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SYFY WIRE The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Ann Dowd expects ‘powerful’ things from Aunt Lydia in S5 & Testaments sequel

By Vanessa Armstrong
Ann Dowd in The Handmaid's Tale

Ann Dowd has been playing The Handmaid’s Tale’s complex and terrifying Aunt Lydia for four seasons now, and it sounds like there will be plenty more of her character in the future.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Dowd shares her thoughts on what we can expect from Aunt Lydia in Season 5, and also in The Testaments, an upcoming Hulu show based on writer Margaret Atwood’s sequel to her classic dystopian book, The Handmaid’s Tale.  

After the shocking end of Season 4 of the Hulu series, Aunt Lydia finds herself back in control of the Red Center, overseeing Gilead’s remaining handmaids. She got there by aligning with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), and Dowd says that as her character heads into the next season, “there are a lot of ways that Lydia is shifting and they’re powerful.”

How powerful exactly? Dowd, who won a 2018 Emmy for her portrayal of Lydia, doesn’t go into details, but she does confirm that she’ll be playing the same part in Hulu’s Testaments. She also shares that her character’s actions in Handmaid’s Tale will have implications on the new show, which takes place 15 years in the future.

“She participated in all of the things you’ve seen,” Dowd says of her character, who serves as one of the narrators of Atwood's sequel. “Is she guilty of that? Yes. There is no other way to look at that. Supporting the rape of women; regularly, rhythmically. There’s no good way to see that and there’s no way that clears that violation. The cruelty, the physical harming of the girls; there’s nothing to say about that takes away the atrocity. But, what do you do with it? And that’s what you’re going to find out in The Testaments. What does Lydia do? I don’t know that Atwood would agree with me, but I think what she does is a form of repentance, if you will, in its best form. In a way that goes well beyond ‘I’m sorry,’ words that I don’t know that she’ll ever say.”

Dowd also adds that Aunt Lydia, beliefs about Gilead’s mission aside, wants to be someone who has power, even in a world explicitly run by men. That drive will carry over to The Testaments as well.

“She’s not going to be second position to this woman or that woman,” Dowd explains. “The men are in charge, but she’s very smart. That’s what’s so great in The Testaments. She has tremendous patience and she knows how to stay alert and aware. She has her sources. She keeps it private and hidden, but she has it all."

All four seasons of Handmaid’s Tale are currently streaming on Hulu. No news on when we can expect Season 5, or when The Testaments will air on the streaming platform, though the show’s creators have said they expect it to start after Handmaid’s Tale ends.