Samira Wiley on Moira’s reunion with June in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ season 4
Spoilers for Season 4 Episode 6 The Handmaid’s Tale, “Wishes” below.
When Moira (Samira Wiley) first saw June (Elisabeth Moss) in this season of The Handmaid’s Tale, you could almost hear the fans utter a long collective cry. For much of Season 4, we saw Moira struggle with her own guilt, struggling with the fact that she had found a way to get to safety when June couldn’t. So when the two collide on the streets of Chicago, fate (or a heart-wrenching writers’ room) seemed to give both characters one last chance at freedom.
“It’s been really satisfying,” Wiley told ELLE.com of Moira and June’s reunion. “To have an episode in which I am [the action] so much and having these meaty scenes with Lizzie… as an artist, it was so rewarding to have this kind of material written for me.
Before, Wiley discusses what it was like to play with Moss, how Moira rationalizes June’s arrival in Canada, and the realities of filming on a boat in Lake Ontario in the dead of winter. (Spoiler: It’s not great.)
For episode 6, only one word comes to mind: finally. What did you think when you first read the script?
I actually had a conversation with showrunner Bruce Miller before I started the season to explain what my arc was going to be. When he dropped this news, I was like, “What ?!” Such a shock. I feel like this is our reward for waiting so long. But selfishly, what I was really looking forward to was being back on screen with Lizzie Moss. With her my game is taken to another level. She is so talented and she makes me better. I haven’t been onscreen with her in these kinds of scenes since season 1. I wanted to, and when I saw some of the stuff in the episode, I felt really satisfied.
The way June reacts you almost wonder, could anyone But Moira brought him out?
I don’t even know if I thought of it that way, but when I think of the flashback scenes, which are so intentionally placed where they are, I think it validates exactly what you’re saying. There’s a relationship there that goes back so many years, and I feel like I know it in a way that no one else does. It’s also not someone like Luke, who doesn’t know what Gilead is. I was there. I know what it is. I know what that experience is. I know what the trauma is.
Moira has to make some extremely difficult choices in this episode. How did you struggle with his decisions?
When I go into these episodes, I can’t really have anything in my head except in Moira’s mind. I think there are rationalizations that need to happen for Moira for this to be correct. For her, she doesn’t just save June. She will save so many other people because June is such an asset. What she will be able to give to the Canadian government is too precious and worth so much more than if it were someone else who was not June. I think it made it easier for Moira, but I mean, it’s pretty selfish. I want Moira, [it’s] a good egoist, that’s what she has to say to herself. I don’t think she could get out of it without it, even if she had to knock her over in the head to make her unconscious and drag her around.
What kind of conversations did you have with Elisabeth Moss in preparation for these scenes?
Even away from this episode, Lizzie has really played a different role this season. She directed three of the episodes. So the conversations I had with her were about Moira’s arc and the arc of the whole story we were telling. There were so many more intentional conversations about what this relationship was. Who is Moira? Who is June? Who are they now? What we realized during these conversations is that June is a different person and Moira is a different person. They’re just different people [who’ve gone] in completely different directions. To see each other at that point and realize throughout this episode, but also in subsequent episodes, that we’re not on the same page anymore is really painful and something that we can see unfolding throughout. the season.
Was there a particular scene from this episode that stood out for you?
The one where June tries to steal the lifeboat. We were on this boat in the middle of Lake Ontario for a week to film this episode. We worked from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. every night, at least 30 minutes from shore. It was December and it was windy and the boat was tiny, and there was some acting that needed to be done. [Laughs] It was just a lot of stuff to deal with. I think that probably informed the scene; I was not the only one in these conditions, Moira was also in these conditions. We tried to use what was going on to our advantage and uplift the stage. But I will remember it for the rest of my life.
The cast are also famous for having fun on set. When you’re like this, are all of you trying to cheer yourself up?
There were so many crackers going around because apparently it solves seasickness. Lizzie bought me these thermals, because I’m so cold. I remember being in an aquatic scene on Orange [Is the New Black] once, and they couldn’t use some of the pictures because I was shaking so much. So we took this lightly. But I don’t know, being on this boat and it rocks and we try to keep our balance … [Laughs] I think it’s a lot funnier after the fact.
In this episode, we also see more of Moira and Oona. Due to the history of LGBTQ characters on television, it’s significant that no one on the show ever mentions that they’re a queer couple. How did you describe this relationship?
It’s something I’ve wanted for so long, for Moira to have a girlfriend, so it’s very satisfying. It’s so amazing and fulfilling to have a queer relationship on TV that isn’t highlighted like, “Oh look, these are queer people!” We’re just queer people. It reflects my life. This clearly shows the progress we have made as a society and also in the media. I am so honored to be a part of this performance.
Speaking of your life, congratulations! You just had a baby. Has being a mother changed your view of the show?
I keep saying thank you to God for the twins who play [Nichole] this season. They taught me so much. But you can spend as much time as you want with another person’s baby, but you can still return it. Being with a baby 24/7 is completely different. I have experienced all the emotions a human can feel. She is incredible. She’s terrifying when she can’t stop crying. And being able to do it with my wife is so amazing.
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What is the end of your dream for Moira? How do you want all of this to unfold?
I think Moira really longs for her friend and who her friend was and what their relationship was. She’s not ready to give up on this. She’s built something so beautiful with Luke and with Nichole, and she’s ready for June to put that back in. She wants a normal life, a life where she can put Gilead behind her and find joy and have an easy relationship with her girlfriend. Everything has been so hard for her and for all those who have been through Gilead. She just longs for something to be easy. That’s what I want for Moira, and I think that’s what Moira wants for herself.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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