The Handmaid's Tale has become a global phenomenon ever since the first episode was broadcast on Hulu back in 2017. The show has since been renewed for a second season, which premiered last month and brought in some fresh faces. The series is based on the book, which was written by Margaret Atwood and looks at a dystopian future where women are forced to pay for their past sins by becoming handmaids and helping the baron wives of rich commanders to bear children.
The show has become well-known for how dark some of the plot lines have become but mostly features around Offred who is portrayed by Elisabeth Moss. Offred found out that she was pregnant at the end of the first season, which means that she will have to carry her baby and then hand it over to Mrs. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) and her husband Fred when she finally gives birth.
The city of Gilead is under martial law, but the outside towns don't follow the same set of rules, which is why Offred's husband Luke and former handmaid Moira (Samira Wiley) are able to make it to Canada and start a fresh life of their own. Season two will look at Offred's journey after finding out she's pregnant as she attempts to escape her captors.
The following list looks at the main female characters of the hit show and some of the images of these women that show how different they are in real life. The Handmaid's Tale forces many of the stars to physically change their appearance, which is why many of these images are unrecognizable.
20 Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei joined the cast as part of the second season and is seen in the colonies alongside Emily and Janine. Tomei portrays the character of Mrs. O'Conner the wife of a Commander who is sent to the colonies after being caught taking part in an illicit relationship. She befriends Emily when she first arrives before she hands over some antibiotics that she promises will help with any infections.
There is more to Marisa Tomei's cameo appearance than meets the eye, and her entrance causes quite the stir with the other women.
Tomei is a well-known Hollywood actress and an Oscar winner, so her role in The Handmaid's Tale was definitely a surprising cameo. Her presence shows how much popular the show has become to attract a high level of guest stars and show runner Bruce Miller told Hollywood Reporter that Tomei was one of the women that the show wanted to play that part. He said: "We agreed that Marisa was someone we wanted, and she grabbed the opportunity to be a part of it." Marisa's cameo was a breath of fresh air for the show and something to look out for if there are fans who are not yet up to date.
19 Samira Wiley
Before being cast in her role as Moira in The Handmaid's Tale, Samira Wiley was known for her role as Poussey Washington on Netflix show Orange Is The New Black. Wiley has only been part of the acting business since 2011 and has appeared in more TV series than movies, but her role in The Handmaid's Tale has been one of her most famous to date after leaving Orange Is The New Black back in 2017. Wiley plays a lesbian in both of these show and even recently told The Daily Mail that she feels she has been typecast ever since she came out as gay.
Samira's character is one of the main stars of the show. She is June Osbourne's best friend and is already at The Red Centre when June first appears for her training in the first season.
She escapes from the center before she can be assigned to a home and is later seen working at a club called Jezabels and is now being called Ruby. It is while she's here that she meets up with June again and it's her best friend that convinces her to escape, something that she manages at the end of season one. Moira is seen in Canada in season two helping other refugees who have made their way out of Gilead while also helping June's husband Luke to continue to search for his wife.
18 Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss is the main character in The Handmaid's Tale and even though she has the name Offred because she is the handmaid of Commander Fred Waterford, she holds on to her real name which is June Osbourne and it's something that allows her to cling onto the hope of returning to her old life.
Moss has been acting since she was just eight years old and her acting credits include The West Wing and Mad Men but her latest and most exciting lead role would have to be as Offred in the Hulu series.
Being the main star of the show comes with its advantages since Moss recently revealed to Page Six that she has full approval over some of the more intimate scenes that she is forced to be part of. Even though Offred is blonde throughout the show, it can be seen from the image above that Elisabeth's natural hair color is actually brown and she changed it for the show. There are a number of images of the star which have been taken throughout her acting career that show when she changes her hair back to its original color she becomes somewhat unrecognizable. This should have been a route for her to go down when she escaped from Gilead at the beginning of season two. If Offred wasn't able to be recognized then she wouldn't have been caught and taken back to The Red Center.
17 Yvonne Strahovski
Yvonne Strahovski is seen as one of the biggest villains on The Handmaid's Tale since she portrays Mrs. Waterford, the wife of the Commander, the woman who helped to write the laws that Gilead currently abides by and one of the stars who is unable to bear children of her own.
The Waterford is unable to have their own children, which is due to Fred rather than his wife, but Offred is sent to the family to help the couple to conceive a child, but only becomes pregnant when Serena hatches a plan for Offred to approach their driver Nick instead. Yvonne plays the role perfectly, which is a testament to the experience that she has earned throughout the course of her career, which spans more than a decade. Yvonne landed the role of Sarah Walker in Chuck back in 2007 and has been part of a number of notable projects ever since. The fact that her character Serena Joy can't bear children in the TV series is one of the main focuses of the show, but it's not an issue for Yvonne since it was revealed by E! News earlier this month that the actress is actually pregnant with her first child.
16 Alexis Bledel
Alexis Bledel is one of the most recognizable faces in the cast of The Handmaid's Tale since she appeared as one of the two main characters in Gilmore Girls for more than seven years. Alexis portray's the character of Ofglen in the show before she later becomes known as Emily when she is sent to the colonies for persistent violations of the rules. Before Gilead was taken over she worked as a university professor and was a researcher in cellular biology.
Bledel starts off as June Osbourne's shopping partner for the major part of season one, and we soon find out that she is secretly part of "Mayday," but she is later captured and sent to the colonies, which is explored in more depth in season two.
It is also revealed that Emily had a wife and son before she became a handmaid and both were able to make it out of the country safely but she was kept behind and forced into a life as a handmaid. Season two looks more in-depth into her life before the change of government and the way she was treated by her peers based on her orientation. The actress told Indiewire that season two of the show "challenged her to express her inner rage in a whole new way."
15 Madeline Brewer
Madeline Brewer is mostly unrecognizable in her role in The Handmaid's Tale because her character was disobedient when she first arrived at The Red Center and the Aunt's took out one of her eyes. Her character is first known as Ofwarren before she bears a child for the couple and is then sent to another family where she becomes Ofdaniel.
She is later known by her real name, which is Janine, when she abducts her child and is seen as mentally unstable. The punishment for this is a violent demise at the hands of the other handmaids, but the women refuse to go through with it and she is instead sent to the colonies where she meets up with Emily in season two. Brewer, much like Wiley, is well-known for her role in Orange Is The New Black. This was her first acting role and even though she was only part of the show for one season, she was able to make a career out of the opportunity and has gone on to star in a number of other shows over the past five years. Brewer told Teen Vogue earlier this year that after all of the hardships that her character has been through in the show, she hopes that she is able to save the day to some extent in season two.
14 Amanda Brugel
Amanda Brugel is seen in the supporting role as Rita in The Handmaid's Tale. She works alongside Offred in Commander Waterford's home and is seen as a Martha. Marthas are the women who serve as servants and housekeepers for the wealthy and high ranking families. Brugel's role is to do the shopping and cleaning in the home as well as looking after the Housemaid and ensuring that the family eats that the right time.
Rita is one of the nicer characters in the show and is often seen supporting Offred through her issues with the Commander and his wife. Rita is also the first woman to congratulate June when she finds out that she is pregnant before ensuring that she eats a healthy meal. Brugel recently talked to Northern Stars about her character as a Martha and how she used her past experiences with racism to prepare for the role. Amanda has been acting for more than two decades after she landed the role in Vendetta back in 1999, over the past 19 years she has starred in almost 40 different TV series with her role as Michelle Krasnoff in the short-lived Canadian comedy series Seeds being her most famous.
13 Yvonne Strahovski
After seeing Serena Joy Waterford only able to wear blue for her entire role in The Handmaid's Tale, it's hard to recognize Yvonne dressed in anything else. Strahovski's role in Dexter back in 2012 opened her up to a much larger audience and has seen her become a popular face in the acting world. The actress has worked in the industry for more than a decade alongside some of the biggest names in the business, including Jason Statham and Clive Owen, whom she appeared alongside in 2011 movie Killer Elite.
She appeared alongside Seth Rogen in The Guilt Trip the following year before being cast as the female lead in I, Frankenstein in 2014. Strahovski has definitely crafted a path for herself in the acting world, one that she will definitely be taking a break from after announcing her pregnancy earlier this month. She shared the following statement on her social media page: I am very excited to finally be able to share my special news – I'm going to be a mama! So very exciting to watch & feel this little peanut growing every day!" Yvonne married her boyfriend of six years, Tim Loden, back in 2017 and announced that she was a taken woman at The Emmy's last year.
12 Tattiawna Jones
Tattiawna Jones joined the cast of The Handmaid's Tale partway through season one as the reincarnation of Ofgen after Emily was removed from her role as a handmaid and taken away by The Eyes. Unlike many of the women in Gilead, Ofglen doesn't see this life as something that she needs to escape from because it's much better than the poverty she was living in before she was forced to become a handmaid.
In season two, Ofglen is spotted at June's baby shower, where it is revealed that she can't speak because she had her tongue cut out as punishment for standing in for Janine and refusing to be part of their crime. Many of the women suffered extreme punishment for standing up to the Aunts but that didn't include Offred because it was made clear that she was pregnant at that time which meant that she couldn't be harmed. Entertainment Weekly recently revealed that The Handmaid's Tale won a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series and Jones was named as one of the members of the cast, even though she only appeared in a handful of episodes and is considered to be one of the minor characters.
11 Erin Way
Erin Way portrays a mute woman called Erin in The Handmaid's Tale and it is revealed by a number of flashbacks that her character was captured by The Guardians and was set to be sent to the Red Center to begin training to be a handmaid alongside June before she was saved by US Army Soldiers and taken to Canada. Erin is seen living in an apartment in Canada with June's husband Luke and Moira, but she is obviously still mentally scarred from her ordeal in Gilead, which is why she never speaks.
In the most recent episode of season two, Erin finally broke her silence to make a joke about Fruit Loops, but the fact that she has remained mute for so long shows how much that life affects women mentally. Erin has been acting for more than a decade and is well-known for her roles in NCIS: Los Angeles and Colony. BuddyTV recently revealed that Erin was set to return to NCIS in her role as Special Agent Zoe Morris later this year, but since this is just a one-off re-appearance on the show, it isn't thought to be something that would affect her role in The Handmaid's Tale.
10 Ever Carradine
Ever Carradine portrays the role of Naomi Putnam in The Handmaid's Tale. She is another wife who lives in the same community as Offred and Mrs. Waterford but is blessed with a child when Janine is one of the first handmaids to give birth in the small city. Naomi is the wife of Commander Warren Putnam and is given the task of raising baby Angela alone when Janine is seen as mentally unwell and it is revealed that her husband has gone against the rules of Gilead and is then forced to have his left hand removed. Carradine told CNN last month that the costumes that are made for her are specific to her and her character, which is one of the most incredible parts of the show.
Like many of the actresses in The Handmaid's Tale, Ever has been acting for more than two decades and is best known for her roles as Tiffany Porter on Once and Again and as Kelly Ludlow on Commander in Chief. But she recently landed the role of Janet Stein in Marvel's The Runaways where she is seen as the main cast. Since Ever's role in the show is a minor one, it appears that her role in The Runaways won't affect her appearances when she's needed in Gilead.
9 Nina Kiri
Nina Kiri is known as Ofrobert in the Hulu series and is another handmaid who is trained at the Red Center alongside June, Janine, and Moira. Ofrobert is one of the women who is involved with Mayday and she helps June after Emily is taken away by The Eyes. In season two Ofrobert's punishment is seen as one of the most brutal. It was hard to watch for many viewers. This leads June to blame herself, even though she assures June a number of times that she isn't to blame for any of their punishments.
The Handmaid's Tale could be considered Nina's breakout role since she has only been part of a handful of projects since 2011. Despite this, the star confirmed that the cast was just as shocked as the fans of the show when they were part of some of the strangest scenes, she told Refinery 29 in a phone call interview that: “We were all like, ‘This is so creepy.’ Yes, that was very, very messed up." The actress was referring to the baby shower in season two of the show where Serena Joy was seen chanting, "Bring the little children to me," which is actually considered to be a Gilead baby shower tradition.
8 Kristen Gutoskie
Kristen Gutoskie is another supporting star in The Handmaid's Tale. She plays the role of Beth, who is a Martha at Jezabels. Beth comes into the series part way through season one where she is seen as friends with Nick and often exchanges different products that she can use in the club. She and Nick are much more than just friends and she's the first one to point out to him that a relationship with a handmaid could see him sent to the wall.
Kristen is no stranger to TV series and has been part of a number of popular ones over the past few years, including The Vampire Diaries and Beaver Falls which made her one of the more recognizable faces in the cast when season one was first aired last year. The actress is currently starring as Molly in Lethal Weapon. Even though the show has already aired six episodes of the second season and Beth is yet to be seen, Looper seemed to confirm that Kristen will be back for season two, but it will be interesting to see if the cast return to Jezabels or if she is seen as a Martha outside of the club.
7 Clea DuVall
Clea Duvall was a guest star on The Handmaid's Tale in season two where she appears as Emily's wife in one of the flashbacks. It is shown that Sylvia and Emily are married with a son and they are attempting to leave the country after the change of power, while Slyvia is able to leave with their son, Emily is left behind and is then sent to the Red Center to train to be a handmaid.
Duvall has been in a number of high profile movies throughout her career including She's All That, Girl, Interrupted, 21 Grams and The Grudge. She is an actress that has appeared in a wide range of projects spanning more than two decades but she is still not a commonly known name. Popsugar revealed that she would be the actress to portray Emily's wife as a proud member of her community and told their fanbase that she's a face that they should recognize. DuVall and Marisa Tomei's guest starring roles in recent episodes shows that the dystopia world is attracting a lot of famous fans and teaching many of them about a future that isn't considered to be very far from our present.
6 Ann Dowd
Ann Dowd may be most recognizable as the woman brought in to police the women of Gilead, but in real life, she couldn't be further from the character she portrays on the hit show since there are many reports that the star is incredibly sweet. Dowd wasn't someone who dreamed of being an actress since she worked for four long years in the hopes of becoming a surgeon, but later turned to acting when she landed a role in 1990 comedy Green Card.
Dowd met her husband Lawrence Arancio while they were both students in Chicago and he now works as a writer and acting chair for the CAP21 program. Together they have three children together and resides in New York City when she isn't working on location. The actress told St. Louis Post-Dispatch that her understanding of her Aunt Lydia character, for which she won an Emmy for last year, comes from the fact that she was raised by Catholic nuns: "I get it. I was educated by Catholic nuns. They were not cruel. I never went through any of that. My two aunts were Catholic sisters. I know that world and what I got from it."
5 Samira Wiley
After seeing Samira's character dressed all in red and hiding her figure as a handmaid, it's hard to recognize the star when she's wearing normal clothes. Samira worked her way up through the acting industry after being cast as Tina in The Sitter back in 2011. In the years that have followed, the star has landed a number of roles in TV series, before her big breakthrough in Orange Is The New Black back in 2013.
It was while Wiley was part of the Netflix based show that she met her future wife Lauren Morelli, who has served as a writer for the prison-based drama since the show first aired in 2013. Morelli was divorced from her husband back in 2014 before she publicly came out when she started a relationship with Wiley. The couple announced their engagement back in 2016 and married in Palm Springs, California last year. The actress told Pink News recently that she was "definitely having thoughts about wanting to have a family." Wiley has become recognizable in her role of Moira in The Handmaid's Tale over the past year, something that was spotlighted last year when she received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
4 Madeline Brewer
Despite only being part of the acting industry for five years, Brewer's popularity has increased over the past year after rumors that the actress was in a relationship with Disney alum Nick Jonas. The actress told The Daily Mail back in January that the two "were just friends" after being spotted together on a number of occasions, which lead to online speculation.
Before she landed the role in Orange Is The New Black, Brewer was crowned Miss Pittman 2010 which is a testament to her beauty when she isn't being forced to dress like a prisoner or wear makeup because her eye was taken out. Brewer is just 26 years old and definitely has a long career ahead of her if the last few years is anything to go by. The actress has made some well-powerful friends all over the industry but if she continues to deliver performances like her most recent one as Janine in The Handmaid's Tale then she won't need to call in any favours to land high profile roles in the future. Brewer has already started working on projects outside of the show and has two movies currently in post-production set for release in the coming year called Captive State and CAM.
3 Alexis Bledel
Alexis Bledel has been seen on-screen ever since she was 19 years old and cast as Rory Gilmore in the popular series The Gilmore Girls. The show went on for seven series before it came to an end in 2007 and Bledel was able to move on to a career in movies, including The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants, Sin City and I Am Reed Fish. Digital Spy confirmed recently that Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Bledel, and Amber Tamblyn had all hinted that there could be a third instalment of the Sisterhood series with the actresses stating that fans should "keep their fingers crossed."
Bledel has grown accustomed to life in the spotlight after her breakthrough role in Gilmore Girls and has been linked to a number of partners over the years, including a four-year relationship with Gilmore Girls co-star Milo Ventimiglia, which started back in 2002 and ended in 2006. Bledel later moved on to a relationship with her Mad Men co-star Vincent Kartheiser, which led to their marriage back in June 2014. The couple has been private about their relationship throughout but did reveal the arrival of their first child back in the fall of 2015.
2 Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss has become such an iconic figure in her red dress and white hood that it's hard to accept that the actress can dress in much shorter dresses when she isn't part of the show, something that would be seen as a sin in Gilead.
While Moss has been working in TV for a long time, she has earned much of her recognition for her current role, one that has already landed her an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performance. One thing that isn't well-known is that Moss also works as an executive producer on the show and she told Page Six that she feels very lucky to be part of such a collaborative environment.
"I work in a really incredibly collaborative atmosphere on my show that I have never experienced, I have been in television for a while, and it’s not like this usually, so I am very, very lucky. There’s no hierarchy, there’s no ego.” Moss has been working on a number of other projects whilst being the main character on the show, including a number of upcoming movies called The Seagull, The Old Man and The Gun, The Kitchen and Her Smell, all of which are expected to be released in the coming year.
1 Ann Dowd
Ann Dowd has the role of keeping all the handmaids in line as part of the series since her character Lydia is one of the most respected Aunts. The Aunts are the women in charge of training and keeping the handmaids under control as well as dishing out the punishments for any of the women who decide to break the rules.
Dowd has to liaise with the wives, husbands, and handmaids as part of her job and even though she is seen as one of the main villains in the series, it's made obvious throughout that like many other women in Gilead, she is just doing her job and what she thinks God expects of her. Dowd has been part of the acting business for more than three decades but has developed a taste for playing villains since she also recently portrayed the formidable Patti Levin in the HBO hit show The Leftovers. The actress told The Independent that she actually mined some of her own experiences in order to bring Aunt Lydia to life: “I was very familiar with that world. No, I was never treated in any way resembling Lydia but what did I learn? A work ethic.”