Ann Dowd’s decades-long career has shown the audience her caliber in dozens of roles, but she is probably best known for her frightening character on Channel 4’s dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
Aunt Lydia is a disciplinarian tasked with keeping a watchful eye over her handmaids, fertile women used by the extremist regime of Gilead to bear children for privileged couples.
Throughout the series, the character shows occasional glimmers of humanity, but they are frequently overshadowed by the sheer cruelty of her actions.
Nonetheless, Dowd feels an affinity with the role that she has thoroughly made her own and was excited to see Lydia play a central part in Margaret Atwood’s sequel novel, The Testaments.
She says “I was thrilled. It’s more than I could ever have hoped for,” she told RadioTimes.com. “The actor can sit there all day and say ‘Oh, I hope this happens to the character, oh wouldn’t this be great.’
This is beyond all expectation and it’s done, of course, in the way that Atwood always approaches things: with such intelligence, humor and absolutely no sentimentality.”
That lack of sentimentality originates from Atwood’s drastically different origin for Lydia to that which is seen in the series.
While the show presents her as the product of a deeply religious father and aimed to understand how she strayed down such a dark path in life, The Testaments does no such thing.
The book depicts Lydia as coming from a non-religious family and rising to her role in Gilead simply as a means to survive. Yet Dowd’s sympathy for the character remains steadfast, still seeing the light even in this version of the character.
She adds “It goes in the direction that, I believe, there’s redemption in this for Lydia. Now, I don’t know that Atwood would agree.
But, from my perspective, what ends up happening could be described as Lydia in her aging and in looking back, making a decision that acknowledges a desire for redemption,” to her previous statements.
Dowd’s other notable work apart from this one include playing the traumatized Sister Margarita on BritBox exclusive Lambs of God, alongside Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World) and Essie Davis (The Babadook).
The series finds three nuns living in a crumbling monastery located on a remote island. After years of being completely alone, they are horrified when a priest arrives and informs them of the Church’s intention to close the place down.