Margaret Atwood, the source novel's author, makes a cameo as an aunt in Episode 1. She is the one who slaps Offred when she is reluctant to join in the group shaming circle.
The actresses have said that the head coverings they wear when they go outside are like blinders, completely cutting off their peripheral vision. The actresses can't see each other unless they're looking directly at each other. They have to act largely based on what they can hear.
Margaret Atwood has said that pretty much everything that happens in the novel has happened somewhere in history: The Bible, the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, the backlash against 1980s feminism, etc.
Margaret Atwood has said that she was greatly inspired by George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, "1984".
In an April 2018 interview with "Salon"'s Mary Elizabeth Williams, Amanda Brugel (Rita) said that as the self-described "lone Canadian in the cast," the book changed her life long before she won a role in the show. She was assigned Margaret Atwood's novel as a 15-year-old high school student and subsequently wrote some short stories based on it. Later she wrote her university application thesis on the novel and received a full scholarship on that basis. Brugel said that the main focus of that university application essay was Rita, the character she now plays on the show.
In the novel, Offred's Commander and Serena Joy are much older than they are portrayed in the series. They are described as wrinkled with gray hair; Serena Joy relies on a cane to walk.
There were no black characters in the original source novel, because Gilead (the repressive theocratic regime that had taken over the US government by the time the book starts) had classified all black people as Children of Ham. This is a reference to the belief held by some fundamentalist Christian denominations that black people are descended from Noah's son Ham and are therefore subject to a "curse" leveled at Ham by Noah. In the novel, black people are forcibly resettled in the upper Midwest (Chapter 14). The producers of this show made a conscious choice to deviate from that aspect of the book so that there would be a chance to include black characters (and actors) in the show, including the casting of Samira Wiley as Offred's friend and fellow handmaid Moira. In a January 2017 interview with "TVLine", executive producer Bruce Miller explained that the producers engaged in a "huge discussion with Margaret Atwood, and in some ways it is 'TV vs. book' thing," arguing that in a TV show it would be harder than in a book to explain the persistent absence of black characters. He continued, "What's the difference between making a TV show about racists and making a racist TV show? Why would we be covering [the story of handmaid Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss], rather than telling the story of the people of color who got sent off to Nebraska?" He also justified it by reporting that the "evangelical movement has gotten a lot more integrated [since the book's publication, and] I made the decision that fertility trumped everything." The source novel also included a brief explanation for the absence of Jewish characters in the story: the Gileadean government gave them the options of either converting to Christianity or emigrating to Israel--though the ones who chose emigration were really loaded onto ships that were then dumped into the ocean.
In the original novel by Margaret Atwood, the main character is known only by her patronymic, Offred (or "of Fred," since she "belongs" to a Commander named Fred). Her real name is never revealed, though many readers interpret her name to be June, based on various subtle hints in the text. In a 2017 article for the "New York Times Book Review", author Margaret Atwood says about the interpretation, "That was not my original thought, but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish." In the 1990 film adaptation of the novel, The Handmaid's Tale (1990), the filmmakers chose Kate as her pre-Gileadean name, and state it clearly.
Original author Margaret Atwood was quite involved in the script adaptation of her 1985 novel insofar as the update of the vernacular over the intervening 32 years. According to producer Bruce Miller, she had to ask the scriptwriters to explain the meaning of the term "carpet munchers."
As explained in both the source novel and the show, the secreted motto that Offred finds ("Nolite te bastardes carborundorum") is a mock-Latin phrase that was once a common joke among children who studied Latin; the novel's author Margaret Atwood first heard it as a wisecrack in her childhood Latin classes. A May 2017 article in "Vanity Fair" explained that the phrase, which dates from the late 19th or early 20th century and is supposed to mean "don't let the bastards grind you down," contains only a few words that are actually Latin. Regardless of its dubious grammatical or historical origins, though, its presence in the novel as a source of hope for Offred has (in the three decades since the novel's publication) in turn caused it to become an inspirational and beloved motto for some of the novel's readers. In an interview in "Time Magazine", Atwood remarked on how "weird" it is that "this thing from my childhood is permanently [tattooed] on people's bodies."
The first show produced by Hulu to win a major award, as well as the first show produced by a subscription streaming site to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series-- in this case, the drama category (Sept. 17, 2017 / Microsoft Theater).
In a "New York Times" essay published in March 2017, as well as in the new introduction to a 2017 edition of her novel "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood said that when she started writing the book, her title for it was "Offred." This is the name given to the main character by the repressive regime that is enslaving her. In addition to its primary meaning (that she is the property of a commander named Fred), Atwood also explained that she intended for the name to also remind the reader of the word "offered," meaning, "denoting a religious offering or a victim offered for sacrifice."
In an essay that was published in the "New York Times" in March 2017 and also as the new introduction to a 2017 edition of her novel "The Handmaid's Tale", Margaret Atwood explained that the inspiration for the handmaids' uniforms and especially their face-hiding headdresses "came not only from mid-Victorian costume and from nuns, but from the Old Dutch Cleanser package of the 1940s, which showed a woman with her face hidden, and which frightened me as a child."
The popularity of this series prompted a surge of renewed interest in Atwood's book, which had never been out of print since its publication in 1985. The film adaptation, The Handmaid's Tale (1990), on the other hand, had become almost entirely forgotten and so difficult to find that the demand for it on Amazon and eBay had risen to such an extent that some consumers had reportedly paid upward of $100 for an original copy.
Four of the five directors in Season 1 are women, with Mike Barker being the only man.
The show uses the biblical story of Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who gave him her maid to lay with and impregnate; Rachel would then raise the child as her own. In this show the fertile handmaids perform the same function as Rachel's handmaid, and the commanders' infertile wives perform the same function as Rachel did. However, in scripture Rachel became fertile eventually and bore Jacob two biological children, Benjamin and Joseph. This aspect of the story, which is not in the show, actually makes Gilead's handmaid/forced surrogate system seem even more cruel and archaic and emphasizes even more the barbarity and evil of the despotic dogma that is the basis of the theocratic Gilead regime.
During a November 2017 interview on the Alabama Public Television program "Bookmark with Don Noble," Margaret Atwood explained the significance of one aspect of the show's set decoration: "Written words are the big forbidden sexy no-no thing in this culture [Gilead]. It may interest you to know that in the [television] series, all of the paintings in the Commander's house are from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. And the signatures on them are the only things you can read in that house, apart from what's in [the] library. So I said to the people running the show, 'Did you borrow them from the museum?' And they said, 'No, we got this nice man in China to do them for us at 20 bucks a pop' . . . It shows that these people are like other totalitarians in that they loot things, and the people at the top get to have them."
Most of the source novel was set in and around Cambridge, MA. In October 2016 some of this series' exterior scenes were shot in another Cambridge: Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Margaret Atwood was born in Ontario.
Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia) was in the midst of filming Good Behavior (2016) in Wilmington, NC, when she received a call from her agent about the script. After one read, she accepted right away.
The flashback of the hospital room Offred/June gave birth to her daughter in is the same hospital set used in Room (2015).
Samira Wiley and Madeline Brewer both appeared in Orange Is the New Black (2013), a series that also deals with women in captivity.
Scenes from Season 2 are filmed in the Wychwood Barns in Toronto. The building was built as a streetcar maintenance facility in 1913.
Elizabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski were born only 6 days apart from each other, in two remote locations of the globe though (Los Angeles, USA and Sydney, Australia, respectively).
Elisabeth Moss starred as Peggy Olsen in the critically acclaimed series Mad Men (2007). Alexis Bledel was also on the series during Season 5.
Elisabeth Moss was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as June Osborne in The Handmaid's Tale (2017), but lost to Claire Foy from The Crown (2016).
Ann Dowd was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale (2017), but lost to Thandie Newton from Westworld (2016).
Yvonne Strahovski was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as Serena Joy Waterford in The Handmaid's Tale (2017), but lost to Thandie Newton from Westworld (2016).
Alexis Bledel was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as Emily in The Handmaid's Tale (2017), but lost to Thandie Newton from Westworld (2016).
Kari Skogland was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series category for The Handmaid's Tale: After (2018), but lost to Stephen Daldry for The Crown: Paterfamilias (2017).
Alexis Bledel (Emily) and Bradley Whitford (Commander Lawrence) previously worked together in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005).
In the novel the Waterfords had two Marthas: Rita, as in the series; and Cora, who is a Martha of Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) in the series.
Joseph Fiennes was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category for his role as Fred Waterford in The Handmaid's Tale (2017), but lost to Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones (2011).
Bruce Miller was nominated for the 2018 Emmy Award in the Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series category for The Handmaid's Tale: June (2018), but lost to Joel Fields & Joseph Weisberg for The Americans: START (2018).
The first series produced by a subscription streaming site to win the Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Drama. Transparent (2014) was the first streaming series to win a Golden Globe for Best Television Series three years prior, in that case the Comedy or Musical category.