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'Handmaid's Tale' star Elisabeth Moss: Power can be dangerous, destructive

Elisabeth Moss returns for Season 4 of The Handmaid's Tale. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Elisabeth Moss returns for Season 4 of "The Handmaid's Tale." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, April 28 (UPI) -- Elisabeth Moss said the new season of The Handmaid's Tale explores the nature of power and different forms of power.

"Power isn't always what it looks like," Moss said in a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "Power can be dangerous. It can be something that is destructive."

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The series, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, is set in a dystopian future in which the United States has become the totalitarian regime Gilead. Moss plays June, who was kidnapped to bear children for the officers of Gilead.

In the book and film, handmaids are fertile women held prisoner to bear children for commanders with infertile wives. The handmaids wear red robes with white hoods.

The power dynamics of Handmaid's Tale often find Moss' June and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), who monitors the handmaids, on opposing sides. June leads a rebellion against Gilead. Lydia seeks to keep handmaids obedient and procreating for the commanders.

"They are both seeking power on their own journeys, but perhaps in very different ways and with different objectives," Moss said.

In the first three seasons, June has managed to work covertly to help mothers and children escape Gilead without raising suspicion. Moss said Season 4 pushes June to a breaking point.

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"It's about a feeling of sort of rage and anger and about the desire to sweep things under the rug," Moss said. "So much of June's journey is screaming into the wind, 'We will not forget.'"

The award-winning actress, who also executive-produces the Hulu original series, makes her directorial debut in Season 4.

"I just felt that I was up to the task after a few years of watching, learning and working with some really incredible directors," Moss said.

Season 3 climaxed with June leading a group of handmaids and children into Canada. Season 4 begins right after the last shot in the finale. Moss directed episodes 3, 8 and 9.

"Episode 3 is my personal favorite, but I'm a little biased," Moss said. "When you've got great scenes to direct, it makes your job so much easier."

Moss said she sees directing as a natural extension of her role as an executive producer. Though Moss had producer credits on films like Queen of the Earth and Her Smell, the 38-year-old said she is more hands-on behind the scenes of Handmaid's.

"I still am learning from all of our producers every day," Moss said. "And now I have a production company."

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Because of her intimate role in the production for three seasons, Moss said she felt comfortable directing Season 4 episodes.

"It exists in my bones, this show," Moss said. "So it's not as big of a shift as you would think to take on that new position."

Moss said the biggest change in her director's role came in her relationship with her co-stars -- Dowd, Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski. As an actor herself, Moss hesitated to direct her colleagues' performances.

"We don't, as producers, necessarily go give notes to actors on set," Moss said. "I'm trained not to do that and not to judge their performances like that. That ended up becoming my favorite part of the whole experience."

The Handmaid's Tale returns Wednesday on Hulu.

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