The Handmaid’s Tale: Clea DuVall On Her ‘Powerful’ Onscreen Reunion With Elisabeth Moss For The Season 5 Premiere

Each streaming service has their megahit original shows, and for Hulu that’s definitely The Handmaid’s Tale. The Emmy-winning dystopian drama is currently airing the fifth season for those with a Hulu subscription, which has been a wild ride that covered the departure of Alexis Bledel as Emily, and introduced new, intriguing characters. And actress Clea DuVall recently spoke to CinemaBlend about her “powerful” onscreen reunion with Elisabeth Moss or the Season 5 premiere.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 opened with a bang with the premiere episode titled “Morning.” Following the murder of Fred Waterford in the Season 4 finale, it was revealed that Emily returned to Gilead to hunt Aunt Lydia and others. The scene was pulled off thanks to the outstanding performance by Clea DuVall as Sylvia, who had a fascinating give and take with Elisabeth Moss’ protagonist June. As you can see in the video above, I recently had the privilege of speaking with the actress/filmmaker about her return to Handmaid’s Tale (opens in new tab), where she opened up about what it was like to help wrap up Emily’s story. As she told me,

I was supposed to be in Season 4, but then with the pandemic I just couldn’t. So I was really bummed out that it didn’t work out, but very happy that they came to me with this. Elisabeth Moss, that was our first time working together in the show. We had worked together in Girl Interrupted ten million years ago when she was 16 year-old. She’s done quite a few things since then. I was actually making High School while I shot that. So I flew in and I think I was there for like 18 hours or something like that. We didn’t have a lot of time.

Talk about intense. After being noticeably absent from Emily’s story in Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, fans were psyched to see Emily’s wife Sylvia back on our screens… even if it was for such a somber occasion. And it sounds like Clea DuVall had a very limited time to nail this scene, which happened to be opposite her Girl Interrupted co-star Elisasbeth Moss.

Clea DuVall’s comments about her Handmaid’s Tale return come from a larger conversation we had about her upcoming Amazon Freevee series High School, which is about the childhood of queer music legends Tegan and Sara. Eventually I asked about the truly explosive scene she had in the Season 5 premiere, where Sylvia got to challenge June in such a quiet but powerful way.

Clea DuVall confronting June as Sylvia in The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

Later in our same conversation Clea DuVall further explained what it was like working with Elisabeth Moss, both as a scene partner as the director of the Season 5 premiere “Morning.” As the accomplished multihyphenate shared:

Lizzie was just so generous because she was also directing the episode. And she really just showed up. The second we started it was just like, in. And I think that because the show does such an incredible job of building the world, and building the characters and their relationships that it was all there. And maybe it did help that we had some connection a long time ago, that now we were coming together on the screen again as adults. It was really powerful. And the writing, it was just all in the writing too.

Points were made. Elisabeth Moss is a force of nature in The Handmaid’s Tale, bringing a raw emotionality to her character episode after episode. Clea DuVall’s comments show how easily she slips into character, even while also balancing the responsibilities of directing the season’s first two episodes. And the Happiest Season filmmaker thought it was powerful to reunite with her Girl Interrupted co-star on screen in this way.

Since Alexis Bledel departed her role in The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s unclear if/when we’ll ever see Clea DuVall’s character Sylvia again. But perhaps if Emily ends up returning sometime in the future (Season 6 is expected to be the last, setting up the spinoff) then we could have another Girls Interrupted reunion. Fingers crossed.

The Handmaid’s Tale airs new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu, and Clea DuVall’s High School premiers on Amazon Freevee October 14th. In the meantime, check out the fall premiere list to plan your next binge watch.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.