The Waterfords’ trip to Canada in season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale would have played out differently if not for Joseph Fiennes.
During a recent conversation with EW TV critic Kristen Baldwin for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Fiennes, who plays the predatory Commander Fred Waterford on Hulu’s dystopian drama, revealed that his character was originally supposed to rape his wife, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), while the couple were across the Gilead-Canada border on a diplomatic visit. Fiennes, however, refused to carry out the scene.
“I guess in many ways, as abhorrent and nasty and evil as Fred is, I have to defend parts of him,” the actor said. “In episode 9, we had a moment where Fred was going to rape — after meeting Luke — rape Serena in a hotel room straight after, and it just didn’t track for me. I had to go out on a limb and refuse to do it because I felt that even though Fred is who he is, he’s human. And I think that he would be reeling from the interaction with Luke, and that suddenly the reality comes face to face with him and he would be digesting that and trying to understand it, and he wouldn’t necessarily be switched on by being in Canada in a new hotel and trying to heavily persuade his wife to do something that she wouldn’t want to do.”
Fiennes successfully made his case with “long emails and defending and pushing, and feeling that Yvonne had tracked Serena so beautifully that her disenfranchisement with the regime and Fred was so beautifully charted it didn’t need a heavy scene to kind of suddenly push her over the edge.”
The actor also indicated he appreciates working with difficult material. “It’s really about battling for human nuance within a very dark character,” he said.