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Yvonne Strahovski Finds The Victim In The Villain On ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

It?s been months since ?The Handmaid?s Tale? wrapped filming, and Yvonne Strahovski still can?t get Serena Joy out of her head. 

As the resident baddie in Hulu?s adaptation of Margaret Atwood?s celebrated novel, the Australian actress is discovering new depths to a character whose inner life was largely absent from the text. 

For Strahovksi, her first introduction to the world of ?The Handmaid?s Tale? was the pilot script ? she went back and read the book later ? and what inspired her wasn?t the character?s cruelty, but her pain. Capturing the humanity of a woman complicit in the subjugation of her gender under an oppressive regime was an opportunity to make the role her own. 

Until the sixth episode ?A Woman?s Place,? released on Wednesday, the series utilized flashbacks as emotionally-driven viewpoints to juxtapose what life was like for Offred (Elisabeth Moss) before she was forced to bear children for the ruling class to which Serena belongs. 

This week, Strahovski delivered some of the finest work of her career, as the series veered away from the book and back to a time where Serena more than lived up to her surname, something that has been stamped out in the totalitarian state she helped create. 

HuffPost recently caught up with the actress.

The series paints Serena as a more complex character as compared to the book. In this version, we understand her as tragic figure. Was that something that attracted you to the role? 

It was definitely something that was important to me after reading the book and having the series flesh out Serena by humanizing her a little more. Yes, she?s the villain. Yes, she?s the evil character, but she also has feelings. It was important for me to try to attempt to have audiences connect with her in some way, shape or form emotionally because she is so unrelatable in every other way. I was going to say in a lot of ways, but I?m gonna say she?s unrelatable because she?s evil.

There?s a real sense of sadness with Serena.

On paper she is so evil, but where does she draw the line? I feel like Serena is so complicated because she is one of those authority figures who created this society, but now she has to live in it. She?s realizing it?s not so great for her either. On some level, she?s also dealing with a lot oppression as a female because she?s been stripped of her rights, to a degree. How do you deal with the complexities of trying to negotiate the fact that you did this to yourself, but also you?re living it and it doesn?t feel so good anymore?

This week?s episode was particularly flashback-heavy and shifted the POV to Serena. What was it like to explore her life before Gilead? 

It felt really unnatural and weird. It really did. It felt like a big giant leap, but I think it?s an important one, because it?s heartbreaking. We?re following the story of Offred and Ofglen and all these amazing characters who are suffering in some way, shape or form, but I think this is a story about how everyone is suffering.

Having those flashbacks with her finding some sort of happiness and meaning and place for herself in the world is important to show, even though I personally struggle to not judge her and totally disagree with what she?s doing as a passive bystander when women are totally losing their rights. 

The flashback scene where Serena isn?t allowed to speak in a meeting about the creation of this new society because she is a woman stood out to me. 

That scene was hugely important to me because it bridged that gap between Serena Joy pre-Gilead, as we see in those flashbacks, and then Serena Joy in Gilead. We spend so much time focusing on the current Gilead, so suddenly in Episode 6, the flashbacks were really hard to imagine after setting up this pent-up, very uptight character. The biggest thing on my mind was at what one point did Serena Joy exit the conversation about how Gilead was going to be set up.

I think that?s the beginning of the demise of her former self and the demise of her and the commander?s relationship. That?s where her rights started getting taken away and she no longer has a voice. It?s this weird line she walks of having a pure intention to begin with of saving the world and creating more babies in a religious-based way. Somewhere along the line, it got obviously really messed up.

Serena and the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) actually share a consensual and loving sex scene in the flashbacks. What was it like to film a sex scene that wasn?t so dark? 

It kind of felt like a normal day of a different show that wasn?t ?The Handmaids Tale.? It wasn?t rigid. The walls are very thick and high in Gilead and as each character, we live bound by those parameters, so to have those parameters let go and just shoot a scene that seems pure, loving, passionate and intimate just kind of seemed like a normal day at work instead of working on material that?s really confronting very potent issues and themes. 

How did it differ from the ceremony scenes you share with Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes? What goes through your mind when you?re all in bed together? 

In the actual moment, it?s pure rage for Serena. She?s lost a lot also. She?s lost her ability to do her work as an author or a spokeswoman. She?s lost her right to connect to her husband sexually. She?s got a lot of emptiness inside her, so she holds onto the one thing that will make her life better there, and that?s having a baby. Serena also has no way out. It?s not like she can leave her house, the country or the Commander. In a way, it?s her own story of survival, but she just happens to be doing really shitty things while she?s surviving. 

I?ve always had this image of her as a boiling pot of water on a stove with the lid tightly on. Every so often, the boiling water inside gets [to be] too much and it has to release and the lid lifts and she releases her rage. There?s just no release in Gilead, so when she can abuse her power and release some of that pent-up rage, she does. 

Did you stay in character during the ceremony scenes? How did you break the tension?

No, I think I would go insane if I stayed in that mode the whole time. We have to let go. Although, I do have to say mentally it was hard to let go of Serena because she is so complex and has all these dualities that feels like a puzzle sometimes. She did stay with me in my brain for the most part of shooting the show. 

We?re not, like, freaky-deaky toward each other on set. It?s a very normal cast and crew and we all like to come to set because it?s just a workday for us. After we get past “How was your weekend?” and “How was your night last night?” we switch gears and get into this kind of stuff. 

What do you make of Serena?s smoking habit? It seems to be one the few obvious cracks in her ?perfect wife? facade. 

I sort of saw it as a calming thing and also something to do. There?s just not a whole lot that she has to do in this society. She?s the master of the house and she?s supposed to take care of all things domestic. But I just feel like there would be that element of boredom if you?re in that situation. What do you do? She paints, knits and she smokes because there are no other things to do our outlets. The smoking thing did really seem to me like a time-passing mechanism or a calming mechanism when things get too much for Serena when she?s about to blow. 

Hulu has renewed ?The Handmaid?s Tale? for a second season. What are your thoughts on the series moving away from the text and into uncharted territory?  

I?m excited by the prospect. I feel like each of these characters have so much to offer and there?s a lot to explore. I love that we?ve been given this opportunity to spend these 10 episode reflecting what Maragaret Atwood?s book originally told us, but now we have these established characters, so we can take them places. It feels like there are a lot of places to go because we are in such a rigid society, so when everything is so pent up and rigid there a lot of rules to be broken. For someone like Serena, it would be really interesting to see her belief system challenged against her own will. I would love to see her own walls that she built herself crumble around her.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

New episodes of the ?The Handmaid?s Tale? are available every Wednesday on Hulu. 

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Moms Returning To The Workforce Can Fill Their Resume Gaps With ‘The Pregnancy Pause’

A creative agency is helping moms return to the workforce after taking a child-induced hiatus (aka to do the job of caring for a human being).

Mother New York created ?The Pregnancy Pause? ? a way for moms who took time off after having kids to fill the gaps in their resumes that sometimes cause them to be overlooked in the job search process.

The concept is simple: Moms can add The Pregnancy Pause to the ?Experience? section of their LinkedIn profiles. Prospective employers who click the link to The Pregnancy Pause will find a page that explains how maternity leave policies in the U.S. often make mothers feel forced to leave their jobs, which causes resume gaps.

The Pregnancy Pause website also includes a toolkit with instructions and a sample resume template with a reference number.

Prospective employers who call the phone number will hear a prerecorded message that states:

Hello, you?ve reached The Pregnancy Pause. You must be calling about a candidate?s resume that has mentioned her time spent here. While here, she spent innumerable hours raising a child, which has surely offered her invaluable experience as a prospective employee. Visit our website ThePregnancyPause.org to learn more, and remember, maternity leave is a full-time job.

The Pregnancy Pause website also instructs moms to explain their experience for their job as ?mom? ? which could include ?anything from ?Designer of human life? to ?Hands-on experience in development.??

?New mothers in the U.S. often feel forced to quit their jobs due to a lack of adequate maternity leave policies, which leaves them penalized for the subsequent gaps in their resumes. We wanted to give working mothers in the U.S. a simple tool, and make it easier for them to own maternity leave as the full-time job it truly is,? Mother New York chief creative officer Corinna Falusi said in a statement, according to Adweek.  

Here?s to empowering moms who want to return to the workforce.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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By just controlling what you eat, you can not pave your path to fitness and Visiting a head lice treatment salon is helpful when confronted with a case of head lice.. Fitness is not only about getting into shape. Yes, good food will keep you energized throughout the day but good stamina and agility will help you pull off that extra task you are having a hard time completing.

Macron cabinet: Women are half of France’s new minsters

They include its new defence, sport and labour ministers in a cabinet spanning the political spectrum.

Former Obama Officials Sign Up For Their Next Jobs: Running For Office

WASHINGTON ? At a town hall last week in Willingboro, New Jersey, angry constituents screamed at Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur for a good five hours over his leading role in passing an Obamacare replacement bill. When they walked outside, Andrew Kim was there, eagerly awaiting them.

Kim, 34, has his eye on MacArthur?s seat in Congress. He?s never run for office. And until recently he had no interest in elected office. As a national security expert who spent years advising President Barack Obama, Kim has long envisioned a career of rising up the ranks of the State Department and the Pentagon, serving his country as a bureaucrat or a behind-the-scenes operative. But then Donald Trump became president, and, like a good chunk of the country, Kim was horrified and began rethinking his career plan.

At first he tried conventional political activism. Kim started a grassroots group in November, Rise Stronger, that has mobilized more than 50,000 people to take action in response to the Trump administration.

But that didn?t calm his nerves. He started looking for other avenues for fighting Trump?s agenda. He watched his congressman, MacArthur, support the president?s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and then craft a critical amendment to weaken the Affordable Care Act?s pre-existing condition protections. He grew more convinced that a run for office was his only recourse. Soon, Kim was raising money for a potential campaign.

?It became a deeply personal decision when I saw that a person from my district was leading the charge on a piece of legislation like this,? Kim said. ?He is not looking out for the people I grew up with in these communities that I learned to play baseball in and learned my ABCs in.?

Kim, the son of immigrants who moved to America for a better life, is among a growing number of Obama administration alums who are trying their hand at electoral politics. That it took this long is what?s surprising. Obama, after all, was supposed to inspire a generation of youth to run for office, having made civic engagement cool again. But during his eight years in office, remarkably few of his aides actually pursued public office. Silicon Valley was far more alluring than city council.

The election of Trump changed that, motivating these Obama vets in ways that their former boss never could. It was fear more than inspiration ? a pit-in-the-stomach anxiety that all the work they?d put in over the last eight years, the policies they?d helped pass and the political structures they?d promoted, was now under direct assault.

?The young people who were drawn to Obama were drawn not just by the man but belief in democracy as a force for progress,? explained David Axelrod, Obama?s longtime aide. ?That belief is very much being challenged today and they are rising to it by putting themselves out there. It is really heartening to see.?

At least two former Obama administration officials are now running for Congress, with Kim being a potential third. Numerous others have their eyes on offices ranging from city councils to school boards to mayors.

?When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he said the campaign wasn?t about him. It was about all of us,? said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama. ?It doesn?t surprise him that the staff that joined him on that journey, and worked every day on behalf of the American people in the Obama administration, are emerging as the next generation of leaders and elected officials.?

Since the election of Trump, there has been a profound spike of interest in elected politics among progressives. More than 12,000 women have approached EMILY?s List, which recruits and trains female Democratic candidates. Another group, Run for Something, has had more than 9,000 Democratic millennials commit to running for state and local office.

Like these other first-time candidates, the draw that many Obama alums felt to elected office began in the days leading up to Trump?s inauguration. It wasn?t just the realization of the despair that they?d felt since the election itself but a direct pitch from their former boss. In his January farewell address, Obama called on those ?disappointed by your elected officials? to ?grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.? 

Kelly Gonez, 28, was already feeling inspired by Obama when she left her administration job last summer to move home to Los Angeles and become a seventh-grade science teacher. She?d been working as an education policy advisor to Obama, helping to shape policies that restrict immigration enforcement activities at schools. She has a lot of Latino students in her class, some of whom may have undocumented family members. The day after Trump won, her kids told her they felt scared and sad.

Listening to Trump?s rhetoric about immigrants, Gonez grew increasingly worried he would disregard the work she?d done to help protect kids like her students. Immigration enforcement officials recently arrested an undocumented father as he took his daughter to school in Los Angeles, and Gonez noticed a drop in attendance in her own class. This drove her to run for a board seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District. It was her first time running for office, and on Tuesday, she won. 

?We have to do more to make our communities feel safe because education isn?t going to happen if we can?t get kids to school,? Gonez said ahead of election night. ?I looked at the country, in terms of who is running for office, and reflected on my experience in D.C. and thought, ?Why not me???

Haley Stevens, 33, who helped lead Obama?s task force that oversaw the 2009 financial bailout of the auto industry, is making her first foray into politics as well. Running against Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) in a GOP-leaning district, she?s touting her record of bringing jobs back to Michigan, via the auto bailout and the country?s first online training program for digital manufacturing. She said she grew preoccupied by the thought that Trump?s budget cuts would destroy her state?s innovation economy and didn?t see Trott playing a preventative role.

?The guy I?m looking to run against ? he?s putting forward legislation to make it easier to collect on debts. Are you kidding me? Who does that benefit?? Stevens asked. ?You can bring together people in really amazing ways. I?m a doer; we can do big things.?

Every Obama alum who spoke to HuffPost could point to an endangered policy that, at least in part, spurred them to run for office.

Deanna Archuleta, who is running for mayor of Albuquerque, said she is worried about water protections she helped put in place when she was deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department.

Carrianna Suiter Kuruvilla, who just won a seat on the Hyattsville City Council in Maryland, said she is concerned about paid family leave and sick leave policies put in place while she was director of intergovernmental affairs at the Labor Department.

Amanda Farias, a 2012 Obama campaign field organizer who is running for a seat on the New York City Council, said Trump is ?regressing? on gains Obama made on race relations and community policing.

Still, for some, the urgency to run is less about protecting a specific policy and more about restoring compassion in public discourse.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, 28, is running against Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). He was a public affairs officer at the Labor Department, and his job required him to read hundreds of letters every day from struggling Americans. He recalled letters from people worried about being one illness away from losing health care and from parents saying they had to miss a child?s birthday again because they had to work overtime.

?Pain is pain. I know there are people who are hurting,? Campa-Najjar said. ?I don?t believe Trump supporters are all racist or ignorant. The thing they have in common is not that they?re ignorant but that they?re ignored.?

Campa-Najjar knows his congressional bid is a long shot. He?s running in a conservative Republican district, and there are four other Democratic contenders. But as a Hispanic Arab who lived in war-torn Gaza for part of his childhood, who was then uprooted to California, he feels he owes it to Obama to step up his public engagement in ways beyond simply voting.

?When I came to D.C., I was a young, biracial kid, trying to adjust to West Coast and East Coast culture, reconnecting with a Muslim father whose absence was always present. President Obama went down a very similar path. By watching how he did it and having a role in his administration, I found my place in America.?

Sam Stein contributed reporting.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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