After The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal 1985 novel, premiered in 2017, certain visual cues from the novel were appropriated by women’s-rights protesters across the United States. It made sense, in a way, that the red gowns and white hoods from the eerily prescient novel would dress women organizing in protest of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court (as expected, he’s swiftly taken aim at Roe v. Wade) and of a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
So it seems reasonable that onlookers might see a group of nearly 200 women dressed in those same red gowns and white hoods on the Washington Mall and mistake it for a protest—but, as spotted in the capital this past weekend, these were the real handmaids themselves, gathered to film the forthcoming third season of the show.
On Friday, several Washington, D.C.–based reporters posted sightings of a massive group of costumed handmaids, as well as blue-beanied, machine-gun-wielding guards, at the top of the Mall, outside the Lincoln Memorial and just across from the spire of the Washington Monument. “Says something about 2019 that we had to see this up close to figure out if it was a protest or filming for the Handmaid’s Tale season 3. (It’s the latter),” Kaiser Health News journalist Rachel Bluth wrote on Twitter. Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, and Joseph Fiennes were all photographed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by the camera crew.
The third season’s trailer, which aired during the Super Bowl last month, offered a glimpse of this very moment: the handmaids lined up in the capital, the Washington Monument remade as a cross in the distance. The short promo spot took the form of a propagandized advertisement referencing a 1984 Ronald Reagan campaign ad—“This year, dozens of children will be born to happy and healthy families,” a voice reads, narrating images of domestic bliss—before exploding into the dystopia we all know well at this point, Elisabeth Moss’s piercing eyes staring out from under a white hood. “Wake up, America,” she murmurs over the image of the Washington Monument turned into a cross. That would certainly be a sight for the capital’s reporters to arrive to work to see.