Madeline Brewer Talks TV Parables and 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Madeline Brewer Talks TV Parables and 'The Handmaid's Tale'

For the busy Handmaid's Tale and Black Mirror actress, there’s no time for reflection.

For the busy Handmaid's Tale and Black Mirror actress, there’s no time for reflection.

Photography: Bruno Staub

Styling: Julian Jesus

Text: Whitney Mallett

“It honestly made me delete all of my social media apps for a while,” actress Madeline Brewer says about Black Mirror, the darkly satirical sci-fi show that explores contemporary technoparanoia. Before she landed the role of a trigger-happy soldier manipulated by an augmented-reality implant, Brewer had already been a fan of the series. “A mirror reflects what you see and a black mirror shows the dark side of it,” she notes, deciphering the show’s title. “I love that it reflects society, but to its extremes.”

Brewer’s been hard at work on another project, the small-screen adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. “The only value my character possesses is her healthy ovaries,” explains Brewer, who plays Janine, a handmaiden in a totalitarian caste system where women are forced into reproductive servitude. Unpacking how this fictional dystopia reflects our society, she attests, “I’m realizing that a lot of people don’t really care what happens to other people as long as it doesn’t affect them.”

The 24-year-old hails from South Jersey, but right after high school she moved to New York to study musical theater, her tuition paid in small part by the prize money she earned winning her town’s Miss Pitman pageant. “It made it so that I didn’t completely bankrupt my parents and I could come here for school and have a little freedom to go to Chipotle,” she jokes. Right out of school, Brewer snagged the role of Tricia Miller on Orange Is the New Black, a blonde cornrowed inmate who struggles with drug addiction until she overdoses during the first season.

Although it’s hard to reconcile the idea of a pageant queen with the gritty characters she inhabits on shows like Orange Is the New Black and Black Mirror, Brewer has a candidness that points to a tender vulnerability underneath her tough veneer. Case in point: she has “I do not love you” tattooed in white ink on her arm. “Even if the industry or a man tells me it doesn’t love me, it doesn’t need me, or that I’m not worthy of it, fuck that, I’m fine,” she affirms, noting, “I also didn’t want it to say, I love myself,’ though, you know?”

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