Alanis Wheeler once looked up to Serena Joy as her idol, but that adoration slowly crumbled over the course of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5. Hollywood Life EXCLUSIVELY with spoken Genevieve Angelson about her approach to Alanis and the breakdown of Alanis and Serena’s relationship.
“There is a moment when I lead her to my husband’s office to make a call, and she asks if I want to stay in the room. I kind of turn to her and say, ‘No, I’m a woman.’ I kind of look at her and realize, wait, you’re supposed to be one too. Why don’t these rules apply to you? I think that’s kind of what I kept discovering over the course of the season. She doesn’t practice what she preaches,” Genevieve said.
She continued: “It’s not only extremely disappointing, it’s extremely dangerous, because I actually think that what he preaches is essential to the continuation of humanity, the end of that sentence. In season 5 of this show, people sometimes seem to forget that its basic premise is that there is a fertility crisis that threatens to wipe out our species. So when people come up with solutions like Gilead, they save humanity. When they break those solutions, they can potentially threaten them. I think that the viewers having amnesia about what drives this story makes people like Alanis much less empathetic, even if she’s obviously cast as a villain.”
The greenhouse scene between Alanis and Serena in episode 6 is the moment when things began to noticeably shift between them. Serena mentions being questioned by her gynecologist and says she might not even choose to remarry. Alanis is shocked and emphasizes that her baby needs a mother and a father In a major move of power, Alanis finally orders Serena to go to her room.
“What I think is so important about the way I chose to play Alanis, which was inspired by the way everyone on The Handmaid’s Tale choose to play their character is that absolutely no one plays a good guy or a bad guy. People play people,” Genevieve noted. “I felt very grounded when we played that scene. At one point I say something like, ‘Your baby needs a mother and a father, and that’s more important than your feelings.’ My whole argument to Serena Joy is growing up.”
The actress added: “I really shy away from characterizing Alanis as a villain or creepy because I think she’s just very passionate about very dire circumstances. I think that scene you’re referring to is kind of the last chance I give her not to betray this image I have of her. I say, listen, you can still come with this doctor and sit here. She proves to me in the course of that scene that she is capable of making devastating decisions with taking her baby, but also the hope of humanity. So I can’t trust her, I give her a chance, and she just keeps ruining me.”
For Alanis, the saying proved true: don’t meet your heroes. In Alanis’s eyes, Serena has become the ultimate hypocrite of the society and values she helped create.
“I think she discovers that the leader of the movement is not willing to be a member of the movement. But also, how hypocritical is that? I think Alanis’ whole argument is, yes, I understand that it infringes on your personal liberties. Yes, I understand that. Your personal freedoms are not more important than the collective, and I think she is valid,” Genevieve said Hollywood Life. “I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not crazy. Of course I think Alanis is a villain, but I couldn’t play her that way. I couldn’t wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to work today playing the villain.’ I would not have given a good performance. I had to be really specific about why I care as much as I do. That scene was very pivotal from moment to moment and set up a final opportunity dramatically.”
Genevieve hasn’t gotten a full overview of Alanis’ backstory yet, but she was able to live out her character with her wardrobe. “As soon as I fit my costume, Leslie Kavanagh, the costume designer, and I started getting really creative about who Alanis was and her background. So we were like, she’s pro-Gilead. She’s totally into all that stuff, but she just doesn’t understand why we have to do it with all the horrible uniforms,” the actress nodded.
As for what lies ahead in the final episodes of season 5, Genevieve teased, “Alanis has to come to terms with the fact that her once idol and then complicated houseguest she also wanted to protect is now a murderer. She has to come to terms with the fact that this person who was at best a hero, at medium, fertile, is now actually murderous. How does she make sense of it and control that danger?” New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale drop Wednesdays on Hulu.