15 things you didn't know about 'The Handmaid's Tale'

KRAYCHYK/HULU‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ returns Wednesday.
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns for a third season this week.
  • There’s a lot you may not know about it.
  • It is not the first adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s book.
  • The red used for the Handmaids’ uniforms is a specific shade.
  • This post contains light spoilers for previous seasons of “Handmaid’s Tale.”
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

The highly anticipated new season of the Hulu Original series “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns to the streaming platform with two episodes on Wednesday.

Fans of the show and of author Margaret Atwood’s novel have likely been looking forward to it since that shocking season two finale, but even if you’re a super fan, you may not know so key details about the series.

As you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to return to Gilead, here are some things you didn’t know about “The Handmaid’s Tale.”


Offred almost escaped in the season two finale.

HuluIt divided the writer’s room.

In a recent interview with Us Weekly, Bruce Miller revealed that Offred’s decision to stay in Gilead divided the writer’s room and initially angered him.

“It was an argument we had in the writers’ room for four months – just as passionately, probably more so,” he said in response to viewer reactions, adding that the decision provided a set up for season three. “She’s coming back with an active, positive agenda. She wants to do something. You don’t stay back not to do something.”


Season three picks up immediately after season two.

HuluIt will pick right back up.

In the same interview, Miller revealed that the first episode of season three will begin about “14 seconds” after the season two finale, so viewers won’t have to fill in any blanks.


It is not the first adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s book.

amazon.comHer book has been made into many other works.

The television series hit at the right moment in time to become a massive success, but Atwood’s source material has been seen and heard in many formats before.

It was previously adapted into a film in 1990, an opera in 2000, radio dramatizations in 2000 and 2002, a ballet in 2013, and several theatre productions around the world. A graphic novel adaptation also hit shelves in March of 2019.


The series is filmed in Canada.

HuluThe show is set in the US.

The in-world geography of the show is set in the former United States (specifically Massachusetts), but production took place primarily in Toronto and in other locations around Ontario, Canada.


The original title of the book was “Offred.”

HuluIt was almost named after its main character.

Author Margaret Atwood initially wanted to name the book after its main character, but changed it during the writing process. “The Handmaid’s Tale” title was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”


Margaret Atwood never named the protagonist “June.”

HuluIt’s later revealed to be her name on the series.

In the book, Offred’s name prior to the coup and establishment of Gilead is only hinted at but never explicitly given. In an essay for the New York Times, Atwood explained her decision:

“So many people throughout history have had their names changed, or have simply disappeared from view. Some have deduced that Offred’s real name is June, since, of all the names whispered among the Handmaids in the gymnasium/dormitory, ‘June’ is the only one that never appears again. That was not my original thought but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish.”


The number on Offred’s ear tag is an Easter Egg.

HuluIt’s a special year.

Just like cattle, each Handmaid is given an ear tag with an ID number. Offred’s tag number is 1985 for the year the book was originally published, according to Den of Geek, which citedThe Art of Making of The Handmaid’s Tale.”


Getting shot had nothing to do with Serena Joy’s inability to reproduce.

HuluSerena Joy.

During an interview with “Mayday: The Handmaid’s Tale Podcast,” showrunner Bruce Miller spoke about the occasional disconnect between what fans get from the show and what was intended.

In an episode in season two, there is a flashback that reveals that Serena Joy was shot when a protest erupted at one of her speeches. While fans assumed that the bullet struck her reproductive organs, Miller confirmed that the character was infertile prior to the incident.


Gilead was more racist in the book.

HuluSamira Wiley plays Moira in the show.

In the show, there are Black Handmaids, but in Atwood’s book, all “children of Ham” are segregated and taken to a place in the Midwest called the National Homelands.

The Gilead of the book also raises Jewish Handmaids to a higher social status than non-Jews. The character Moira, played on the show by Samira Wiley, does appear in the book, but she isn’t segregated because she is written as a white woman.


The red used for the Handmaids’ uniforms is a specific shade.

HuluIt’s also called ‘lifeblood.’

The official shade is Pantone 202 CP, but costume designer Ann Crabtree calls it “lifeblood.”


The changing colour of the Wives’ costumes was a happy accident.

HuluShe used it to the show’s advantage.

It is revealed in the book “The Art of Making of The Handmaid’s Tale” that the teal fabric Ann Crabtree used to make the costumes for the Wives was discontinued at some point during the first season.

Crabtree found a way to use that to the show’s advantage, making it so that the different colours signified “who had the power at any given moment, with the most teal fabric going to those in favour and others getting material that’s greener or more faded.”


Amanda Brugel has a long history with the source material.

Rachel Murray/Getty ImagesElisabeth Moss, Amanda Brugel, and Yvonne Strahovski.

As a child, actress Amanda Brugel was familiar with “The Handmaid’s Tale” and its adult themes. In an interview with OK! magazine in 2018, she revealed that she read Atwood’s book when she was 15 years old and that she wrote short stories about the dystopian world.

She also wrote a thesis in college about Rita, the character she would go on to portray in the hit television show.


Margaret Atwood had a cameo in the first episode.

HuluShe played an Aunt.

Atwood serves as a consulting producer on the show and stepped in front of the camera once so far in the past two seasons. The author played the Aunt who slapped Offred in the face for her disobedience.


The Colonies are visually inspired by nuclear disasters, art, and the moon.

HuluThey were meant to be made in dull colours.

Season two production designer Elisabeth Williams said that when she and the production team were developing the aesthetic for The Colonies, they looked to art history and to world history.

“In terms of colour in The Colonies, it was also important that we have these golds and amber colours, and light blues,” she told Deadline. “It’s very reminiscent of Dutch paintings, and yet you have these dying women working the soil and basically killing themselves to better Gilead.” Williams researched different environmental disasters and was inspired by images of the Fukushima disaster where garbage bags of contaminated soil had formed unnatural mountains. “You wonder, really, where it all went, if it was sent out to space or buried underground. But it’s quite unnerving to see those images.” Domes were also added to give a “lunar feeling” to the landscape.


Elisabeth Moss helps to shape the score for show.

Matthias Nareyek/Getty ImagesShe described Offred’s emotions at the time.

“I had a note on a music cue, and I ended up writing [composer Adam Taylor] this long email that wasn’t about music, but just telling him what I felt the scene was about for me, describing what my character was feeling and what I wanted the scene to say,” Moss told Variety. Taylor came back with the perfect guitar cue, and their collaboration was born. “I never tell him what to do in musical terms, because he’s the genius and knows that far better than me,” Moss explained. “I only speak in the terms that I know, the emotions and thoughts of my character and what’s going on in the scene. And then he takes it from there and does something that is better than I ever could have imagined.”

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