TORONTO – Just days after taking the stage with Margaret Atwood and “The Handmaid’s Tale” team at the Emmy Awards, Canadian actress Amanda Brugel is preparing to shoot season 2 of the series, which she says explores “what happens next after the book closes.”
Based on Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel about a society that treats women as property of the state, “The Handmaid’s Tale” won eight Emmys on Sunday, including best drama series.
Brugel, who plays household servant Rita, had to fly back to Toronto on a red-eye Monday to shoot CBC’s “Workin’ Moms” before joining the set of “The Handmaid’s Tale” next week.
“We hit the ground running, and this most definitely has just invigorated our desire to get back and create an even better season,” Brugel said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
The Pointe Claire, Que., native said she was sitting with Atwood, who is a consulting producer on the series, during the Emmys ceremony.
When “The Handmaid’s Tale” won the top award at the end of the night, Brugel encouraged the acclaimed Toronto author to go onstage with the cast and producers.
Walking arm in arm, they were the last ones to reach the podium as the crowd gave Atwood a standing ovation.
“I don’t think she anticipated going down front and centre,” said Brugel. “She’s so humble and real, and so I don’t think she even anticipated that reaction but that reaction is so deserved.”
For Brugel, it was a moment she’d been dreaming about since she was in university, when she was considering becoming a writer and penned her thesis on “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“A large chunk of it was on my character Rita,” she said. “So it’s something that’s been with me for 20-odd years.”
While onstage Sunday, Brugel heeded the advice of a friend who had texted her just seconds before.
“She said, ‘Stay in this moment, stay in this moment, stay in this moment’ in all caps, so I was … trying to just be as present as possible,” she said.
“It’s not every day that you get to, particularly as a Canadian, stand on that stage and receive that amount of energy and love.”
When the broadcast ended, “The Handmaid’s Tale” team stayed onstage “for probably around 15 minutes and hugged and screamed and cried and danced,” said Brugel.
Oprah Winfrey was with them and took some photos with the team, including Atwood and Brugel.
“She leaned over and said ‘Well done,’ and I said ‘Oprah,'” Brugel said with a laugh.
“Yep, that’s all I said. I just said ‘Oprah.’ … Within feet of me was Elisabeth Moss and Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Atwood, the three women who have really shaped who I have always wanted to be and who I am becoming as a woman.
“On a platform like the Emmys, to be surrounded by the most iconic women, I feel like I won the lottery.”
Moss stars in the Ontario-shot series as Offred, one of the “handmaids” forced to bear children for a commander and his infertile wife.
In season 2, “the world is definitely opening up beyond what was there in the book,” said Brugel, who has been promoted to series regular.
“We were quite obviously tied to the journey that the book takes and then ties to certain locations and ties to descriptions,” she added.
“But now during the second season, we can open up and our periphery can expand beyond Gilead, which is going to be I think immensely rewarding for audiences and for our characters as well.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is streaming on CraveTV after debuting on Hulu in the U.S. and airing on Bravo in Canada.