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Interview: Bradley Whitford on Lawrence’s Motives and Getting to Direct ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Since his first appearance in the penultimate episode of season two, Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) has been a fascinating enigma in The Handmaid’s Tale. He doesn’t speak like the other men and certainly doesn’t believe in the religious society they’ve created out of the ashes of the United States of America, but he does know the way to implement it, which makes him a very willing bystander whose reparative actions don’t necessarily make up for the horrific damage he’s helped to create.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Whitford, who is also Emmy-eligible for his guest-starring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, about the chance to embrace this role after earlier television work like The West Wing. When asked how he feels about Lawrence as a moral person, Whitford replied:

“I’m disappointed in him. I am hopeful. I’ve always thought of this guy as somebody whose big brain obliterated his humanity. The humanity’s not gone, but I’m worried about him repeating his mistakes, which created this whole mess at the beginning. It’s what’s fascinating about him. This guy is always in play.”

On getting to direct an episode of the show for the first time:

“It was an incredible opportunity and a privilege. I directed many, many years ago. I’ve been wanting to direct more. My luck as an actor often interferes with it. I said early on when I came on this show, just because it’s such an interesting conceptual and visual show that, if the opportunity ever came up, that I would love to do it. It was an incredible, incredible experience. A phenomenal crew, the sweetest, hardest-working crew. Margaret Atwood is, it’s not a perfect analogy, is arguably the most celebrated writer, like our Mark Twain. Everybody on that crew, you can sense the commitment to making the show as beautifully as they can.”

Watch the full conversation below.

Seasons one through five of The Handmaid’s Tale are available to stream on Hulu.


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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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