What Could Margaret Atwood’s Cameo on The Handmaid’s Tale Be?

For those wondering to what extent Margaret Atwood would be involved in Hulu’s adaptation of her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, she’s apparently been to the set—and not just as a consulting producer, but also to shoot a cameo! The other day Atwood tweeted:

Spent a very strange time filming cameo on set of #handmaidstale TV series! @hulu @MGM_Studios You will not believe what I did! (Or wore.)

— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) September 17, 2016

The comment about her presumably outrageous outfit could actually apply to anyone, seeing as the fundamentalist Republic of Gilead lent itself to incredibly stylized costuming: Women are segregated according to caste, wearing gowns of particular colors to designate their place in the social order. The eponymous Handmaids wear red (along with creepy wimple-like headdresses that act as blinders), Wives wear light blue (to emulate the Virgin Mary), Daughters white, Aunts brown, Marthas (servants) green, and Econowives multicolored red/blue/green gowns to symbolize their combined expectations. With that in mind, I have three guesses (some of which contains spoilers for the end of the book, so read at your own risk):

Aunt: Going by her age alone, it would make the most sense for Atwood to portray one of the Aunts, the older (and infertile) women who train the Handmaids to be honorable members of Gilead society. Much of Offred’s flashbacks take place in this training center, run by the manipulative Aunt Lydia. Now, Lydia is probably too influential of a role to count as a cameo, but we could see Atwood in the background during Offred’s training. And considering that the Aunts are the only women allowed to read, I like the visual of Atwood reading a book in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.

Jezebel: It’s not just me—more than one Twitter user took Atwood’s comment about the strange experience and what she wore to mean she could show up in one of the book’s most scandalous scenes, when the Commander takes Offred to a brothel, where they encounter her lost friend Moira.

Professor Knotly Wade: Now this would be wonderfully meta—cast Atwood as a presenter at the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies, taking place in 2195 in Nunavit (what we know today as northern Canada). There, Professors James Darcy Pieixoto and Knotly Wade discuss their discovery of The Handmaid’s Tale, a series of cassette tapes on which Offred records her story. Wade doesn’t actually attend the symposium in the book; their contribution to the study is mentioned in Pieixoto’s speech. And I wouldn’t cast Atwood as Pieixoto or Professor Maryann Crescent Moon, as both characters should be played by people of color. But if they wrote in Wade as a small part, that would be amazing to see Atwood riffing on her own book as an anthropological artifact.

Atwood’s better at keeping secrets than Offred, however, so we probably won’t know until it airs. But fingers crossed that Hulu releases some images soon, because I’m dying to know what the costumes look like this time around.

In fact, this isn’t Atwood’s only cameo; she’ll also appear in Netflix’s adaptation of her murder drama Alias Grace. According to CBC News, Atwood was fitted for a cameo to play “a disapproving lady in a church,” she said in a recent interview. “Typecasting,” she added with a laugh.

Where do you think we’ll glimpse Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Photo: Mark Hill/Flickr


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