When Hulu's Emmy-award winning The Handmaid's Tale finally returns for its fourth season this April, it will have been 20 months since audiences watched June (Elisabeth Moss) smuggle innocent children out of dystopian Gilead. A shot against the bow of the patriarchy and their totalitarian regime, June's act of rebellion sets up the very different dynamic that audiences will experience in Season 4 of the adaptation of Margaret Atwood's classic novel.
At today's Hulu presentation at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, executive producers Bruce Miller, Elisabeth Moss, and Warren Littlefield told reporters that Season 4 is all about delivering on the many things they've been setting up for the past three seasons.
"In this season, we're not waiting around and it’s time for s*** to happen, so we made s*** happen," Miller said with excitement. "It makes me feel that there's a lot of life left in this story."
Miller means that literally and figuratively because storylines from The Testaments, Atwood's 2019 sequel novel, will also be folded into the narrative of future seasons, including Season 5, which has already been greenlit by Hulu.
In Season 4, Littlefield revealed that some of those seeded stories getting screen time will center around the Chicago uprisings. "We leave our central universe of the Boston area, and Nick (Max Minghella) is sent to Chicago. For Season 4, we have no home base. We burned it down. In Season 4, we’re nomadic and following June’s passion, drive and relentless pursuit for change. It's ironic in the year of COVID, it's also our most ambitious production year."
Miller shared that a big source of conflict is Aunt Lydia's (Ann Dowd) obsession with finding June. He compared Lydia's pursuits to those of Javert in Les Miserables. "Although they are enemies, they are inextricably linked and thinking about what the other person is doing all the time. They would both rather be rid of each other, but they are tangled up with each other."
It was also revealed that Moss just finished directing three of the season's 10 episodes. It was her first time directing for television, but it had been planned since Season 1. Deciding there would be no perfect time, Miller and Littlefield said she knocked it out of the park taking all aspects of the job as seriously as her commitment to playing June Osborne.
For her part, Moss admitted it wasn't as too much of a jump, considering she's been such an active creative behind the scenes of the series since day one. "As June, I've intrinsically been involved in the show from the beginning, so I know it so well. It’s not a big shift to take on that new position."
However, she did admit to learning a lot, especially when directing her fellow actors, which she said initially felt wrong providing them notes about performances. "You're not supposed to give notes to other actors as an actor," she laughed. "I'm trained not to do that! But in the end that ended up being my favorite part of the whole experience. Luckily, we have an incredible cast so it was like tinkering with a Maserati."
She also said that the United States' new political landscape post Biden election is something that audiences will feel metaphorically in Season 4: "There's a lot of rage and anger many want to sweep under the rug. And so much of June’s journey is screaming into the wind, 'We will not forget!' Having been inside it [during production], I’m only now realizing how relevant it is."
The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 premieres Apr. 28 with three-episodes on Hulu.