Sunday 22 September 2019

'I was very familiar with that world' - Actress who plays terrifying Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale draws inspiration from Irish Catholic nuns

Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Actress Ann Dowd has revealed she draws from her experience of being educated by Irish Catholic nuns for her role as the terrifying Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale.

In the hugely popular, disturbing dystopian TV series, Aunt Lydia is responsible for the training and policing of 'handmaids' who are responsible for bearing children for the infertile leaders of a not-too-distant future world where the US has become a theocracy called Gilead.

The Hulu TV series, which also airs on RTE, is based on the 1958 novel by Margaret Atwood and stars Elizabeth Moss as a previously independent mother of one who finds herself trapped under Aunt Lydia's rule.

Dowd (62) was born in Massechusetts and was educated by Irish Catholic sisters for ten years and told The Independent, "I was very familiar with that world,” she said. “No, I was never treated in any way resembling Lydia but what did I learn? A work ethic.”

Ann Dowd and Elizabeth Moss as Aunt Lydia and Offred in The Handmaid's Tale
Ann Dowd and Elizabeth Moss as Aunt Lydia and Offred in The Handmaid's Tale

She has earned an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the role in the series which is in its second season. 

She said she does not judge her character, despite her flaws and just surrenders to the process.

“It depends on one’s perspective but to me, it’s a relationship that I’m fortunate to have,” she said. “You make a decision early on, and as in a friendship, you don’t judge because if you feel like you’re being judged in a relationship, you just shut down.”

The actress is also no stranger to playing tough roles, having previously starred as cult leader Patti Levin in HBO hit The Leftovers, which ran for three series.

“If you show me a character who’s a loner going her own way, right away I’m like, ‘I’d love to know her’,” she said of her role choices.

“So lucky me to have played these solitary women who are actually interesting beyond being in a sexual relationship. I love these characters. It’s been a pleasure to come to know them.”

The Handmaid's Tale continues on Thursday nights on RTE 2 at 10.35pm.

Read more: The Handmaid's Tale season 2 episode 1 review: Elisabeth Moss stuns in harrowing showstopper

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