The series is packed full of big names. Here are all the characters – and where you’ll have seen those familiar faces before.
Elisabeth Moss – Offred
Who does she play? Offred is the main protagonist of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is told from her perspective. Of course, she wasn’t always called Offred (that is, the handmaid of Fred). Before the authoritarian theocracy of Gilead staged its takeover of the United States of America, she had her own name and a husband (Luke), a young daughter and a job. But now she has been subjugated as a “handmaid” in the house of a Commander, forced into ritualistic sex in an attempt to repopulate Gilead.
Where have I seen her before? Elisabeth Moss is best known for her role as Peggy Olson in Mad Men. She has also been in High-Rise with Tom Hiddleston, Top of the Lake as Robin, and The West Wing as the president’s daughter Zoey Bartlet.
Alexis Bledel – Ofglen
Who does she play? Ofglen is the handmaid of Commander Glen. She is assigned to be Offred’s partner whenever she leaves her home to shop or walk – another attempt at control, as the handmaids must keep an eye on each other. Despite initial suspicions, Ofglen and Offred become friends.
Where have I seen her before? Yes, that’s Rory from Gilmore Girls. But like Elisabeth Moss she is also a Mad Men star, having played Beth Dawes in 2012. She met and then went on to marry Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser, who starred as Pete Campbell.
Joseph Fiennes – The Commander
Who does he play? Commander Fred is the head of the household where Offred lives as a handmaid. He is married to Serena Joy, but due to her apparent infertility he must engage in a sexual ritual with his wife and handmaid in an attempt to conceive a child. His stance is ambiguous: though he keeps contraband items hidden in his office and wants to make life better for Offred, he is also one of the architects of the Republic of Gilead and gains huge benefits from his position.
Who does she play? Serena Joy is a major character in The Handmaid’s Tale. Before the Republic she was a televangelist who lectured that women’s place was within the home and traditional gender roles should be upheld, but now she has got what she wanted she is miserable.
In the novel she is arthritic and too old to conceive, but showrunners have made both Serena and The Commander younger for the TV series, introducing a new element of rivalry and bitterness between the wife and the handmaid. She hates Offred on principle.
Where have I seen her before? Yvonne Strahovski played Hannah McKay in Dexter. She also starred in 24: Live Another Day alongside Kiefer Sutherland, and played Sarah Walker in the TV series Chuck.
Samira Wiley – Moira
Who does she play? Moira has been Offred’s best friend since they were teenagers. As a student she was a feminist and an activist, and later came out as a lesbian. The two friends lost touch in the chaos of the beginning of the Republic of Gilead as women’s bank accounts were frozen and the subjugation began, but later they were reunited at the Red Centre, where the Aunts trained wayward (but fertile) women for their new lives as handmaids.
Where have I seen her before? Samira Wiley is instantly recognisable as Poussey from Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. She also played Justina Jordan in the TV series You’re the Worst.