Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale Sequel Is Already Being Developed by Hulu

Ann Dowd stars at Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, a character who becomes a protagonist in the sequel book.
Photo: Sophie Giraud (Hulu)

The story of Gilead will continue. Hulu and MGM have signed on to adapt Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the upcoming sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, a fresh look at life both in and out of Gilead that stars two new protagonists...along with a very familiar face.

First reported by Time and confirmed by io9, Hulu and MGM Television are currently working on plans to adapt The Testaments, with The Handmaid’s Tale showrunner Bruce Miller involved in talks about how to do so. We reached out to Hulu on whether this will be rolled into the existing series, or developed as its own show or perhaps even a theatrical film, here’s what they had to say:

MGM and Hulu are currently in discussions with Handmaid’s showrunner Bruce Miller about how the upcoming novel can become an important extension to the immensely popular award-winning series The Handmaids Tale. The Testaments picks up fifteen years after the original Handmaid’s Tale novel.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, which recently finished its third season and has already been renewed for a fourth one and Hulu pointed out this will be the third collaboration between Atwood and MGM Television.”

It seems possible (even likely) that The Testaments could be added to the existing series, given how the timeline and characters could improve the series, which has started to stagnate. The third season ended on a pretty strange note, with June (Elisabeth Moss) succeeding in getting dozens of kids out of Gilead, while still being stuck there. It’s hard to tell where things could even go from here, or how long the show can justify keeping June in Gilead. Even Atwood agreed that June’s time in Gilead is running its course.

“They can’t keep Offred in Gilead for many more seasons, or a certain amount of wheel spinning will be going on,” the author told Time. “They have to move her along—and I’ve given them lots of ways of how that would happen.”

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If they brought the sequel into The Handmaid’s Tale, changing it from June’s story to these new protagonists, the wheel could turn more efficiently. The Testaments takes place 15 years after the events of the first book, which ended (much like the first season of the show) with Offred boarding a mysterious van to destinations unknown, which means she’s no longer a first-person protagonist. Instead, the story is being shared by three women. According to Time, two of them are new characters—a young women raised in Gilead and a Canadian teenager “who learns she was actually born there”—and one of them is eerily familiar. It’s Aunt Lydia.

Ann Dowd, who plays the terrifying but complex character on The Handmaid’s Tale, has reprised her role for the audiobook of The Testaments, joining Bryce Dallas Howard and Mae Whitman as the protagonists of the sequel. Hulu wouldn’t confirm whether Dowd would continue as Aunt Lydia in The Testaments, no matter what form the adaptation takes, but Dowd did tell Time that she hopes to see the story from The Testaments brought into The Handmaid’s Tale...as it provides even more context and complexity for the character than we got in her season three backstory. Either way, she said this new insight into the character will definitely inform her performance.

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“It gives a clear indication from the creator of this story of where she will end up and what will happen—and that affects the approach, in terms of where her mind is going,” Dowd said. “She’s very savvy, very much a player and knows the politics. She’s always thinking, always planning, always assessing. In the end of the last season, you know we’re in trouble, because how many of those young girls got out? That is a massive, massive catastrophe. And the fact that Lydia was not onto it in a meaningful way, she’s got some work to do.”

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The Testaments book comes out on September 10, with the audiobook debuting the same day. We’ll bring you more on the adaptation as we know it.


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About the author

Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.