Amanda Brugel shares the challenges of playing a Martha on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

The Canadian actress gets honest about her belief in God, her resilience in high school, and her current, quiet role
Published on 06/15/2018 at 11:38 AM EST
Amanda Brugel, as Rita, with Elisabeth Moss, as Offred, in 'The Handmaid's Tale' George Kraychyk/Hulu

Amanda Brugel knows a thing or two about fictional futures that are unfriendly to women.

In Orphan Black—a show about the commoditization and cloning of women—Amanda played Marci Coates. As the season 3 rival to Alison (Tatiana Maslany), she pulled out full-on suburban claws as the two went head-to-head in a school trustee election.

In The Handmaid’s Tale—a show about the commoditization and breeding of women—Amanda plays Rita, a Martha in Commander Waterford’s house. Alongside the commander’s wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and his handmaid, Offred (Elisabeth Moss), she’s one of three women who live in the house, all there to serve the commander.

Although Marthas are supposed to blend into their surroundings, Amanda often stands out as Rita. She is someone that Offred can have true, humanized moments with. Despite them both being stuck in a hellish situation, Rita’s knowing smile, or a simple, quick touch, provides Offred with a sense of strength. In the most recent episode, “Smart Power,” Offred asks her to become her child’s godmother after she leaves the home. It’s a touching moment where we see a softer side of Rita than usual.

But we didn’t go soft on Amanda! Grok Nation recently caught up with the actress, who starred in many Canadian TV shows and films before becoming more familiar to American audiences. Here we pose our 5 Deep Questions to her. Read on for her thoughts on God, her high school self, and whether she’d rather live in a future world of Orphan Black or Handmaid’s Tale.

  1. Do you believe in God?
    Yes. Absolutely. However, I don’t pray to a gentleman with a white beard. My husband does. And I shall forever support his version of his God. My idea of God? Take a bit of Christianity and sprinkle in some Buddhist core values. The God I pray to… look to… lean on for support comes in the form of omnipotent energy.
  2. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    I think we return to energy without form. To put it simply. “Heaven or Hell” is less of a destination and more about the quality of the individual energy we’ve created within.
  3. What were you like in high school?
    I was super popular for a hot minute and very sporty. Captain of the Basketball and Volleyball team. Anchor on the relay team. But then I auditioned for the school play and was immediately kicked off the “cool bench.” It was such a blessing because I sunk into my new theater community of weirdos and creatives and outcasts even further. I have high school bullies to thank for my career. And resilience. For my taste in weirdo friends. And for not peaking in high school.
  4. What do you find to be the most challenging part about playing a Martha on Handmaid’s Tale?
    The most challenging part about playing a Martha (and Rita in particular) is the lack of dialogue. Marthas are supposed to be invisible; neither seen nor heard. As an actor we rely so heavily on text that it was a huge challenge for me at the beginning. But then I started to explore body language, eye contact and even breath to communicate. It forced me to learn and utilize new tools. Which I will now most definitely apply to characters in the future.
  5. After “living” in Handmaid’s Gilead for two seasons and in the suburbs of Orphan Black for a season, which future would be worse?
    Haha. Both of them are messed up. But I have to say Gilead is by far the worst option. The mean girl vibe of the suburbs and lack of diversity is unpleasant, but at least women are still free in the suburban future. I can’t fathom living in a world where my freedom is stripped of me. Where I’m separated from my children and forced to produce more for others. Gah. Can you imagine SUBURBAN GILEAD?! I smell a spin-off!
Grok Nation Comment Policy

We welcome thoughtful, grokky comments—keep your negativity and spam to yourself. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.