Ann Dowd on The Handmaid’s Tale: it’s a form of activism

by Woody Smith
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After a late-career renaissance with capacities in The Handmaids Tale and The Leftovers, the actor explains why her work is insolent and how she got inspiration from an unlikely root: American football tutor Bill Belichick

As Aunt Lydia in The Handmaids Tale, the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwoods 1985 dystopian romance, Ann Dowd is both terrifying and tender, a disciplinarian tasked with policing the fruitful handmaids who bear children for the tyrannical theocrats of Gilead. As Patti Levin on The Leftovers, she scarcely breathed a word in season one, dallying the steely, chain-smoking master of a doomsday faith thats sworn to stillnes. But if anyone can realize the most of a largely inaudible courage, its Dowd, who, with Pattis big season two arc, became a perform, that rare produce of performer “whos got” in the psychological furrows with stoic, gritty characters to uncover a veiled humanity.

Its been a very happy astonish, she tells me of her long-awaited breakout. All I ever craved was a successful job as an actress.

How Dowd gathers it off impels impression only when we speak; her renditions are so nuanced and immersive that their understanding can seem meaningless, a scrumptious dinner with a secret recipe. But she found inspiration for Lydia and Patti in strange, unexpected situates: a Yeats poem, New England Patriots tutor Bill Belichick, a onetime Catholic schoolteacher identified Mother Claude. An actor of lesser ability might hyperbolize, roll Lydia and Patti into mockeries of cultish ill and ideological zeal, but not Dowd.

First of all, if youre representing a reputation, its a relationship, she tells me of her know-how playing Aunt Lydia. And you better not move in with judging because youre not going to get anywhere. Youre going to have a one-sided evil person, and then it becomes a cruelty movie where you can say, Thank God thats not real.

Dowd, 61, frequently steals into the first party when talking about her personas, which is immensely charisma and a little bit terrifying, especially when it seems like Aunt Lydias talking directly to me. Shes a human being. She loves those girls, shes devoted to their wellbeing, and its up to me to make sure they have a meaningful life, Dowd replies. So causes stay sharp-worded, daughters. What were doing here is going to save your life.

Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaids Tale Photograph: George Kraychyk/ Hulu

Dowd recognizes her capacity in The Handmaids Tale, which has re-emerged in “the member states national” consciousness as a frightening parable of Trumpism run amok, as a shape of fighting: the better she plays it, the more impact itll have.

The day after Trump was elected I happened to be home in New York. I went to bed for the working day, she replies. I was texting Liz[ co-star Elisabeth Moss ], because I knew she was on list. I didnt known better she was working. And she said to me, because shes so smart and sharp: This is a way of activism, what were doing here. We must throw our vigour straight into this show.

Dowd and Moss would text one another an epigram from the fiction: nolite te bastardes carborundorum , or dont make the rascals grind you down. “Shes seen” that same resolve in her aunts, both nuns, who informed her miraculous deviate as Sister Aloysius in the comedy Doubt, and also in Belichick, whose impassable manner resembled that of Patti Levin.

I was always intrigued by Belichick, the facts of the case that he didnt give a shit what anyone study, says Dowd, who grew up in their own families of pigskin radicals. Not a lot of chitchat, precisely get the job done. About three incidents in I belief, Who am I remind ourselves? Theres person in me now. And it dawned on me: its Bill Belichick.

Dowd played in plays throughout her season at the College of the Holy Cross but was a pre-med major, formerly civilized at a Massachusetts Catholic school, where removed been spawned to ensure theatre as a leisurely quest. It never occurred to me that something that gave you such rapture could also be their own lives exertion, she responds. Thats not how I was elevated. Not that one has to abide, but thats a hobby.

A lightbulb went off her senior year. My playing teacher, Don Hilko, said to me, You could do this, you are familiar with. Thats the utterance. Ill never forget the wording.

After graduating from DePaul Universitys Goodman School of Drama and working steadily in Chicagos regional theatre vistum, Dowd moved to Manhattan, where small roles gradually compiled themselves accessible between what she refers to as periods of gentle. She goes on: I think of Sonya in[ Chekhovs] Uncle Vanya: You must endure. I merely put out of my premier any thought of outage. Its not an option. Im not going down that road.

Dowd talks about Patti Levin and The Leftovers with awe and devotion, as if both came into their own lives as acts of divine vocational intervention. I tell her Ive been a bit disoriented since the appearances sequence finale, a testament to how emotionally burdensome and thrilling its three seasons were.

The first time I read Leftovers I didnt get onto at all, she responds. The indicates fantastical proposition, in which 2% of the worlds population evaporates in a Rapture-like event, was too much like science fiction for her. I was dismissive. What do you entail, Departure? What the hell is that? Then I made another look at it and, as you are familiar with, once youre in, somebody, are you in.

Justin Theroux and Ann Dowd as Patti Levin in The Leftovers Photograph: HBO

Dowd watched the final two incidents back-to-back with her co-star Justin Theroux. We sat together in his apartment in New York and “its like” duration stopped, she replies. Unexpectedly, it was two in the morning and I said to Justin, Where am I? It made me epoches to let go of it. Because you dont act it, you live it, you know? It precisely recurred me.

Dowd had practised letting make. Her persona, Patti, words for the first time in a pronunciation she gives toward the end of season one. Its a thrilling vistum she shares with Theroux in which Patti gives a stirring speech, a sort of kudo for the pre-Departure nature, before splicing open her neck with a shard of glass.

When I found out she was going to die in the chapter I was heartbroken, trying to rally with the fact that I was no longer going to be in The Leftovers, that this courage I became so attached to was no longer going to be in my nature. I was predicting Yeats, who is my favorite poet. And there is a lyric that I often go to where he wishes his beloved be at peace.

Dowds husband, the actor Larry Arancio, told her the poem, Michael Robartes Wishes His Beloved at Peace, was invoking the end of the world. I virtually descended of my chair. I swear to God, I didnt know thats what it was about, she retains, beginning to rehearse the song in her wonderfully declarative timbre. I wrote it to Damon[ showrunner Lindelof] to tell him how I was detecting about leaving and he said, She needs to say that. So it culminated up being in the communication.

As it turned out, Dowds character would revert for the following two seasons. I make, my God, she tells me, nearly overtaken by her recollections. The route The Leftovers jobs, the serendipity of that.

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