Total armour

In conversation with Madeline Brewer.

A conversation with Emmy nominated actress Madeline Brewer, star of The Handmaid's Tale, Orange Is The New Black & recently YOU. Interview by Sedef Nihat.

Where does this interview find you currently?

At this very moment I’m leaving New York for a few days, heading to London!

Though you achieved your industry breakthrough with Netflix, theatre has always been an essential part of your acting journey. In what ways did the stage prepare you for a successful career in front of the cameras?

Theatre is essential not only to preparing you for a career as an actor or in any artistic medium, but I think it prepares you for a more full life. Doing theater especially from a young age taught me discipline, expanded my mind and my imagination, and ignited my creativity and empathy.

From your TV debut in Orange Is the New Black to your latest leading role in the horror short film Pruning, giving voice to prominent political and social issues seems to be a common feature among the productions you’ve starred in. Do you consider yourself an activist?

I think that there is an element of activism in the content of the work I choose to do. I have been lucky to be a part of projects that have something to say beyond being entertaining. I love the work I do to have a longer life, a more important point of view, beyond the time you’re watching it in a theater or at home.

Each character you personify is unlike anyone you’ve played before, particularly when it comes to appearance. From cornrow-donning Tricia in OITNB, one-eyed Janine in “The Handmaid’s Tale”, to the eccentricity of Down in “Hustlers” — it feels as though you’ve lived a dozen different lives. Have any of them left a trace in your personal style?

I take something from every character or rather, they each give something to me that I take along. They’ve each helped me become a better actor, better woman, and a better person.

Speaking of personal style, a while ago you shared that “a dress can be an entire attitude, total armour.” Can costume really exude that kind of power?

It absolutely can. Clothes can be just clothes if that’s all you ask of them. But when creating a character, when bringing a new person to life, deciding on their personal style is essential character building in my opinion. An extraordinary part of my job is working with many other artists who put pieces of themselves and their histories into their department. One of my favorite days in a new job is the costume fitting. Clothing can be armor, if that’s what’s needed. Clothing, fabrics, shoes, shapes, etc. they are all information about who this character is and informs the world we’re building.

You’ve been very open about having admired Elisabeth Moss way before you started working alongside her. Is there anyone else you’d like to work with one day, be it on stage or on set?

Working with Elisabeth Moss is a dream come true!! I’d love to work with theater director Rebecca Frecknall (Cabaret) again one day! As well as Jaime Lloyd who is doing such magnificent, intense, thrilling theater in London and New York. There are so many actors that I’d love to share the screen or stage with someday honestly the list may be too long.

Following your West End debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, are you planning to return to the stage anytime soon?

I absolutely plan to get back on stage. I have done a few readings in the last year but for the moment, I am focusing on finishing the year doing 2 TV shows, one of which being the sixth and final season of Handmaids Tale.

Besides TV and theatre, many know and admire you for your leading roles in films like Braid and Cam. Is cinema something you were passionate about growing up?

I love movies and am so especially proud of Braid and Cam. I was definitely a theater kid so my passion for movies didn’t start developing until later, and more specifically as I have gained more interest and enthusiasm to direct some day soon.

You must be travelling quite a lot. Where do you feel most at home?

New York has always felt like home. I was away for many years and it’s so good to be back. In my time away I was living in London doing Cabaret where I met my partner and where he often is so London feels like home as well.

You grew up as a total theatre nerd, went on to graduate from AMDA, and now you’ve been in the industry for over a decade, but it feels as though you’re just getting started. What has that journey been like?

I know I’m just getting started. I have only really begun to understand who I am within this industry. As I change and evolve, age and learn and grow and challenge myself, everything I thought I knew about a career like this also must change and evolve. No two paths are the same and I’m proud of the path I am taking. I’ve had much luck and undying support from my family and friends. I’m right where I’m meant to be.

Total armour / Madeline Brewer

Credits:

Talent: Madeline Brewer / @madbrew
Photographer: Jack Thompson-Roylance / @deadbeatjack
Art Director: Katie king / @fawnakate
Fashion Stylist: Twins Burnett / @twinksburnettstylist
Makeup: Dasha Taivas / @dashataivas
Hair Stylist: Maria Vannicola / @soulkittten
Camera & Lighting Assistant: Lucas Wilson / @moja.wtf
Interview: Sedef Nihat / @sedefnihat

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