Oprah Winfrey's 'The Handmaid's Tale' Cameo Was So Quick, You May Have Missed It
This week's episode of The Handmaid's Tale was one of the shortest episodes the series has done so far. It was one of the straightest stories they've done, focusing completely on Elisabeth Moss' Offred, in a tour de force performance, which is probably her Best Actress Emmy submission. But before the episode got down to business, there was a moment of levity, as a voice which sounded oddly like Oprah Winfrey came on over the car radio. I assumed it to be a well-done impersonation, but no! Oprah Winfrey's The Handmaid's Tale cameo was actually the real deal.
If you missed the brief moment of Oprah glory, it comes early on in the episode, when a super pregnant Offred, trapped alone in an abandoned house as the first contractions hit, finds a set of car keys and fires up the Mustang in the garage. It might be able to get her to Canada and freedom, if the baby stays put just a few hours longer, and she can somehow get the garage door open. When she turns the car on, she discovers the radio was apparently left on, and the channel auto-searches for a signal until it lands on "Radio Free America."
The dulcet tones Oprah fans know and love declares:
....this is Radio Free America, broadcasting from somewhere in the great white north. And now this news: The American government in Anchorage today received promises of economic aid from India and China. In the United Kingdom, additional sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada. Now a tune to remind everyone who's listening — American patriot or Gilead traitor — that we are still here. Stars and stripes forever, baby.
Oprah then plays Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart." It's a wonderfully appropriate number for the moment, as the track was inspired by the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem "Ulysses," which is a retelling of the Odysseus story of the traveler desperate to get back home.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Handmaid's Tale creator and showrunner Bruce Miller said the idea came to him when he discovered Oprah was a big fan of Season 1.
We'd heard Oprah was a fan of the show, and had a story idea, and thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if ... So we asked and she said yes, and it was a lovely, easy process.
As for what inspired the idea of including a "Radio Free" segment hosted by one of America's most iconic voices:
The radio segment she recorded was inspired by the free radio of the Allies from World War II. It was an absolute honor to have Oprah featured on the show, and especially thrilling as she was the one who presented us with the Emmy last year.
According to star Elisabeth Moss, she got to experience Oprah's fandom firsthand. Last year at the Emmys, Oprah kept peppering her with questions. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, she said:
She was in the dressing room next to me and she kept popping back into the room to ask questions about the show or to make comments or ask what was coming up for a specific character. Then she’d leave and I’d close the door and have a silent freak-out moment, just screaming silently, that Oprah Winfrey even knew what the show was and then she would pop back up with more questions.
As for viewers, it's a relief to know one of America's most beloved figures got out of Gilead before anyone could turn her into a Martha, or worse. She's fighting the good fight from somewhere in Alaska, and maybe one day, when Gilead goes down in defeat, she will be able to return to her beloved Chicago.