How Ann Dowd finds the humanity in ‘Handmaids Tale’ villain


Ann Dowd is back as evil Aunt Lydia in Season 4 of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Dowd, who won a 2017 Emmy for the role, said she doesn’t wallow in Lydia’s evil side as she terrorizes the women of Gilead, the dystopian world at the center of the Hulu series.

“All of us have humanity in us — some of us have it buried deep, some of us have it kicked out of us, but somewhere the core remains,” Dowd, 65, told The Post. 

“When you’re coming to know a character, one of the things we decide beforehand is to listen without judgment and find out who she is and know that there is part of her that is good,” she said. “Let’s see if we can come to understand what may have brought her to be this person that she is.”

Over the course of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Aunt Lydia has sided with the establishment in the brutal regime of Gilead, often subjugating other women in the process. 

In Season 4 (new episodes premiere every Wednesday), series protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss) fights back against the powers that be, having sent a plane full of children to safety in Canada, where Emily (Alexis Bledel) is trying to help them. Aunt Lydia, who oversees the handmaids, is as tyrannical as ever — but she’s in hot water over June’s rebellion. 

Ann Dowd plays evil Aunt Lydia in "The Handmaid's Tale."
Ann Dowd plays evil Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In Episode 3, there’s a harrowing sequence in which June is tortured in Lydia’s presence. “The [heavier scenes] are all challenging, I will say. And that’s kind of the joy in it, isn’t it? A little terrifying, but it’s tremendously satisfying if you can get a foot in there and experience [that],” said Dowd. “When June is about to be tortured and having to figure out where Lydia lands and all of that, there’s so many conflicting emotions: rage, love, worry, despair. So that was a real challenge to find that balance. But fortunately it’s with Elisabeth [Moss], my love, who’s terrific on every level. It was a great, great pleasure.”

Not all is doom and gloom behind the scenes in Gilead. In 2019, for instance a viral video of cast members dancing to the Taylor Swift son “ME!” made headlines. Dowd said she’s not sure if there will be a follow-up cast dance video for this season. 

“When I was there, we didn’t have any of that nonsense going on — I say ‘nonsense,’ I’m joking,” she said. “I loved every second. I don’t know, I bet they got something up their sleeve. I wouldn’t be surprised, because who knows what those hooligans are doing!”


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