Before the season 5 premiere of The story of the maid, Collider had the chance to chat with the cast of the series and discuss some of the more pernicious aspects that have now transpired. While previous seasons have shown that Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) has something of a moral compass, although she still inflicts emotional and physical harm on the girls she thinks she’s protecting, Season 5 shows her in a slightly new light. After the teenage Esther (McKenna Grace) suffers at the hands of Commander Putnam (Stefan Kunken), leading the young girl to attempt suicide and kill Janine (Madeleine Brewer) Aunt Lydia goes to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) with the crime. Gilead doesn’t have the best track record of protecting its women, so everyone is surprised when Lawrence has Nick (Max Minhella) Kill Putnam.
During our brief 1-on-1 interview, Ann Dowd opened up about Aunt Lydia’s relationship with Janine and whether her care is genuine, the consequences of Putnam’s actions, and she teased where Lydia’s character arc is going — viz The wills, which fans have speculated that Season 5 teased. With a handful of episodes remaining in the season and Hulu renewing the series for its sixth and final season, it will be interesting to see where each character is headed as the race to the end begins. You can read our interview with Ann Dowd below or watch it in the player above.
COLLIDER: First of all I just want to say congratulations on Season 5, I then watched the first 8 episodes before this interview and I think it might be the best season yet.
ANN DOWD: I was blown away by the season. Absolutely down to earth.
It is extraordinary.
DOWD: Oh, thanks. When I read the scripts I was like, ‘Huh.’ I mean, I’ve been at it for five years and I was stunned, ‘So wait a minute. What?” For the writers, I mean, just phenomenal. And of course the directors. Yes.
I spoke to my mum about it and I thought this is the season they need to win everything. This is just a phenomenal season.
DOWD: Isn’t that nice. Thanks, dear. Many Thanks.
I was curious to know, as a viewer it’s very emotionally draining to watch, but when you’re on set and you’re tackling some of these really difficult scenes, how is it for you? And do you need to relax after the day?
DOWD: Well, it’s always a challenge, a complex, well-written character always is, and that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? It’s a phenomenal experience to just come prepared and open and ready to jump in knowing you don’t have all the answers the first time. And the thing is for actors, we don’t take the consequences home with us. You know what I mean? All are injured. And so is the joy, it’s illusion to us but doesn’t make it easier for the viewer to see, God knows, but that’s what allows us to jump in without a care. And at the end of the day you’re tired, man. You say, “Thank you, Lydia. Many Thanks. See you tomorrow. Have a good night because I’m going home, have a drink and put my feet up.” It’s like that.
Talk about consequences. Episode two definitely has a pretty big twist at the end as far as Janine and Esther are concerned and Aunt Lydia has always had this really complex relationship with Janine. And what’s on her mind? Can you spice that up a bit?
DOWD: Well I think the thing that’s part of the joy that Lydia is starting to experience and the profound thing that’s happening is that she loves this girl. She loves this girl like her own. Lydia has so many defenses and so much protection, so much armor, travels a very narrow path. But when you have those feelings, especially love, these walls won’t stand. We’re just not built that way as humans. Love is far more powerful than fear when we allow it to take its place. And so I think it upsets Lydia because she sees things differently now and sees what’s going on. I’m speaking from later in the season, aware of what’s really going on here, not what she was thinking or not, what she was willing to really look at and be like, ‘Hey, is that alright? I do not know? Is this in your best interest?” She’s just beginning to see the truth.
I’ve kind of seen those moments come through over the course of the last five years. Lydia has kind of gotten to the point where she almost wants to change something, but she’s shying away from it. Is there a moment for you this season that feels like a turning point that in the script, when you’re working with it, you say, “Here’s where things shift a little more extreme time for you.”
DOWD: Are the changes more extreme? is that what you say Well, I think there’s something abrupt about them, but because, like the walls — I’m trying to think of a better metaphor, if you will. No, as the protection and defenses are starting to fail, she has two options. She can pull the armor back up and say, “I don’t know what, but that’s nonsense. I’m way too soft on her and that’s…” Or you can just leave the armor down. And I think that’s the choice Lydia makes to her credit.
I was going to say, looking ahead, that’s a spoiler question. Feel free to answer it, or you’ll hold off until we get to that episode. But to look ahead to what’s happening with Putnam and see Lydia really take that point and then see that there are indeed consequences for the actions of the men of Gilead. What was it like for you to see that script and then act it out on set that day? Because it’s so powerful… to see him hanging there is such a powerful moment.
DOWD: Well, I think…thank you for putting his name. I’d forgotten it was Putnam, I made up other names for him, but punishment, an end to this behavior, a consequence. Would Lydia have hung him on the wall when she started changing or would she have put him in prison for life where he had to sit with himself ’cause you know you’re leaving the world and you’re leaving the pain behind. You know what I mean? And I think Lydia also realized that Lawrence did it for a number of reasons or that he wasn’t as comfortable with art. You look like Mr. Righteous putting the values back in order, protecting them and getting rid of the man who was a bit against your plans, who could have been a problem in the future. Now he is gone. Wow. I think she sees everything. And she has to work with Lawrence because she’s a woman. She understands, but they need each other. So it’s a very interesting relationship in that way.
Consequences of actions is such an interesting thing to play out in it The story of the maid and there are also tendencies towards salvation, and what happens to these people as Gilead progresses? Do you think there is a place of salvation for Lydia? She’s such a character you wouldn’t want to hate her doing things that are so horrible to see on screen, but is there a place where she could be redeemed as Gilead moves on?
DOWD: I think so. I mean, I think the journey will continue The story of the maid and it is certainly continued in The Testaments. There is the answer to that question, but yes I think she is capable of it.
https://collider.com/handmaids-tales-season-5-ann-dowd-interview-the-testemants/ Handmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd Teases Season 5 Consequences & The Testemants