The Handmaid’s Tale: Yvonne Strahovski Explains Why Playing Serena Joy Makes Her ‘Feel Dirty’

Yvonne Strahovski during Waterford's funeral in The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

With more services being added regularly, the streaming wars are on. One of Hulu’s big hitters is the Emmy-winning dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale, which is currently in the midst of its fifth season. It’s been a big one for Yvonne Strahovski’s Serena Joy, although the actress recently explained why playing the complicated character sometimes makes her “feel dirty.” 

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 has been a wild ride, especially regarding June and Serena Joy’s unique relationship. Those with a Hulu subscription have been able to watch it all play out, including the horrifying scene where Yvonne Strahovski's character had her baby ripped from her arms. The Dexter alum recently spoke to People about embodying Serena, and got honest about the toll it can take. In her words,

It can be pretty conflicting at times to play someone like Serena Joy. I've kind of always toed that line of, 'Oh, this is really fun.' But it also feels very dirty, kind of justifying a lot of the things that she does — cause my job is to humanize her and all her actions, which are horrible.

That makes a great deal of sense. While being an actor means finding humanity in your character, Serena Joy has been one of the most villainous characters throughout The Handmaid’s Tale’s tenure on Hulu. So it understandably makes Yvonne Strahovski uncomfortable to have to defend her action, which include sexual assault and the assassination of congress. 

Yvonne Strahovski’s comments show what it’s really like working on a project like The Handmaid’s Tale, which deals with such horrifying and serious subject matter. While it is no doubt emotionally grueling to play a Handmaid, playing someone like Serena Joy also presents its challenges. Although you’d never tell from watching the series, as Strahovski has truly been killing it throughout Season 5, bringing new sides of her character to life.

While Serena Joy is an objectively terrible person, we’ve seen more of her vulnerability throughout the fifth season. This was especially true in the episode “No Man’s Land” which saw June helping her through childbirth. Serena even apologized for what she did to the women of Gilead/America, in a rare moment of clarity. And it should be fascinating to see how her continued conflict with the Wheelers continues to play out. 

With Season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale nearly over, it feels like the end of the show is getting near. Season 6 will be the final season on Hulu, although a spinoff based on Margaret Atwood’s sequel novel The Testaments is in development. It’s unclear if any of the actors will appear, although the show does seem to be setting up Aunt Lydia’s plotline

The Handmaid’s Tale airs new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu. In the meantime, check out the TV 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.