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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Showrunner Bruce Miller On Covid-19 Challenges & Series Conclusion

Dominic Patten
·3-min read

As in the dystopian fictional world of The Handmaid’s Tale, in real life, one of the biggest obstacles of the upcoming fourth season of the Hulu drama was getting into Canada.

Though for the Elisabeth Moss starring series that barricade of sorts was more about the coronavirus pandemic than escaping a totalitarian theocracy.

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“Honestly the biggest change is it was difficult to get our cast into Canada to shot,” Handmaid’s showrunner Bruce Miller admitted during today’s virtual TCA panel for the show.

The series based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed 1985 novel has filmed in and around Toronto since its first season.

Compelled to shutter like almost every other production around the globe due to then rising Covid-19 crisis last year, when the Handmaid’s Tale ramped up last fall the fact that it was filming north of the border became a deal breaker in some respects.

Trying to contain the pandemic, Canada closed its doors to America early on as case surged in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Even though Canadian citizens and essential workers, which entertainment industry professionals were designated, were allowed to travel to the Great White North, provinces like Ontario had mandatory 14-day quarantines up until quite recently.

‘So we had to keep people out of episodes simply because they didn’t have enough time in their schedule,” Miller added on the consequences that policy had on Handmaid’s production. “I mean, people are very kind to come up and fly for a day’s worth of work in Canada from anywhere. So many of our cast members like Clea DuVall, these people who work very hard on other shows. So that was the biggest change.”

Of course, even as escape to Canada from despotic Gilead plays a big role in the world of Handmaid’s, travel wasn’t the only area where the coronavirus had an impact on the show

“Definitely, a ton of things had to be changed in the show,” Miller noted. “Just the practical realities of producing and making the show on the ground were very very difficult, but the people in front of the camera, for the most part, we tried ….to protect that space.”

“We reduced the number of people in scenes and locations, like where we decided to shoot was a very big question because sometimes we couldn’t get things,” the showrunner and executive producer stated as his fellow EPs Moss and Warren Littlefield looked on and nodded. “Sometimes we had five people in front of the camera, sometimes we could have 20 people in front of the camera. So, we were constantly the entire season making adjustments to the script and the story.”

With Moss also behind the camera for the first time directing three episodes, the 10-episode fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale debut with a trio of episodes on April 28 on the Disney-controlled streamer. Having just wrapped today, Moss helmed the third episode, which Miller penned, as well as episodes eight and nine.

Still drawing from elements of Atwood’s book and having the rights to her 2019 published sequel The Testaments, The Handmaid’s Tale was renewed by Hulu for a fifth season back in December. However, today Miller made it clear he didn’t actually envision an end to the Emmy award winning show.

“As long as Lizzie will do this with me, I’ll keep going,” Miller quipped to laughter from Moss and Littlefield. “There’s a lot of life in this story. I ‘m certainly fascinated by what happens in the Testaments and if that’s going to be part of our future, that’s a bigger question.”

The Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd and Max Minghella co-starring Handmaid’s is executive produced by Moss, Miller, Littlefield, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Eric Tuchman, John Weber, Frank Siracusa, Sheila Hockin, Kira Snyder and Yahlin Chang.

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