Meet the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale series two

Margaret Atwood's dystopian Republic of Gilead is populated by the stars of Mad Men, Gilmore Girls and Orange Is the New Black

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The Handmaid’s Tale returns this May for a second series, bringing audiences back to the merciless Republic of Gilead.

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Most of the original cast feature in series two – but there are a few new faces, too. Meet everyone below and find out what they’ve starred in before…


New cast

Sydney Sweeney – Eden  

Sydney Sweeney (Getty, EH)

Who does she play? A 15-year-old girl called Eden who wants to become the Commander’s wife and is part of a group that is loyal to Gilead.

Where have I seen Sydney Sweeney before? You might recognise newcomer Sweeney from Everything Sucks! She also starred in In the Vault.

Cherry Jones – Holly Osborne

Cherry Jones (Getty, EH)

Who does she play? Holly is June/Offred’s mother.

Where have I seen Cherry Jones before? She played President Allison Taylor in 24 and has also starred in Transparent and Cradle Will Rock.

Clea DuVall – Sylvia

Clea DuVall (Getty, EH)

Who does she play? Emily/Ofglen’s wife, Sylvia.

Where have I seen Clea DuVall before? She appeared next to Moss previously in Girl, Interrupted, and has also starred in Veep, American Horror Story and Argo.

Marisa Tomei – Mrs. O’Conner

Marisa Tomei (Getty, EH)

Who does she play? Mrs O’Conner is a Wife who is sent to the colonies.

Where have I seen Marisa Tomei before? Tomei won an Oscar for her performance in My Cousin Vinny, and has also starred in the movies What Women Want, The Wrestler, In the Bedroom and The Big Short. She has also portrayed Aunt May in the Marvel films, appearing in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Bradley Whitford – Joseph Lawrence

Bradley Whitford (Getty, EH)

Who does he play? Lawrence is the architect of Gilead’s economy. He has a disheveled, mad genius vibe and a sense of humour that unsettles his Handmaid.

Where have I seen Bradley Whitford before? Whitford is best known for his role as Josh Lyman in The West Wing, and has also appeared in Get Out and Transparent.

Returning cast

Elisabeth Moss – June/Offred

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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, June, a husband (Luke), as well as a young daughter and a job. But then she was subjugated as a “handmaid” in the house of a Commander, forced into ritualistic sex in an attempt to repopulate Gilead. In series two she is on the run, trying to break free from Gilead.

Where have I seen Elisabeth Moss before? She is best known for her role as Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Moss 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 – Emily/Ofglen

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Who does she play? Ofglen, formerly known as Emily, was the handmaid of Commander Glen. After being assigned as Offred’s shopping partner, they made friends. But when Emily had a lesbian affair with a Martha (house servant) she was punished with genital mutilation. Emily then ran over a guard in a bid to escape, and she is now in the colonies.

Where have I seen Alexis Bledel 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

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Who does he play? Commander Fred is the head of the household where Offred lived as a handmaid. He is leading the hunt to capture her in series two, as she is pregnant and therefore invaluable in the eyes of Gilead.

Where have I seen Joseph Fiennes before? Joseph is the brother of Ralph Fiennes and a cousin of the adventurer Ranulph Fiennes. He starred as William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love – gaining critical acclaim – and also played Cardinal Timothy Howard in American Horror Story. Recently he was meant to play Michael Jackson in a bizarre drama on Sky Arts, but the broadcaster pulled the episode after the late singer’s daughter Paris said she was “so incredibly offended by it”.


Yvonne Strahovski – Serena Joy

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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. She despises Offred.

Where have I seen Yvonne Strahovski 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

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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. After living as a Jezebel (a prostitute used by the commanders) Moira managed to escape to Canada in series one and reunite with Luke.

Where have I seen Samira Wiley 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.


O-T Fagbenle – Luke

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Who does he play? Luke was the husband of Offred and the father of her daughter in her old life before the Republic of Gilead was formed. He was married when they met and began their affair, and soon divorced his first wife, but the new theocratic regime did not recognise divorce – so Offred and Luke made plans to escape over the border to Canada. Unfortunately they were caught trying to flee the country, but Luke managed to escape. He is now living as a refugee in Canada.

Where have I seen O-T Fagbenle before? Back in 2008, O-T played “Other Dave” in a couple of Doctor Who episodes. He has also starred in FM, Material Girl, Quick Cuts, Looking, The Interceptor and The Five.


Max Minghella – Nick

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Who does he play? Nick is an Eye serving The Commander and Serena Joy, providing security and service to this important household. After Serena Joy forced him and Offred to have sex in order to increase her chances of conceiving, the pair began their own secret relationship.

Where have I seen Max Minghella before? Max Minghella is the son of the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella. He played Richie Castellano in The Mindy Project, and Graham Hawtrey in Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson movie The Internship. Max was also Divya Narendra in The Social Network.


Ann Dowd – Aunt Lydia

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Who does she play? The Aunts are matronly women who have been assigned to indoctrinate and train the handmaids, making them accept their new role in society with warped bible study and group exercises to enforce discipline. She works at the Red Centre, a re-education school where Offred and Moira end up. Her instructions haunt Offred in her new life as she hears the slogans of Gilead echoing in her head.

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Where have I seen Ann Dowd before? Ann Dowd has a long line in supporting roles. She has been in Philadelphia, Green Gard, Garden State, Marley & Me, The Manchurian Candidate and Side Effects. On TV she played Patti Levin in The Leftovers and Estabrooks Masters in Masters of Sex.