Fred Waterford in 'The Handmaid's Tale' is 'dark, creepy and complicated', but that's what actor Joseph Fiennes loves about him

Actor Joseph Fiennes plays the role of Commander Fred Waterford who runs the dystopian world of Gilead in Hulu's show 'The Handmaid's Tale'.

                            Fred Waterford in 'The Handmaid's Tale' is 'dark, creepy and complicated', but that's what actor Joseph Fiennes loves about him

Actor Joseph Fiennes portrays one of the most hated characters in television series right now. He plays  Fred Waterford, the commander of the dystopian world Gilead, in 'The Handmaid's Tale'.  He is the man who significantly orchestrated the bringing about of a world in which women are stripped of their place and are treated as mere subjects to rule upon. What makes Fred Waterford the man that he is? At times he is a caring husband, even loving at fleeting instances, but at other times, he is cruel enough to belt his wife and rape his handmaid with the help of the said wife. Does he have no mercy? No conscience? What goes on in his mind when he does such cruel things? Here's an attempt to decode one of the most hated villains in TV's present.


In 'The Art and making of The Handmaid's Tale', a book authored by Andrea Robinson, actor Joseph who plays the role of Fred in the series has tried to bring to fore the character's ideals, ideas and add a humane dimension to the monster that he is portrayed to be. Joseph said, "He's dark, creepy and complicated, but in his world and in his mind, it's all about the betterment of mankind. Also, he's landed in a position and place that's impossible to back out of." Joseph also mentioned that this is one of the reasons why he has come to love the character. 

Another thing that has to be pointed out is the difference between Fred before Gilead and Fred after Gilead is a fascinating character arc. He takes help from his wife in the past to bring about a change that the two believe will make the world a better place, help them have a child, something that Serena is most determined about. However, when it comes to the present, not only does he sideline Serena from his work, he also doesn't hesitate to punish her for her 'crimes'. 


Joseph also explained how season two is when Fred truly realizes the monster that he is capable of becoming. He is fighting for control and it is a hard fight but he is in no position to give up. For instance, in the second season when Offred (Elisabeth Moss) succeeds in passing letters written by handmaids to Moira and Luke who in turn release it to the public and the government in Canada, Fred sees the rejection of his power and position first hand. Serena, who accompanies him on the official trip understands the extent of damage that they have done when she comes face to face with women who have been affected by their plans for Gilead and we can see a hint of self-doubt and remorse when she looks out, but as for Fred, he calls his Canadian counterpart a 'Coward'! 

A still of Joseph Fiennes as Fred Waterford in 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 2. (Source: Hulu)

This is so different from the man from the past who exacts revenge when he catches hold of the person who shot his wife down. The character growth is not just fascinating, but also impressive, especially considering how well the transition has been portrayed by Joseph on screen. Pointing out the same scene, Joseph explains, "A small flashback scene that has Fred caring for Serena in hospital and then reveals him taking revenge towards the man who put her there was hugely revealing, showing a dynamic in their relationship and in Fred that was greatly important in getting us to understand another facet of him."

Fred Waterford with his handmaid Offred in season 2 of 'The Handmaid's Tale'. (Source: Hulu)

In 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 3, Fred will have to face the biggest betrayal of his life - that of Serena helping Offred escape to Canada with their newborn baby. As he embraces his monstrous side, we can only expect his character to become crueler in his dealings and being petty when it comes to his wife. We cannot wait to see how Serena handles the situation - will she stay by his side or will she join hands with Offred? This is quite important because losing his wife's loyalty would only adversely affect Fred's fight for control. 

'The Handmaid's Tale' is slated to air on June 5 on Hulu. The book 'The Art and making of The Handmaid's Tale' is slated to release on May 14.