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'The Handmaid's Tale': Finale event brings questions and answers

'The Handmaid's Tale': Finale event brings questions and answers
Actress Elisabeth Moss talks during a discussion following the season 2 finale screening of "The Handmaid's Tale" at The Wilshire Ebell Theater. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Stars and top producers of Hulu’s groundbreaking drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” gathered at the Wilshire Ebell theater in Los Angeles on Monday night for an event that included an advance screening of the second season finale followed by a politically charged question-and-answer panel.

(WARNING: Story may contain spoilers about season two of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”)

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Although the series, which won an Emmy for outstanding drama, is relentlessly somber and bleak, the audience that nearly filled the 1,266-seat historic theater on Wilshire Boulevard responded enthusiastically to moments of dark humor in the episode

Following the final credits, several cast members including Elisabeth Moss, Max Minghella, Yvonne Strahovski and Alexis Bledel were greeted with a thunderous standing ovation as they walked from their seats to the stage.

Bruce Miller, the creator of the show, kicked off the post-screening session with a series of cynical comments that turned into a serious call to action.

“People say this show is uncomfortably present,” Miller said. “I don’t see it. … Do everything you can to make our show irrelevant … and vote in November.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, envisions America after a second civil war, and focuses on handmaid Offred (Moss), whose real name is June, forced into child-bearing servitude for a prominent couple. And although the dystopian nightmare facing the handmaids in the theocratic Republic of Gilead (formerly America's East Coast) has grown more oppressive and violent, the second season has featured themes of growing rebellion among the captives.

The acclaim surrounding the series has been heightened by its relevance to current hot-button issues, including women’s rights, the #MeToo movement and sweeping deportation of immigrants.

The tone of the series can be so intense that comedian Jon Lovett of the “Pod Bless America” podcast kicked off the panel discussion by asking if Moss was OK.

“Yeah, it’s fun,” Moss, who won a lead actress in a drama Emmy for her portrayal of Offred, said with a smile. “Honestly, it’s what I love to do. It’s a great outlet for my feelings. We do it together. It isn’t just me crying alone in the corner. … I like it. It sounds perverse, but it’s what I love to do and I love the challenge.”

Madeline Brewer, who plays the mutilated handmaid Janine, added, “On certain days Gilead is not all just sadness and horror. For Janine specifically, that’s why she has to look for the good in everything, otherwise she’ll let it destroy her. I think that’s where we are politically right now. If you let things get to you every single day and you don’t take a moment and reflect on the good, then we're no use to anyone else."

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In addition to a detailed discussion about the finale, the cast also talked about some of the plot lines that will appear in the third season.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” season two finale airs Wednesday on Hulu.

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