Joseph Fiennes reveals ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ rape scene he refused to perform

"It just didn't track for me"

Joseph Fiennes has spoken about a sexual assault scene in season two of The Handmaid’s Tale that he asked to be cut from an episode.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Fiennes, who plays the domineering Commander Fred Waterford in the dystopian US TV drama, said that he took a stand and sent “long emails” to push for the scene’s removal.

In the episode 9 scene, Commander Waterford was supposed to rape his wife, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), while the couple were across the Gilead-Canada border on a diplomatic visit.

Fiennes said: “I guess in many ways, as abhorrent and nasty and evil as Fred is, I have to defend parts of him.


“It just didn’t track for me. I had to go out on a limb and refuse to do it because I felt that even though Fred is who he is, he’s human.

“And I think that he would be reeling from the interaction with Luke, and that suddenly the reality comes face to face with him and he would be digesting that and trying to understand it, and he wouldn’t necessarily be switched on by being in Canada in a new hotel and trying to heavily persuade his wife to do something that she wouldn’t want to do.”

He added that he successfully made his case with “long emails and defending and pushing, and feeling that Yvonne had tracked Serena so beautifully that her disenfranchisement with the regime and Fred was so beautifully charted it didn’t need a heavy scene to kind of suddenly push her over the edge.”

Despite the situation, Fiennes added that he enjoys working with difficult material.

“It’s really about battling for human nuance within a very dark character,” he said.


This month, a Handmaid’s Tale-themed wine was been pulled from sale shortly after being made available.

People were swift to point out that selling alcohol based on a series about the systemic rape and abuse of women was a distasteful move.