The Handmaid s Tale star Madeline Brewer on *that* goodbye and Janine s fate in season 4 - digitalspy.com
|digitalspy.com 12 May 2021 at 17:07|
No one survives Gilead intact. No matter who you are or what position you might be in, the Republic of Gilead will always take something from you. The person you are going in is irrevocably different from the one that leaves — assuming you even get to leave at all.
That s true for everyone in The Handmaid s Tale , but aside from June, the one character who has perhaps changed most across these first four seasons is Janine. Over time, her rebellious streak has been beaten down by the cruel patriarchy of Gilead, but as we ve seen in season four , Janine is still a fighter, whether she s fighting to protect her sisters or reclaim the life she s lost.
Even when Janine s not the focus, Madeline Brewer still pulls focus with a striking performance that no fans of the show will ever forget. But has Madeline s time on The Handmaid s Tale really come to an end following season four s latest twist?
Digital Spy caught up with Brewer to discuss Janine s devastating flashbacks , that *final* goodbye, and what happened at the end of episode five. Oh, and of course, we also had to ask her about that milk scene because ew, gross.
What was your initial reaction when you read those Janine-centric season four scripts, particularly four and five?
I was very grateful, obviously, to finally have my flashback. It was exciting for me. I’ve had Janine in my brain and in my heart for four years now. To be able to finally see her in the "before" time and play the "real" Janine, to me, was such a treat.
I was so glad that so much of what I had imagined about her made it into the scripts. The scripts were way different before COVID. There was a lot more of her at her job, at Denny’s, waitressing, and just kind of in her element. But especially episode four, and seeing this change in Janine – seeing her take on a different role than she’s had previously.
"As our world expands and we stretch further and further outside of Gilead, so does Janine."
It’s almost as though: as our world expands and we stretch further and further outside of Gilead, so does Janine. She expands, and becomes a different Janine than we’ve known for the past three seasons.
During these flashbacks, we discover that Janine was once tricked into attending a fake abortion clinic. How do you feel the show handled this important topic?
I think it could have gone even further, because it is something that absolutely happens to any person seeking an abortion. It’s that they’re met with deceit and lies and manipulation and intimidation.
That’s part of what we had to lose, I think, because of COVID. We had a whole scene where Janine is trying to go into the clinic, and is being harassed and accosted by people with bullhorns and signs – physical intimidation and manipulation. So that’s something very, very real that happens every single day, especially in the United States, to people seeking an abortion.
So I was really glad that that was a storyline that we told. We showed people how difficult it is emotionally and quite literally – physically – to go in and do it.
Another intense scene takes place at the end of episode three where two Handmaid s are hit by a train and killed. Can you tell us more about shooting that scene and the toll that these deaths took on Janine?
We had talked about that scene for a while because that was the first episode this season that Lizzie [Moss] directs. She wanted to do a lot of rehearsal. We talked about it a lot, about: "OK, where are we mentally here? What s happening?" And then also all the technical stuff.
"That was the ending of something for us. But it was a beautiful moment."
It was a weird day. That was the scene that wrapped for those handmaids – it was their series wrap. We shot it over two days, and knowing that pretty soon we won t be on the show together anymore, it was kind of like a grieving process with each other after being together for four years.
Then it really did become just me and Lizzie. After that, I did not see Nina. I did not see Vicki. I did not see Martha. That was the ending of something for us. But it was a beautiful moment.
Nina said this a lot, but we all said it, which was that when Lizzie directs, we all direct, because she gave us so many opportunities. "How are you feeling? What are you thinking? How do you feel about your character here? Where do you want to go?" She s a very generous director in that way.
Speaking of the train scene, that moment when you re plunged into the freezing milk looked extremely uncomfortable to film. What liquid did they substitute the milk with on set?
They had gone through a few different ideas. They needed something where no sediment could fall to the bottom. It needed to stay thick and opaque the whole time. And they didn’t want to use real milk because – ew.
So they used unsweetened vanilla soft serve, which is like barely food [laughs]. It had a smell, but it wasn’t as bad as I imagined milk would have been. It was unsweetened vanilla soft serve, mixed with water.
From this point on, things become even more intense for Janine and June. How does that argument in the train and what comes next impact their bond?
There were a lot of conversations between Lizzie and I in particular. I didn’t want it to come out of nowhere that Janine is standing up to June, or questioning June.
It s been a long time now that these women have been following, sometimes kind of blindly, the whims of June. At the end of season three, June goes off to sacrifice herself, and her friends are like, "I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re going to do that."
"This sisterhood is very strong, but what do sisters do? They fight."
These handmaids have been kind of reining her in sometimes, and keeping her in check. She wants to go off and kill as many commanders as she can possibly get with one bomb or whatever. And we’re kind of like, "That’s kind of crazy. Maybe don’t do that. You’re putting a lot of lives at risk. Let’s just get out of here." If we let her run off with every revenge plot, we’d all be dead by now.
So at this point, Janine’s not ready to fight, and she does not want to go to the front of a war. She wants to go make a life somewhere, because such is the case of being in Gilead. She’s not sure how much life she has left.
After all this frustration, we see a change in Janine where she’s just like, "I’ve got to ask you if you did this, because I can’t just trust that you didn’t. I have to ask you, and I need to hear you say that you did it."
So that conversation between them, it was in my brain for so long. I think I had my script before we shut down for COVID, so I’ve been living with that for a long time. And even when we came to do it, I was like, "Lizzie, I don’t want to yell at you. I don’t like this."
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But it was a really important moment for both of us, and for us to raise our voices, for us to kind of try to cut each other with our words – for the very first time, because the people that you love the most are the people you hurt the most. This sisterhood is very strong, but what do sisters do? They fight.
This sisterly love really comes through when Janine initially says goodbye to June before she changes her mind and rejoins her. Did you both improvise that scene at all? It was so beautifully done.
We did stay to the script, but I remember there being a lot of pregnant pauses when we did that scene. Because I think Lizzie and I both felt the weight of it, the weight of the friendship, and what we were losing. It was really important to both of us to make this a proper goodbye, but not with any fanfare. It’s just a simple goodbye to my friend that I’ve been through so much with. We we want different things, and now we’re going to go in different directions.
And then obviously Janine follows, because she’s like, "I’m not going to stay here without you. Are you crazy?" She does feel safer when they are together.
"Lizzie and I both felt the weight of what we were losing."
That was a really powerful moment for me. And for Janine in choosing, even just for a moment, to leave her friend for herself. To choose herself in that moment, which she doesn’t usually do.
As if that wasn t emotional enough, things take a dark turn soon after when the bombs start flying and Janine goes missing. Can you talk me through filming that scene and how it was practically achieved?
After the bomb happens, you don’t see me again. So when it came to all of the rubble, I wasn’t even there [laughs].
What I just filmed was the scene of the plane, us turning and running. And so we did some stuff where the camera was on a car, driving ahead of us, and then we did some stuff for close-ups where the camera’s right here, and I was running on a treadmill, with a green screen background, to get some of the close-up shots. But, yeah, practically, it was all done very easily for me.
I was really impacted by it. I was like, "Oh my God, Janine’s gone. She’s gone. She’s just disappeared."
Lizzie’s work in that scene is gorgeous. Clearly, she’s so distraught and so traumatised. I thought it was the fact that we don’t see Janine’s body or anything, and you don’t know what happens. It’s also kind of how it works sometimes. It’s a powerful ending to episode five [laughs].
The Handmaid s Tale is full of intense scenes like this. Do you sometimes find it hard to switch off when you leave the set?
I don’t often take it home. But in between, I generally stay kind of in it. I try to, at least. It’s sometimes hard because I love the people I work with, and I just want to chat them up all the time. You know, if Lizzie and I… Especially with that intense scene in the milk when we confront each other – we’re shooting the shit in between takes. It was hard to stay in it a little bit.
"If you keep fighting, you can win a war. You can bring a republic to its knees."
But I don’t often take it home, which is really nice. When the dress comes off, when the hair comes down, when the bonnet comes off, it’s like shedding a skin, almost. And then I go about my night. I’m a super-tactile kind of person so when the fabric changes, I change.
What message do you want people to take from the show four seasons in?
I think... "Blessed be the fight" is kind of the tagline for this season, and it’s so appropriate, because, as is demonstrated by June and Rita and Moira and Janine and Alma and Brianna. If you keep fighting, I think you can win a war. You can bring a republic to its knees.