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Yvonne Strahovski Talks to Flare About ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ & Playing a Villain

Excerpts from the article:
Yvonne Strahovski, Serena Joy, The Handmaids Tale
…FLARE chatted with Yvonne Strahovski, one of the stars of the new Hulu original TV adaptation…about how the show is a cautionary tale.

Here, Strahovski, who had the daunting task of portraying Serena Joy, one of the architects of the fundamentalist, totalitarian world of Gilead — and a woman she calls “brutal” — talks white men in rooms deciding what women can do with their bodies, the power of participating in protests like the Women’s March and how the one of the series’s biggest strengths is showing it’s not the longest road to a place like Gilead.

Flare: How does it feel to be part of this show?

Yvonne Strahovski: It feels amazing because it’s something that is obviously incredibly relevant considering the political climate that we’re in right now, and accidentally so. We were shooting this show before and after the election and there have been issues that have arisen out of the election that the show directly parallels. The most fascinating thing to me will be to see how people receive it once it’s out in the open.

Flare: Did the mood on set change after the election?

YS: It was certainly a topic of conversation, but we were still plowing through with what we were doing. It definitely felt personally more precious to me and gave what we were doing on the show more of an edge. It also complicated it a bit more emotionally because I’m playing Serena Joy, which is one of the villains in this story, and here I am trying to humanize her and figure out what really makes her heart happy, while at the same time living through some pretty insane stuff that was going on in the real world.

Flare: How challenging was it to strike that balance with Serena where she’s both the villain but has human qualities?

YS: Being honest with you, it was really hard. It was very hard to relate to her; I don’t really relate to her. There’s not a lot to like about her. She’s very unfriendly, she’s unapproachable, she’s very harsh, she’s brutal, at times, and you’ll see her be more brutal as the show goes on, and it’s not something that came easily. It’s something I really had to think about and wrap my head around and think ‘What is the driving force behind all this? What makes this woman so mean?’ And when it came down to it, I saw a woman who was the designer of her own cage. She was one of the architects of Gilead, where they all live now, which is the former America, and she was one of the people who turned it into this fundamentalist, totalitarian society, and now she has to live in this society that she created and she’s oppressed by it herself.

Flare: How did you delve into understanding Serena’s complicated pain?

YS: I thought about, how do you deal with having a big portion of your identity stripped away from you? You’re no longer able to read, write, read the news, create work; you’re not allowed to work, the only thing you’re allowed to do as a woman is follow your biological destiny and have a child. And if you can’t have a child, then you have a handmaid have a child for you and then you look after that child and that’s it. You look after the house and you’re no longer allowed to have sex for pleasure, it’s only allowed for procreation, so the right to be intimate with your partner has been taken away from you as well, as has the ability to relate to your partner on an intellectual level — anything to do with words and books and newspapers, that’s all gone. So I saw this woman who was an empty carcass, a shell, with not a lot around her to fill those empty holes and that turned her into a monster, but also a monster that had to try and survive in this cage, in this world.

Flare: Had you already read the book prior to starting the project?

YS: I had not read the book before I read the pilot, so I read the pilot first and I knew that I was not the go-to person for the role of Serena Joy because it was written originally as older. The script was obviously incredible, it was dripping in subtext, and it’s every actor’s dream to have that amount of tension in a pilot and so well-written, and there was something very dark and sad that drew me to Serena. Then once the ball got rolling, I read the book, which was an inspiring source for me to work from in terms of trying to portray Serena and create her and the relationships she has on-screen with the rest of the cast.

Flare: What draws you to complex characters like Serena and Hannah McKay on Dexter?

YS: There’s something about trying to figure out why someone is doing something that on the outside is horrible — what drives them to do that? What could drive any human being to that kind of behaviour? I find that fascinating because it’s not something that I can relate to, but to try and get down to the nitty gritty of it and understand where that darkness might be coming from is fascinating to me. I think humans are fascinating in general. We’re so weird. We do so many quirky things and we don’t even know it. There’s just so many layers upon layers of nuances in everything we do, and the most fun part as an actor is trying to get into all those nuances, whether they’re conscious or unconscious.

Flare: You were at the Women’s March here in Toronto [The Handmaid’s Tale was filmed in Toronto]. How important was it for you to take part in the march?

YS: I was in Toronto when the big Women’s March was going on and I thought, Well, I’ve never been to a protest and I can’t sit this one out and they’re having a gathering here in Toronto so I may as well go and gosh, I didn’t expect 60,000 or 65,000 people to be there — it was huge! It was something that I didn’t feel I could sit out at all. It’s interesting being part of the show, and all the themes that are coming up, and then you’ve got stuff in the news about white men in a room trying to decide what rights a woman has to her body and her child… I think that’s something we all should stand up for and fight for and that’s certainly something that I wanted to do. I loved seeing all the signs on the day. It was so amazing and sad to see some signs of some of the older women who had written “I can’t believe I’m still marching and fighting for this shit.” It’s pretty amazing the parallels that we can draw from the show to what’s going on right now in real life.

Flare: In light of the political climate, what do you hope people get out of the show?

YS: There are going to be lovers of the show, and there are going to be haters. There’s going to be some really strong opinions that come out about this show, just like there have been super strong opinions about the election — it’s been incredibly divisive. But the fact of the matter is the show is a display of what can happen when a fundamentalist regime takes over and turns society into a totalitarian-run government, and what that can do when that is imposed on humanity. The show is a display of the effects a totalitarian-run government has on humanity and the struggle to survive and everything that raises, like the denial of rights, the denial of life itself, the denial of your relationship to people, the denial of your own identity. It’s scary, and what I love about the series — and what’s done so effectively — is it shows that it’s not a long, drawn-out road to get to some place like Gilead. It is alarming and it is a warning sign — I’ve read some things about people interpreting it as a warning sign and I tend to agree with that. If there was ever a time for a show like this, it is now. The time is now, now, now, to raise the conversations and to not let things get worse than they are.

Flare: How did you unwind or shake it all off after shooting such intense scenes?

YS: It’s hard. This wasn’t easy to shake off or let go or leave at the studio. It was something that would weigh heavy on my mind when I went home, just because I felt like I was always trying to figure out why would this person do this and why would she be so mean, why would she be so brutal, I was always asking myself those questions and trying to make sense of her so it never really left me. Living through my first Canadian winter didn’t help me, but probably helped me as Serena! Exploring Canada was my relief, just spending time in nature and while it was still bearably cold outside, I would go out a lot and spend a lot of time at the lakeside, on the beaches and in the parks. On my days off, I skipped off to different areas like Algonquin Park and I went to Nova Scotia and did the Cabot Trail and just really embraced Canada and what it has to offer. It was my therapy.

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Caitriona Balfe Featured In Flare

The complete article:
Caitriona Balfe, Flare
Period pieces and romance novels have long been populated by swooning maidens, forever in peril and pining for rescue from their swashbuckling lovers. Outlander takes that trope and tells it to sod right off. The smash hit (season two is airing now on Showcase) is helmed by a lady hero: Claire Fraser, a feisty and flawed time-travelling Second World War–era Englishwoman (Caitriona Balfe). Even better, she’s often the one doing the saving, coming to the aid of her beautiful, bold and sensitive Highlander hunk, Jamie (babely Scot Sam Heughan), as they try to evade capture by the evil Captain Randall in 18th-century Scotland. (Oh, and the bad guy is the ancestor of Claire’s present-day husband, so they look exactly alike. Yikes.)

Caitriona Balfe, Flare

Viewers pant for the hot AF sex scenes, but it is the richness and complexity of the main characters — and the depth and equality of their partnership — that has won both OG fans of the obsessed-over Diana Gabaldon books upon which the series is based and new admirers alike. It is quite the score for any actress. Balfe, 36 — born in Ireland, currently living in Scotland while filming the show — was a relative newb before she was chosen to bring Claire to life. Prior to becoming an actor, she spent nearly a decade as a New York-based model, walking the runways for Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Givenchy, and racking up campaigns for Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein. But posing was not Balfe’s true calling. Instead, she headed to L.A. — in her wizened-by-Hollywood-standards late twenties — to become an actress, and endured four years of bit parts before landing Outlander. (And fancier film roles: next up, she is co-starring alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Jodie Foster’s hostage drama Money Monster.) There is a quick humour and sexy spiritedness to Balfe — fitting for a feisty gal raised in a tiny Irish village alongside six siblings, who still plays traditional music on the accordion and tin whistle — that makes her perfect casting for Claire. Continue reading

Shay Mitchell Covers Flare

The complete article:
Shay Mitchell, Flare
There are two types of people in this world,” Shay Mitchell tells me. “Those that take their pictures in the camera roll and the ones that take them in the Instagram app.” It’s 10 minutes into my interview with the Pretty Little Liars star, and we both laugh at the of-the-times dichotomy. As we continue to chat, I can’t help but mentally scroll through my feed, noting the friends who throw up hastily snapped shots with total abandon and those who post only carefully edited, magazine-worthy images. It’s easy to attribute the difference to a certain level of vanity, but later, when I watch Mitchell as she searches for the best possible lighting, adjusts her poses and tries various angles while documenting her FLARE shoot for our Snapchat, I realize it all boils down to being driven by either impulse or control. Mitchell (who has 11.5 million Instagram followers, plus 4.8 million on Facebook and 3.2 million on Twitter, along with 1.1 million YouTube subcribers) falls into the latter category; she’s deliberate about every single thing she does. And that’s what has enabled her to amass so many titles — actor, model, author, social entrepreneur and, most recently, Bioré ambassador — by the dewy age of 29 and stay sane in the process. Just in time for Mitchell’s latest accomplishment — her first feature film, Mother’s Day, hits theatres this month — here are 30 things you need to know about the quintuple (and counting) threat.

Prior to PLL, her resumé was pretty spare, bolstered by bit parts on the Canadian television shows Degrassi:The Next Generation and Rookie Blue, for which she’s credited as Model and Cute Girl, respectively.

While hustling toward that big break, she made ends meet by working at the now-closed Toronto nightclubs Circa and The Guvernment. “I might have been the worst bartender in history. I didn’t enjoy it,” she admits. “But that’s the work I had to put in to get where I am today.”

Putting in the work also involved pounding the pavement and introducing herself to every local agent she found on Google. “I put together 30 packages, and I drove around Toronto in my friend’s car, handing them out one by one.” From those 30, one woman, Robyn Friedman, called her back — and she’s still Mitchell’s agent today.
Shay Mitchell, Flare
She knew from a young age that she wanted to act — specifically in dramas. “Renting movies with my dad was always one of my favourite things. I loved how actors can make you feel and knew that at some point that’s what I would do for other people.”

But she didn’t start training until she reached her 20s — Mitchell didn’t even take a single drama class in school. She made sure to do the usual formative things instead, like finish high school and travel, before launching into an all-consuming career.

She even dabbled in modeling — a consequence of her try-everything-once attitude that becomes more apparent the more you get to know her.

And she’s pretty good at it, too. Witnessing her work on set, it’s hard to believe professional posing was just a short-lived side gig. She instinctively understood every garment she put on and exactly how to move in it so it would photograph well — not to mention how easily she nailed every shot.
Shay Mitchell, Flare
Even as a relative newb, Mitchell was up for the challenge of a network show. “Out of all the girls on Pretty Little Liars, I was the greenest. It was really great that people were willing to take a chance on me,” she says.

This spring, she’ll be deep into taping the seventh, possibly final season of Pretty Little Liars. Looking back, Mitchell says, she’s proud of playing Emily Fields: “A lot of the time in TV and movies, lesbian relationships are overly sexualized. But Emily’s were always very sincere. Our show was a trailblazer in that way.”

She says her family was very open and accepting, so she never considered homosexuality to be a big deal, but she recognizes that for a lot of kids that’s not the case. She hopes shows like PLL can change that. “Because people are watching with their families and friends, it opens up discussion.”

Despite how much she loves working on the show, she’s at peace with it coming to an end. “It’s been great, getting to exhaust all the different things a character can do,” she says, without a drop of sentimentality in her voice. “Now it’s time for me to find another one.”
Shay Mitchell, Flare
Still, she’d totally sign on for a PLL movie. “The movie is a rumour. Would I love that rumour to come true? Absolutely. I think all of us girls would have so much fun, especially if we could shoot it in Europe or Tahiti!”

Girl loves to travel. Her insatiable appetite for it is a topic we keep circling back to, and I get the sense she could talk about it for hours. See: Shaycations, one of the 13 playlists on her YouTube channel, which also features fashion DIYs, recipe demos and ask-me-anything-style Q&As. Since launching Shaycations a year ago, she’s taken viewers on tours of Bali, Hong Kong and, her fave destination so far, Morocco.

Her latest Shaycation: the outback of Montana, where she met a professional dogsled racer. “She’s the same age as me, and her life is so completely different,” Mitchell says. “She was talking about how she doesn’t have a smartphone and she just got running water in her place. That’s what I love so much about travel — meeting people and hearing about their lives and detaching yourself from everything you’re accustomed to.”

Mitchell calls Los Angeles home, but she’s still a Canadian girl at heart, having grown up in Mississauga, Ont., and spent her teen years in Vancouver, where her parents and brother, Sean, a musician and record label owner, still live.

She’s super close with her family — she even channelled aspects of her own mother for her role as Tina, stepmom to Jennifer Aniston’s character’s kids, in Mother’s Day. “Even when my brother and I were in trouble, she’d smile — but sometimes you knew a certain smile was an angry one.”

She’s bringing her mom and grandmother as her dates to the movie’s Hollywood premiere. (But before you ask, she still hasn’t decided what she’s going to wear, guys.)

The best part about landing the Mother’s Day gig? “Knowing Garry Marshall was directing it,” she says. “I love Pretty Woman more than I can tell you.”

She also loved working with Aniston. “After all the success, she’s still such a sweet person, and she still loves being on set. You could feel that energy.”

Mitchell herself has all the energy. “I’m not just someone who can sit around and wait for the next audition.”

The hustle is so strong she somehow found time in her packed schedule to write a book. After publishing her first novel, Bliss, last fall, which she co-authored with her bestie Michaela Blaney, she’s already working on a follow-up, which she hopes will be out in early 2017.

Although it’s fiction, Mitchell says Bliss is loosely based on her real life and friends. “It’s therapeutic for me to write,” she says. “I can get everything off my chest, but I also don’t have to admit to what parts are true or own up to anything.”

She’s always two steps ahead — after the next novel she wants to put out a lifestyle book. “Something that combines entertaining, home decor and travel,” she says — like an IRL iteration of her YouTube channel.

Mitchell may be committed to old-school print, yet it’s her social media empire that truly awes. “I’m showing behind the scenes, and people are getting to know who I really am, not the characters I play or who I am on the red carpet,” Mitchell says, after I ask her why her fans go so nuts for her Snapchat vids. Follow her and here’s what you’re in for: airport jaunts, exclusive on-set PLL action, filter testing, impromptu car dance parties and a surprising amount of Shake Shack.

Although her #OOTDs are on point, she doesn’t take fashion too seriously. “My style is always changing. It’s all about how I woke up that morning: sometimes I’ll just grab whatever is sitting on the hanger in front of me. I just want it to be fun.”

She admits to editing her photos … a little. “Sure, I’m guilty of taking out a blemish here and there,” she says. “And I’m also not afraid to tell people, ‘Oh, to get that one good photo, I took 5,000.’ These photos are going to be out there forever.”

She sides with Kim Kardashian on #selfiegate: “Kim is a grown woman, and she can make her own decisions. I’m not about to judge her for her nude selfie. What I do have a problem with is young girls doing it for attention or to get more likes. They don’t realize it’s going to be on the Internet for all time.”

Mitchell has her social media limits (naked selfies included). Her golden rule? Never post anything (or anyone) she doesn’t want to get asked about in an interview — that includes who she’s dating.

Her downtime is precious. Here’s what it looks like: eating in bed, watching The Bachelor (she was totally rooting for JoJo last season) and planning a major trip “possibly on a boat” with a group of friends for her 30th birthday next year.

Is she apprehensive about hitting the big 3-0? No. (Obvs.) “I just think it’s something to be very excited for. Every year — 30, 31, 40, 50 — is just another amazing milestone with even more amazing experiences to come.”

Bonus! Steal her beauty hacks:

“If I need to look more awake, I’ll hang off a bed or chair, or do a handstand against a wall,” Mitchell says. “We [as humans] are always on our feet, so once in a while it’s good to get the blood flowing.” She also swears by green tea bags to de-puff tired eyes, cut-up beets on her lips for a natural tint and moisturizing coconut oil everywhere else. It’s no wonder Bioré signed the DIY beauty guru as a spokesmodel earlier this year. Mitchell has long been a fan of the brand’s famed pore strips — she’s even convinced her brother to try them — but it’s the new Baking Soda Cleansing Scrub, $16, that has her bubbling at the moment. The wash starts off as a powder and turns to foam once you add water. “I’ve used baking soda in homemade face masks before. It’s gentle and exfoliating; when you put it on your skin, you really do feel it work.”

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