What surprised us the most about Max Minghella is the amount of introspection that he brings to the role of Nick. The Handmaid’s Tale is all about perspectives and the viewers take something away from Nick based almost entirely on their perception of Minghella. He comes across very differently in the show than in our exclusive interview, even sounding very different (the actor/screenwriter/director has a very euphonic British accent) and quite animated. He’s truly a connoisseur of the moving image, and our takeaway is quite different after this illuminating condensed and edited interview.
Brief Take: Now that you’ve wrapped the second season, what are your impressions of the season overall?
Max Minghella: The scope of the filmmaking and the quality of the filmmaking this year is on a whole other level. Everybody challenged themselves to push the envelope and it was exciting to see what Mike Barker and the other directors brought to it. I’m a filmmaking nerd, that’s what I get most excited about, so I’m really excited for people to see some of the sequences they’ve put together this year.
BT: The directors and cinematographers use a lot of close-ups and angled shots on the show. As a so-called “filmmaking nerd”, are you aware of when they’re filming your scenes in that manner?
MM: Oh I’m hyper aware of it! We’re all very much a family and it’s our second season. Many of our favourite directors who came back, such as Mike Barker and Colin Watkinson, we all have a dialogue about what the lens may be or things like that. Elisabeth Moss is a real filmmaker unto herself, which I think a lot of people don’t know about her. She stars in the show and is in every day but she’s also a principal producer on the show. She’s very, very involved in everything down to call times and, in turn, is very involved in the creative. I’d say we all have a hand in how the show is put together but we’re led by a team of amazing filmmakers, who are all keen to push themselves to do their very best work.
BT: There’s been a lot of mentions of “Peak TV” and how The Handmaid’s Tale is very much leading the way in that cultural movement. As a filmmaker, screenwriter and actor, what other shows do you admire?
MM: I think season one of The Girlfriend Experience is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in any medium. [laughs] I hope we come as close as The Girlfriend Experience! That would be a fantastic thing. [laughs] It’s so nice to talk to a fellow Girlfriend Experience fan, man! [laughs] Not enough people have watched it.
BT: I’ve seen the first six episodes of season 2 and all of season 1 and still I know very little about Nick.
MM: I love that he constantly has to wear a mask and different masks, and that makes any scene interesting. I am very excited that I get to keep inhabiting this person. With Nick, I don’t know if it’s the writers reflecting myself into the character or whether it’s just luck or circumstance, but there’s a lot of me in this person. So I often do try to draw from my own experiences. Lizzie and I have a very special relationship and connection and that’s very organic to us. So I really try to embed reality into it as much as possible. If I were playing someone wildly different to myself, it would probably be a lot harder. I like that I can try and bring some of my own personality to it.
This is my first time doing a long running TV show and he’s a character I love. I think it would be difficult to do this kind of format and not love the character you’re doing. We also don’t know each other long enough for us to not like one another. [laughs] Everybody gets along with one another and everybody is super professional. It’s a very work-focused work, it’s not a big partying group. Everyone really shows up and gets excited about what we’re going to put in front of the camera that day. So far it’s been a fun journey and it’s been a fun show to act on. Plus I get to act opposite Lizzie who must be the best actor I’ve ever come across. I’m so proud of the show and I think it’s enriching and I hope people give their time to watch it.
BT: I’m a big admirer of the film Horns that you were in. I was at the TIFF premiere and you unfortunately were not, but the film has stayed with me. It presumably was a memorable project for you as well since you went on to adapt The 9th Life of Louis Drax, which [Horns director] Alexandre Aja directed and produced.
MM: Alexandre is someone who I’ve long admired. Seeing The Hills Have Eyes really affected me. It was a truly disturbing experience and he’s always been someone I’ve been keen to collaborate with. Horns was a movie that I had a lot of issues with on the page, which Alex is very aware of. [laughs] But ultimately my desire to work with him and Joe Hill were strong enough to go into that, and I’m really happy that I did because it birthed the creative collaboration.
BT: It’s also been one of your many projects filmed in Canada.
MM: It is half intentional in the sense that I am obsessed with Canada. I pretend that I’m Canadian.
BT: You’re definitely an honorary Canadian!
MM: [laughs] I don’t know if I’m there yet. But yes, I fucking loooooove Canada and it’s been a big part of my life, by total coincidence, during the last four years. I mean the movie, when we shot Drax in Vancouver, that was somewhat because we loved making Horns there so much and wanted to go back. But I hope to continue working there, certainly as a filmmaker when I get to choose where we end up, which never gets to happen. But when it does get to happen, Canada is always at the top of my list. There are some amazing crews there, a real filmmaking culture and just great food and great people.
BT: Are there any particular places in Toronto and Vancouver that you like to frequent?
MM: If you knew how boring I was as a person, you wouldn’t be asking me this. [laughs] I don’t do anything. I get coffee in the morning and then I work. That’s my life. [laughs] So my relationship to both cities is restricted to coffee shops. But there is very, very good coffee in both.
BT: One of my most anticipated movies for the coming year is your directorial debut, the pop musical Teen Spirit. What can you tell me about it?
MM: I’m incredibly proud of the movie. I think, for better or worse, it’s exactly what I set out to make. Elle Fanning’s performance in the film is quite extraordinary and I think she’s going to show sides of herself that people haven’t seen before. She’s playing a British girl who speaks Polish who sings and dances…it’s an incredibly challenging role. So I’m excited for people to see the film and I’m excited for people to see her in it. Autumn Durald, who shot the movie, did something really spectacular that made me look much cleverer than I am. So yeah, I’m excited for people to see it. What’s nice about Teen Spirit is that it’s not a challenging film. It’s, hopefully, a piece of pop entertainment. My biggest hope is that people have a good time watching it. It’s the antithesis of The Handmaid’s Tale in many ways. [laughs]
The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 premieres on April 25th on Hulu in the US and on April 29th at 9pm on Bravo in Canada. New episodes stream on CraveTV the day after their linear broadcast on Bravo.