Handmaid's Tale Annie

Emmy Contender: Handmaid's Tale star Kelly Jenrette pulled an Annie and submitted herself

Contributed by
Aug 25, 2018

Once again this year, The Handmaid’s Tale dominates Emmy nominations in the actress categories – Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley, Cherry Jones, and Kelly Jenrette have all gotten nods (as leads, in supporting roles, and as guests). Jenrette, who played Luke’s first wife Annie, took a page out of her character’s playbook and, instead of waiting and hoping that Hulu would submit her name for consideration, submitted it herself.

“I did not reach out to Hulu to ask for their permission or their blessing,” she said, “because anyone can submit their own work. It has the potential to split the vote, for sure, but if any of us win, we all win.”

Jenrette chatted with SYFY WIRE about the backstory behind Luke’s first marriage and Annie’s potential for development in season three.

What were your initial conversations like with the showrunner and director about how to modulate Annie? She’s cycling through a lot of emotions when she confronts June outside of the yoga studio…

When I got to Toronto, we talked a few things through, and then we just shot it. And in between takes, [director] Kari [Skogland] would come and give me notes and adjustments. I remember there was one adjustment because I was coming from a place of hurt and anger and frustration, but the hurt needed to be the biggest thing so that people would not dislike Annie. You needed to be compassionate and understanding towards her.

So I thought that was a really beautiful note; initially, my intent is not to attack June. My thought is, “I just need to talk to her, because she doesn’t understand how this is affecting me. Maybe she thinks I don’t care, that I don’t want my marriage. But I do. And I can just talk to her, she’ll understand.”

And yet it escalates pretty quickly to Annie calling June a “selfish bitch” and “f**king whore.”

When it got to those heated moments, Kari would come in and tell me, “Don’t be afraid to go there. Give it to her, because now you’ve seen that she is not understanding.” So once I see that, I realize I have to switch up my tactics and attack her. I think at that point, it’s a loss of control. So Kari was really great at coming in and giving me those notes, to get to that place of ending the scene with me lashing out at her.

I think for a lot of folks, that scene made us reconsider June’s actions a bit.

Yeah. I remember the first season watching it and hearing Annie’s name, and Luke saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m married.” It was just a passing thought, you know? And then it was like, “Oh, okay, well, now June and Luke are together,” and we just accepted that. But to actually put a face on who they hurt with their affair? Yeah. Because you were rooting for June, but now there is a real person, and she’s fighting for her marriage. It made me go, “Oh man, June. That was messed up.” And the same for Luke, and what he did as well.  

In your original audition, there was some extra stuff about their marriage which didn’t get included in the scene that we see on the show…

In the initial draft of the script, Annie was talking about how she and Luke were trying to get pregnant, and they were not able to. I thought it was very interesting, and it added to the story, for me, as to why Luke would stray. I believe that he really wanted children, and for him to be in a relationship with someone who could not bear children, that really affected him, aside from maybe just not being happy in the marriage. Although I would like to think Annie was a wonderful woman!

You don’t have any scenes with O-T Fagbenle, but did you get a chance to discuss this with him?

Yeah, we kind of talked about our backstory, and what led to our demise. And the role our parents played in our relationship. And Annie coming from a very religious background. It was so great to have that conversation with him, and it was really helpful.

It brings up some interesting questions. Since Gilead doesn’t recognize divorce or remarriage, she would still be considered his wife.

Yeah! I think that gives her more hope. We are still married. In that second scene I had in the nominated episode, people might not be able to see this, but Annie is still wearing her wedding ring – even though Luke has moved on, remarried, and had a child with another woman. I thought that was interesting.

It’s caused some fans to speculate that Luke and Annie could be reunited. If Gilead made some sort of concession to the authorities in Canada to return Luke’s wife to him, they might not mean June – they could send Annie.

I saw that theory! And I was like, “Oh my god!” Even now, just thinking about it, I’m getting chills. Just the thought of how devastated he would be. As a viewer, I know in that moment I would just be like, “Oh my god! What happens next?” I’ve seen a couple of different articles speculating about where Annie could be. I haven’t heard yet whether they’re bringing the character back, but I think there are lots of possibilities. I gave a thank you card to Elisabeth Moss, and I wrote in that, jokingly, “P.S., I’m the one who has Hannah.” I was like, “Man, that would really jack them up!” [Laughs] Where is she?!

Well, if Annie couldn’t bear children, she wouldn’t be a Handmaid. And since Gilead would consider her divorce to be invalid, she wouldn’t be a Commander’s Wife. Maybe an Aunt? A Martha?

I also think it would be a beautiful story if Annie came back in some way where she has to help June. She has to help the woman she blames for ripping her marriage apart. I think that speaks to a greater level of forgiveness, understanding, and compassion, that you have to help the very person who caused all this hurt.

I mean, even with the heartbreak, there’s still a part of Annie who loves Luke. And knowing that he was happy, that he was finally able to have a child, that has to affect Annie in a certain way as well. And we still have to address the June and Nick situation. The possibilities are endless. I do hope they bring Annie back. That’s kind of my hashtag -- #WhereIsAnnieNow? As a viewer, I want to know, too!