TFF 2017: Executive Producers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”, Hulu’s stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel held its premiere screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The series follows Elisabeth Moss’s “Offred,” one of many handmaids forced to serve a man in a dystopic American society where a wave of infertility has caused women to be stripped of their rights and utilized strictly for reproduction. The series debuted its first three episodes on Hulu on April 26th, with new episodes available every Wednesday. I spoke with the executive producer and showrunner of this brutal and hopefully not too prescient series.

What kind of freedom did you find adapting this novel into a streaming series rather than a regular tv or film?

Executive Producer Warren Littlefield

Executive Producer, Warren Littlefield: Well look, it’s not network television. Margaret Atwood’s vision, that she created in her book 32 years ago, was a dark dystopian world. And Bruce Miller adapted that and it’s a powerful, dark and very disturbing world and our partners at Hulu did not limit us in what we were able to do. In language, in action and physicality, in sexuality, in brutality. We were able to deliver the message that we wanted to deliver. I think it’s a thriller, I think it’s entertaining but it’s pretty damn powerful, so fasten your seatbelt.

Showrunner and writer, Bruce Miller: I haven’t worked in film very much at all. Almost all my work has been in tv which is much more fun because you could have stories that go on forever. But working in a streaming service, you get the great benefit of not having to have a show that’s forty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds long, but it can be longer or shorter. Which, more than you know, throws the audience off. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when you don’t know how much is left! It could end five minutes from now or fifteen minutes from now and that makes all the difference.

Were you very familiar with the novel before you worked on it?

Miller: There’s a novel?! [Laughs] Yeah I read the book when I was in college, in a ‘New Fiction’ class–which shows you how long ago I was in college. I loved it and I read it a whole bunch of times, completely on my own just as–I was interested in it. So I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of turning it into a television show. And then when I started to get more into writing tv and my career took off, I probably looked at it more in that way. But when I heard they were making a tv show, I was excited because I would get to watch it! Not because I was going to be making it. And then over the years, the show didn’t come out and there were reasons and this and that and you know, I ended up, despite my gender, getting the job. And it was wonderful after having been so familiar with the book but also having been familiar with it in a lot of different time periods. Because it kind of was perennially relevant. Every time I read it seemed like ‘wow this is just the time!’ to read it.

Especially this election year, where it seemed like assailing women’s rights was just a common trend…

Miller: It’s a hobby!

At which point when you were filming, did you realize what a hot topic you were handling?

Showrunner Bruce Miller

Miller: I wrote the first few episodes before the election season started and then we were writing all the way through the debates and the election. And then we were shooting you know, in the middle…when Trump was elected president, we were shooting then. It was interesting, we were in Canada, so we had a little bit of a different perspective…But that was all very interesting. I don’t know–I’m sure subconsciously or unconsciously it changes the way you shoot things. But we were just trying to be gutsy. You know when you’re working from a book that showed so much bravery to write in the first place, you don’t want to be the wimp that turns it into a safe tv show. You want to be as bold as Margaret Atwood was. And so it just reinforced that idea that we should continue to be bold because its an important story we’re telling. But really, in a lot of ways like I said, I’m a writer, I’m in the question business, not the answer business. I’m just trying to put interesting questions out there, that doesn’t really change. I mean I certainly saw the relevance and certainly we went from saying ‘oh my gosh’ to ‘we better not screw this up!’ But I don’t know that anybody changed their story tact. I think we just became a lot more comfortable with what we had decided to do.

Littlefield: I think like the character of Offred, who is a fighter, that was our intention. We always felt a lot of pressure to live up to Margaret’s vision because it’s such a strong vision. And I think when we woke up in November in the middle of production, we were like ‘we better not screw this up!’ like…oh my god. But I think we were kind of fueled by [saying] ‘Alright, this is what we need to do.’ And I think the audience will be as well.

Streaming shows often come with binge-viewing, how do you feel about that approach?

Littlefield: Well, I kind of love what we’re doing. Hulu is presenting on the 26th of April, the first three hours, so you engage in a big way. And then each week, they’ll roll out an additional one. And so, I think that that also is really good because you want time. You may want to watch it again and it’s best I think in smaller doses, because it’s complex. I mean the world of television allows you to do complex characters and a complex narrative and we embrace it.

Can you discuss casting Elisabeth Moss in the main role?

Miller: Elisabeth Moss is astonishing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. She has just such a range of skills and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. She was who I wanted to be in this role from the beginning. She has main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that doesn’t have an off switch. So whatever she feels bubbles up. But it’s a really interesting role to play because she’s got all this stuff showing on her face that she doesn’t want anybody else in the room to see, but she wants you to see. The best thing about Liz is she likes to be challenged so I got to write stuff that I never would have written for anybody else because everything I wrote that was harder and harder and harder, she loved it! So we got to really push the boundaries of the skills of an actor.

Series star Elisabeth Moss was understandably pressed for time on the carpet, but offered this comment on acting out the defiance displayed by her character Offred:

Elisabeth Moss

“It was important to me, I mean that’s her whole story you know? That she’s so beaten down and torn apart, and has everything taken from her and just will not give up. And she’s so stubborn. And I think it goes up and down throughout the season, to me that defiance that I think we would all find in ourselves if we had to.”

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to add new episodes to Hulu every Wednesday and was already renewed for a second season in 2018.

Tommy Wiseau talks about “The Room” Rifftrax Live, James Franco in “The Disaster Artist” and his Hulu series “The Neighbors”

Tommy Wiseau is the director, producer, writer and star of the cult classic film “The Room”. Since the film was released back in 2003 it has achieved “Rocky Horror” like fame playing to midnight screenings non-stop to a huge fan base. Some called the film one of the worst ever made but true fans see “The Room” for what it really it, which is fun! The film was parodied live by the Rifftrax gang last year and is heading back to theaters again on January 28th, 2016. Media Mikes had a chance to catch up with Tommy again to discuss “The Room”, James Franco playing him in “The Disaster Artist” film adaptation and what else he is currently working on.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you feel about “The Room” being parodied by Rifftrax Live?
Tommy Wiseau: Yeah they reached out to me about a year ago about doing it. I liked what they did, I mean, I don’t support parts of it 100%, but it does show how fun “The Room” is. People take things too serious and the film isn’t made to be serious, it is made to be fun. If you haven’t seen the Rifftrax Live version of “The Room” in theaters, I would recommend it highly when it comes around again January 28th, 2016. And bring a big group of friends with you as well.

Mike Gencarelli: The film has been out for 13 years now, are you ever taken back by the continued interested in it year after year?
Tommy Wiseau: Yes, I am still surprised. I am happy that people are still talking about it and still seeing it in theaters. I also have been working a few new projects as well that I am excited for fans of “The Room” to see as well. I love touring with the film across the country. I usually show “The Room” and an episode of “The Neighbors” as a double header. It is a lot of fun to do and also getting to interact with the fans.

Mike Gencarelli: Last time we spoke back in 2011, you mentioned you were planning a 3D release for “The Room”; can we expect that soon?
Yeah that is something that I have wanted to do for a while. Making a film into 3D is definitely not an easy process. So yes, I still want to release “The Room” in 3D, but right now I am not sure if I want to reshoot the entire film in 3D or just convert it. But I am definitely still planning and exploring my options. Right now James Franco is making his film of “The Disaster Artist”, so I will let him have that and then I will focus more on the 3D after it is released.

Mike Gencarelli: Speaking of that, tell us about your feelings on James Franco playing you in the film adaption of Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book “The Disaster Artist”?
Tommy Wiseau: I think James is one best actors in the business. I feel good that someone like him is playing me. Of course, I also feel a little like they are taking something away from me since it is based around my life and my movie. I hope that this is a big success for James since then in return I think it will also then bring more people to “The Room” and that’s good.

Mike Gencarelli: Exactly, I think that this will put your film back in the spotlight and also introduce it to a new audience…
Tommy Wiseau: Yes, exactly. I am hoping about that. James and his brothers are doing a very good job so far and I am excited to see it when it comes out later this year.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you have any involvement or input on the upcoming film?
Yeah James did speak with me about the role and I gave him some tips. My life is very complex but I believe he will do a good job. I also have a small part in the film as well, which is cool.

Mike Gencarelli: Did you enjoy playing the villain Linton Kitano in newly released “Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance”?
Tommy Wiseau: It is always great to play a villain, I loved it. This film was a very fun experience for me I can tell you that.

Mike Gencarelli: You TV series “The Neighbors” has aired 6 episodes on Hulu; any plans for more episodes on that format?
Tommy Wiseau: Yes! Currently 6 episodes have aired on Hulu and the fans really have been excited about what we have so far. I am currently working on another 6 episodes for Hulu. We have been also exploring releasing the episodes in animated format as well. If you inquire on our website, we can send even send them to the fans (free of charge). So that is something that we were trying and it also getting a good response. I hope to have the next 6 episodes on Hulu by the end of 2016.

Mike Gencarelli: You did a Reddit last year where you mentioned a new project called “The Foreclosure”, what can you tell us?
Tommy Wiseau: Yeah that is a project that I am currently working on as well as “The Neighbors”. “The Foreclosure” focuses on the housing market right now and looks into the current situation that we are facing today with people not being able to pay for their houses and being forced to foreclose. It is a current topic. There is also another project that I have that is currently untitled but that I cannot talk about right now…maybe in about 3-4 months, I can. But a lot of very excited stuff coming up for my fans!

Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock” Spin-off “Doozers” Premieres on Hulu

Any fans of “Fraggle Rock” out there…I know there are! Well, this might be something for you(r kids) if you are looking for a return to Fraggle Rock. It has been more than 30 years since “Fraggle Rock” premiered and now we get a brand new spin-off called “Jim Henson’s Doozers”, which just premiered Hulu Plus with the first few episodes, which run 11-minutes long.

They show is aimed for preschoolers, which is perfect for me because I have a 2 year old and cause use her an excuse to watch. There are 52 episodes planned for this series already, which is a big commitment especially since this new series is Hulu’s first original project for kids.

Trading puppets for computer animation, this Fraggle Rock” spin-off introduces us to the “Pod Squad”, which consits of four new 3-inch-tall kid Doozers: Spike, Molly Bolt, Flex and Daisy Wheel. Check out the clip below, grab your kids and log on to Hulu ASAP!