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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Samira Wiley Explores Survivor’s Guilt and June’s Return

June's back, but that doesn't mean that everything is smooth sailing for Moira and the crew.

The Handmaid’s Tale Samira Wiley Elisabeth Moss

Samira Wiley and Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Sophie Giraud/Hulu


[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Season 4 Episodes 5 and 6, “Chicago” and “Vows.”]

It only took three seasons, but Moira Strand finally got her woman.

In the closing moments of the fifth episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” fourth season, Moira (played by an always sterling Samira Wiley) discovers her bruised and battered best friend June (an equally unimpeachable Elisabeth Moss) unexpectedly wandering around a newly-bombed Chicago wasteland. And in that instant everything changed.

It was the moment fans of Hulu’s Emmy-winning drama series had been waiting on for years. June Osborn in the flesh, outside of Gilead and on the verge of being welcomed back to the outside world and the safety and comfort of her loving family and friends. Ever since Moira slipped into Canada in the Season 1 finale the pair had been estranged; June remained in Gilead, despite several opportunities to flee. It was a point of frustration for some, which made it all the more appropriate that in the sixth episode, it’s only with June on the verge of kicking and screaming that her friend is able to force her onto a ship headed towards the free shores of Canada.

And while that journey was an adventure in and of itself, what lays on the horizon is even more exciting: June in Canada opens up a world we’ve only glimpsed in flashbacks and snippets over the show’s four seasons. For the first time we’ll see June among loved ones in a habitat as close to home as she’s likely to find in a post-uprising world.

Wiley couldn’t be happier.

“Look, Lizzie as a person is just so fun and I really miss her,” she said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “I just miss the feeling of her and I and O.T. [Fagbenle] all being on set together. I feel like three of us really have a good rhythm going on. That’s been missing for so long.”

But it’s not just the fact that June [and by extension, Moss] are back in the American refugees’ lives. Season 4 offered up a triple-dip of Moss, who added directing to her duties, in addition to executive producing and acting.

The Handmaid’s Tale Samira Wiley

Samira Wiley in “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Sophie Giraud/Hulu

“She was around more than I have ever had her in the past,” Wiley said. “And it was just so great. It has felt like we were making two different shows before — a Gilead show and a Canada show — for the past few seasons, so coming back together again just feels really good.”

Of course, no good feeling on “The Handmaid’s Tale” can last for too long and after seeing June’s reluctance to even return to her loved ones, it’s not a stretch to imagine that things might get a little rocky even after the ship reaches port. And what of Moira, who so heedlessly throws off a loving new relationship in order to save her wayward best friend, consequences be damned? Are there some debts too large to be sufficiently repaid? And can any relationship weather such excruciating circumstances?

“So much of Moira’s journey in this whole show revolves around that moment in Season 1, where she leaves June on the platform of the train,” Wiley said. “It’s kind of like survivor’s guilt. Of leaving her and being the one got out, [Moira’s] entire journey, her entire mission, every single thing in her life, even working with refugees who have gotten out of Gilead, everything is for June. Everything is to get back to June.

“Moira feels like she owes June everything. I really, truly think that if Moira could not convince June to get on that boat, she probably would have just knocked her unconscious and dragged her aboard.”

But relationships are complicated, and Wiley is all too aware that Moira and June have been on different paths for years now. The story of Gilead is no fairytale and that even the smallest wins — like saving a single person’s life — can come at an enormous cost.

“These are two different people, [and] that relationship we’re all used to, the relationship they have had for decades as friends really doesn’t exist anymore. And the thing that [Moira] wants to go back to might be impossible,” Wiley said. “So I think that she’s going to have to figure out at a certain point: What are you going to sacrifice?”

Luckily, for all the stark examinations of trauma and loss, there are still bright spots where the actors are able to slip into the comfortable and familiar rhythms of “normal life.”

“This stuff in Canada with June, that’s the new stuff,” Wiley said. “That’s the stuff that, we’re not used to filming. That’s a relationship that’s we’re having to create on camera. But the flashback stuff, we’re used to that. That’s honestly the easy part. And the fun part. Like, ‘Oh, thank God, we just get to, like, be nice to each other.'”

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