‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Why Oprah Had an Off-Screen Cameo

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 hasn’t had many cameos, however, earlier seasons did. For example, Oprah Winfrey appeared in an episode of the show. Here’s why Oprah acted in The Handmaid’s Tale, what she said in her cameo, and a look at whether she was playing herself.

Three of the handmaids talking to Esther in The Handmaid's Tale Season 4
A moment from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 | Hulu

Oprah made ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ star Elisabeth Moss freak out

Oprah crossed paths with Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss when they appeared at The Hollywood Reporter’s Drama Actress Roundtable. “She was in the dressing room next to me and she kept popping back into the room to ask questions about the show or to make comments or ask what was coming up for a specific character,” Moss told The Hollywood Reporter. “Then she’d leave and I’d close the door and have a silent freak-out moment, just screaming silently, that Oprah Winfrey even knew what the show was and then she would pop back up with more questions.”

What Oprah says during her cameo in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

In the show, Oprah’s unnamed character reads a message over the radio. “The American government in Anchorage received promises of economic aid from India and China,” she said. “In the United Kingdom, additional sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada. Now a tune to remind everyone who’s listening — American patriot or Gilead traitor — that we are still here. Stars and stripes forever, baby.” During part of the message, Bruce Springsteen’s classic track “Hungry Heart” plays.

“Hungry Heart”

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Why Oprah appeared in the show — and did she play herself?

Bruce Miller, The Handmaid’s Tale’s showrunner, explained why Oprah had a cameo. “We’d heard Oprah was a fan of the show.… So we asked and she said yes, and it was a lovely, easy process,” Miller revealed. In addition, he said the radio segment was inspired by Allied radio messages during World War II. Miller was honored Oprah lent her voice to the series. According to Entertainment Weekly, Kira Snyder didn’t know she was writing for the talk show legend when she wrote the radio message. It gave her chills to hear Oprah deliver her words.

Oprah at a podium
Oprah | Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards

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While some science fiction shows have completely fabricated settings, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in an alternate history where the United States has much the same history before it descends into a second civil war. This raises an interesting question: Is Oprah’s character on the show supposed to be the real Oprah? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah did not play herself on the show. Regardless, the television icon still made an impact on The Handmaid’s Tale — even if it was a small part.

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