A startling new addition in the new season, the 14-year-old actress thinks it’s important that someone as young as her portrays this character who’s been “raped and abused and sold off.”
After “The Handmaid’s Tale” dropped the first three episodes of its fourth season this week on Hulu, fans immediately were struck by one prominent, complicated and tragic new addition to the cast.
As Elisabeth Moss’ June and other Handmaids were offered sanctuary on a farm, they met the elderly Commander Keyes and his Wife, portrayed by 14-year-old Mckenna Grace.
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Even though it hasn’t been specified on the show yet, “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Captain Marvel” star emphasized to Elle that her character is intended to be the same age as her. It’s something she felt was important to know about the character, just as she felt it important that someone her age bring Mrs. Keyes to life.
“It meant a lot that I got to actually play the age Mrs. Keyes is,” she told the outlet. “I did think it was important for an actual 14-year-old to play the role, especially since this 14-year-old is being raped and abused and sold off, all of these things that are happening to 14-year-olds every single day.”
Spoiler alert for anyone who has not yet watched the season premiere episodes. In those installments, Mrs. Keyes opens up to June about her husband having other men come into their home and rape her, not to mention that she was effectively given to him as a wife under this dystopic version of America’s (now Gilead) patriarchal government.
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The whole story of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is about the subjugation of women, who lose all status and rights after a dramatic government overthrow in a world where fertility rates have dipped dangerously low. Handmaids are for breeding only, and treated like property, but Mrs. Keyes reminds June that it’s not always easy to be a Wife, either.
In a harrowing scene we mercifully do not see, Grace’s Mrs. Keyes gets an opportunity to exact revenge on one of the men who’d had his way with her. But we do see the aftermath. Her character is sad and angry and broken and a little twisted as a result, but Grace plays it so effectively.
And yes, it is startling to see and hear a 14-year-old saying such horrific lines and acting out such darkness, but even that, Grace feels, is important. She wants people to squirm and cringe and feel that there’s something almost inappropriate about her playing this role.
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“If it makes people upset or uncomfortable that an actual 14-year-old is having to talk about how she was raped and it’s acting, then maybe that will make you want to do something for actual girls who are going through this,” she said pointedly.
She said that Moss has been a big help with her in some of those more challenging scenes. She recalled meeting up with Moss and the episode director for the scene where she first opens up about having been raped over and over again by different men.
She said Moss had them go over that scene several times, wanting to make sure Grace was comfortable with the awful things her character opened up about. But Grace says the discomfort of it is what “makes the scene so great, because it needs to be talked about.”
She reiterated that girls her age are still getting married off. “Technically, I could get married if my mom or dad or my legal guardian signed a document for me. That kind of Gilead stuff, it happens every day, even though we’re not living in a ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ situation. It’s just much more quiet.”
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