The Handmaid’s Tale returns this June for a third series, bringing audiences back to the merciless Republic of Gilead.
Read on for everything you need to know about the star-studded cast in Hulu and Channel 4’s dystopian drama…
*Warning: contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale seasons one and two*
Elisabeth Moss plays June/Offred
Who is June/Offred? 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.
After giving birth to her baby daughter Nicole while on the run in season two, June was offered the chance of escaping to Canada, but gave it up in order to stay behind and rescue her elder daughter, Hannah. The series two finale saw her hand over Nicole to Emily, before apparently setting out to join the resistance within 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 plays Emily/Ofglen/Ofjoseph
Who is Emily/Ofglen? 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. In an act of defiance Emily then ran over a guard, and spent much of season two in the colonies.
However, after returning to Gilead society and joining the household of Joseph Lawrence (who’s secretly on the side of the resistance), she was granted a chance at escaping to Canada, along with June’s baby daughter Nicole.
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 plays Commander Fred
Who is Commender Fred? Commander Fred is the head of the household where Offred lived as a handmaid. During season two he led the hunt to capture her, as she was 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 plays Serena Joy
Who is Serena Joy? 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. After she spoke out about women’s right to read Bible scripture, Fred had one of her fingers cut off.
She initially despised June/Offred, but by the end of season two they had established an uneasy truce, after June convinced her to give up Nicole so that she could have a better life away from Gilead.
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 plays Moira
Who is Moira? 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.
Both she and Luke protested when Commander Fred and Serena made a state visit to Canada during season two.
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 plays Luke
Who is Luke? 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 plays Nick
Who is Nick? 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.
He is the father of June’s daughter, Nicole.
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 plays Aunt Lydia
Who is Aunt Lydia? 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 ended up. Her instructions have haunted Offred in her new life as she hears the slogans of Gilead echoing in her head.
Emily attacked Aunt Lydia during season two, stabbing and pushing her down a flight of stairs — her exact fate has been left uncertain…
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.
Bradley Whitford plays Commander Joseph Lawrence
Who is Commander Joseph Lawrence? Commander Lawrence is the architect of Gilead’s economy. He has a disheveled, mad genius vibe and a sense of humour that unsettles his handmaid, Emily.
However, he shocks her when he reveals that he is helping her and June to escape Canada, proving himself to be on the side of the resistance.
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.
Clea DuVall plays Sylvia
Who is Sylvia? Sylvia is Emily/Ofglen’s wife, and mother of their son. She escaped to Canada with him.
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.
Madeline Brewer plays Janine
Madeline Brewer plays Janine
Who is Janine? Janine is a handmaid whose right eye was removed for speaking out against Gilead. She had a mental breakdown within the Red Centre during season one, and was taken to colonies in season two for trying to steal back her child. However, like Emily she was later returned to Gilead.
Where have I seen Madeline Brewer before? You probably recognise Brewer from Orange Is The New Black, in which she played Tricia Miller during season one. She’s also starred in horror film Cam and Black Mirror.
Ashleigh LaThrop plays Ofmatthew
Ashleigh LaThrop plays Ofmatthew
Who is Ofmatthew? Ofmatthew is a handmaid, and June’s pious new walking partner.
Where have I seen Ashleigh LaThrop before? The US actress previously played Breana in The Kominsky Method, and also starred in Fifty Shades Freed.
Cherry Jones plays Holly Osborne
Cherry Jones plays Holly Osborne
Who is Holly Osborne? Holly is June’s strong-willed mother, and appears in flashbacks. While living at the Red Centre as a handmaid, June sees a slideshow which shows Holy working in the polluted Colonies. It’s unknown whether she’s still alive.
Where have I seen Cherry Jones before? The Tony-winning stage and screen actress is known for appearances in 24, The Beaver, Erin Brockovich, and more recently Chimerica, in which she played Mel Kincaid.
Who is Eleanor Lawrence? She’s the wife of Commander Lawrence. Living in her household, June soon realises that Mrs Lawrence has undisclosed mental health issues.
Where have I seen Julie Dretzin? Dretzin has appeared in various television shows and films, including Beastly, Grey’s Anatomy, Breaking Bad and Mom.