’s relationship probably better than I do.”
Naomi had an ulterior motive with Serena in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
Shortly after Naomi enters Serena’s cell, she notices Serena’s handwriting on a notepad. Because women are forbidden from reading and writing in Gilead, this draws a reaction out of Naomi.
“I think she was just so disappointed in her friend,” Carradine said of Naomi’s reaction. “Lizzie and I actually laughed after we shot it. And she was like, ‘She just looked so disappointed.’ I said, ‘I know.’ I think Naomi was just so let down by her friend.”
While Naomi may not have been jealous of Serena’s newfound liberties in Canada as she awaits trial, she does feel jealousy over Serena’s unexpected pregnancy.
“Oh my God. I think she’s so jealous. I think she’s so jealous. And she wants to take that baby back with her,” Carradine told Showbiz.
While Naomi visits Serena, Warren meets with Serena’s husband, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes). According to Carradine, the Putnams had one goal when it came to their meetings with the Waterfords.
“I personally, I think it’s to get the baby,” she said.
Carradine added, “I also think Naomi’s a gossip… Naomi wants to have, you know, little kernels of information to come back and bring the girls when she hosts tea. And I think in addition to getting the baby, I think she wanted to see Serena in prison and see what it was like.”
What to expect from the season finale of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
Over the past few weeks, actors and producers from The Handmaid’s Tale have teased that the season finale will have a huge impact on all of the characters. When Showbiz asked Carradine about the finale, she confirmed the hype.
“I always read the finale and I’m like, ‘How are you go— what now guys?’ And so, I think it definitely leaves you with that feeling of like, ‘What’s next?'” Carradine shared.
The season 4 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale premieres on Hulu on June 16.