TORONTO â€” A TV adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is getting rave reviews ahead of Sunday’s Canadian premiere on Bravo, including from the novel’s author, Margaret Atwood.
“I’m very impressed with what they’ve been doing. Like, really impressed,” said the celebrated Toronto novelist and poet, who wrote the 1985 Governor General’s Award-winning dystopian story that inspired the series.
The 10-part, Toronto-shot drama (which premiered on Hulu in the U.S. on Wednesday) is set in a male-dominated, totalitarian society ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state.
Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men” fame stars as Offred, who is torn from her daughter, enslaved in the commander’s household, and forced to become a “handmaid” sexual servant and have babies.
The theocracy takes such measures â€” in what was formerly part of the United States â€” amid environmental disasters and rising sterility.
“She’s very good,” Atwood said of Moss. “She has a very expressive face, but she’s also a producer of (the series).”
The cast also includes Samira Wiley of “Orange Is the New Black,” Alexis Bledel of “Gilmore Girls,” Joseph Fiennes of “Shakespeare in Love” and Max Minghella of “The Social Network.”
“The cast is wonderful and particularly of interest is that a lot of them are cast counter-type, like it’s not the kind of role they usually play,” said Atwood. “So that’s going to be a surprise to some people, too.”
Amanda Brugel of Pointe Claire, Que., is the lone Canadian in the cast. She plays Rita, who is a Martha, which is a household servant.
“It’s been such an intense, gorgeous, wonderful, terrifying, awful, beautiful experience,” said Brugel.
“And Rita has a lot of secrets, as do most of the characters in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ But she’s very dark, sombre. She has an edge and a bite to her.”
Although Atwood wrote the novel in 1984 and published it the next year, many are pointing to its relevance in the Trump era.
“There’s a lot of things that this book touches on that are relevant to where we are now,” said Brugel. “It’s just so amazing that Margaret wrote this over 20 years ago and it’s still so relevant.”
Bruce Miller created, executive produced and wrote the series. Atwood makes a brief cameo and was a consulting producer.
“I spent a good deal of time talking to Bruce Miller … and discussed his concepts,” said Atwood. “And then, as well as meeting him in person, emailing about various questions that might come up and looking at the scripts and making some notes.
“I met them all when they came into town, including the designer…. It’s just excellent, what I’ve seen so far.”
The entire first season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will also launch on Bell Media’s streaming service CraveTV this spring.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press