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What makes the Southeast so dangerous for trans people? GOP shakeup sees top Trump campaign official installed in key data post The Handmaids Tale Progress Episode 409

[This story contains spoilers to the penultimate episode of the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Progress.”]

In a flashback scene earlier in the season, The Handmaid’s Tale traveled back to the moment when June (Elisabeth Moss) told her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) that she was pregnant with their daughter, Hannah (Jordan Blake).

Given the declining birth rate in the world of the dystopian Hulu drama, the news was especially met with elation from Luke. And it was a particularly heartwarming reveal given a prior conversation where June wondered if he would still love her if she couldn’t give him children. “What if I’m not who you think I am?” she asked in another flashback. “Then I’ll just love whoever you turn out to be,” he replied.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Fagbenle shares a behind-the-scenes story about that scene. “A funny tidbit is that was the last line of the scene,” he says. “What normally happens is that you say your line, leave a few beats and then the director will call, ‘Cut.’ But Moss and I kept making this joke where she would improvise a line like, ‘So, what if I go off and have a kid with another guy?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll still love you.’ And she’d say, ‘So, what if I kill a few people?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I’ll still love you.’ And then she’d go, ‘Ok, so what if I kill a few people, have sex with another guy, have his baby and give that baby to you to look after her?'”

He adds, “So we had this recurring joke, but the point is — I think it’s true. That Luke, for better or for worse, is destined to love whoever she turns out to be.”

Hearing that perspective about June from the actor who has embodied Luke comes at a pivotal time for The Handmaid’s Tale husband and wife, who were finally reunited earlier in season four. In the penultimate episode, titled “Progress” and directed by Moss, Luke suggests that June secretly meet up with her former lover Nick (Max Minghella), who is now a powerful commander in Gilead, in hopes of gaining information on the whereabouts of Luke and June’s daughter Hannah. Luke also suggests that June bring Nichole, who is June and Nick’s biological daughter and who is being raised by Luke. When Nick and June meet, their reunion is filled with lust and longing, and plays out in stark contrast to the complicated path that Luke has been charting with June since she landed in Canada.

Below, in a chat with THR, Fagbenle explains why he feels Luke and June have an everlasting love, despite the romantic threat of Nick, and why this has been one of his favorite seasons of the series: “It’s so unpredictable.”

Luke and June being reunited hasn’t been an easy homecoming. But in the scene on the boat, when the two of you lay eyes on each other (in episode six), the unspoken love was palpable. What was it like to step back into that relationship?

Any time working with Miss Moss is a pretty thrilling experience because she’s always so present. She has such a handle on what’s truthful. This is the first time I’ve played a character over years and years, so I had so many memories built up — real memories, as opposed to when actors make up memories of your character. I have real memories of what it was like during our first dates together as characters. So to have experienced that reunion was a really emotional time.

It’s tragic that she doesn’t have her older daughter, Hannah, with her, and she vocalizes how she feels she failed as a mother. But Luke’s reaction is the opposite of what she feared when he accepts her with open arms. What does this say about who he is?

Give him all the praise, sure. But, from my perspective, he understands what she’s up against. How do you blame someone who has come back who has not managed to defeat the agent of a very powerful government? Unfortunately, I don’t know how many bonus points I can give him for that. He understands the enormity of it and, if anything, he’s kind of struck by his own incompetence. He sees himself to blame for why Hannah isn’t back. He has more agency as a free person than she would as a Handmaid. I think that really he’s stricken by his own guilt, and his own sense of incompetence and his inability to protect her and their daughter.

Showrunner Bruce Miller and Elisabeth Moss spoke about June and Luke’s reunion in the bedroom, where they have sex without his consent. The writers did a lot of research into the refugee experience and with survivors of government sexual trauma. What helped you to step into the role of the partner to a survivor like June?

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One in three women are victims of sexual abuse. I’ve dated more than five women in my life, so the math’s there and self-evident. I know a lot of people who are survivors. I think you just have to look around and be aware to have some sort of semblance to love someone who has been through terrible trauma.

Miller said the scene was written simply and that it was up to you as actors to work out the give and take of consent with the intimacy coordinator and director. What was it like to work through that scene?

Lizzie and I don’t talk very much about what we’re going to do. I think we discover things in the moment. We have a lot of trust in each other and so it wasn’t so much choreographed. As we do for so many things, we turn up and we listen to each other.

In this ninth episode, Luke and June work together to focus on bringing Hannah back from Gilead. How difficult was it for Luke to suggest that June should go see Nick?

A big part of the way I was thinking about a lot of this season once June got back was that Luke’s next main priority was getting back Hannah. He was waiting for his wife, his partner to stand behind him and then they could bring Hannah back. Of course he has to deal with the trauma she’s been through. At the point he realizes that June has her own mission right now, and it’s to do with Commander Waterford, that’s heartbreaking. Because he doesn’t have an objective. His objective is all about his little girl. And so, at a point, he realizes that he’s going to have to sacrifice whatever he can to try and make that happen, even if it means potentially breaking his marriage. June obviously wants to get Hannah back as well, but there’s just so much more going on with June and Luke feels like he has to try anything to get Hannah back.

It felt like Luke was hoping June might turn down the offer. When she accepts, there seemed to be an unspoken understanding. Is this the moment where Luke realizes June loves Nick?

Luke doesn’t see it as love. He doesn’t know. He knows there is a sexual attraction. It’s an interesting question whether or not two people who meet under such traumatic situations can have a real love for each other and if that can be a genuine thing. I understand fans of June and Nick can definitely feel a strong way about it. But I’m not objective in this. I just see it from Luke’s perspective. And so, from Luke’s perspective, it’s a real threat to his relationship and to his family, but I don’t think that Luke believes that a free love can imperil under those circumstances. From Luke’s perspective, it’s so clear.

At this point, can Luke accept the situation and move forward with a different version of what he might have imagined for his family?

His objective is to try to make up for what he sees as his failing in keeping June and Hannah safe, and he wants to create a safe environment. He wants June and Hannah safe and he genuinely believes, and I genuinely believe, that’s the best place for them. He is the most consistent, trustworthy, not ambiguous guy on the scene. I mean, he’s boring; he’s not as sexy as Nick. There might be more sexual chemistry between them. Nick is also more powerful than Luke. There are so many things which make Nick a really attractive prospect. But I don’t know that we’ve established that he’s a responsibly steady father. The jury’s out!

Ultimately, Luke has taken a duty of care for Nichole. He doesn’t say that lightly; he’s not babysitting. Nichole is his child now. I don’t think Luke’s love for June is going anywhere. Luke says it in that flashback in episode six where she says, “What if I’m not who you think I am?” And he says, “Well, I’ll love whoever you turn out to be.” I think it’s true. That Luke, for better or for worse, is destined to love whoever she turns out to be.

This season, I really appreciated the complexity of the storylines and of what it means to continue to love when the person you love has changed a lot. What’s so great about The Handmaid’s Tale is that it’s dealing with these huge political issues, but also, it’s dealing with really, personal, intimate things that lots of people do in their every day lives when it comes to relationships with their families, with their partners, with their kids. I thought they did an incredible job of that.

When Luke reacts to the pictures June brings back of Hannah, he has a moment of genuine gratitude and happiness. Does Luke represent the hope of the show?

Luke has an indefatigable hope. And a kind of almost tireless optimism, which is rare in people, I think. Because the systems that are in Gilead are designed to crush hope and make that small. But where I see the great hope and courage in the show is in the Handmaids. When faced with the greatest danger, that’s where hope and courage mean the most. And that belongs to the Handmaids.

That small win is quickly followed by sheer rage, as June and Luke find out that Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) will not face trial, and will instead become a free man after making a deal to work as an asset for the Canadian government. How has everything been building to what will happen next in the season finale?

This is one of my favorite seasons because it’s so unpredictable — it’s kept all the suspense and horror of the initial premise but really expanded out. The writers of this show always invoke strong emotions by the end of the season with really unexpected turns. And the end of this season is probably the most explosive end of all seasons. It’s all leading up to this finale because June is a mysterious one. Her fundamental engine is upturning the existing power structures and she’s been put into a corner now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Handmaid’s Tale is now streaming the first nine episodes of season four on Hulu. The finale releases on Wednesday.

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The Choe Show on FX defies explanation

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“The Choe Show” is that square peg that doesn’t fit into any TV category and is packed with surreal surprises.

The new four-episode series, premiering Friday (June 25) on FX, is hosted by renowned artist/provocateur David Choe. It’s a mixture of celebrity psychotherapy, dadaism and comedy that adds up to a genre-busting experience the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else on the tube.

In the opener, Choe, 45, notes that he’s paying for “The Choe Show” himself, not surprising after he made an estimated $200 million by selling his Facebook stock when the company went public in 2012. (He would’ve earned $1.3 billion had he sold the stock now, t’s wryly noted.)

So not for Choe a fancy studio or hotel suite in which to interview his guests. He bought his boyhood home, the site of many childhood traumas — he describes his born-again mother as a “Sith Lord, manipulative, cunning — a liar” — and it’s from that bizarrely furnished/decorated locale that celebs including Kat Von D, porn star Asa Akira (with whom he also does a podcast), Will Arnett, Steve-O, musician Denzel Curry and Rainn Wilson talk to Choe (sometimes from painted wheelchairs) as he paints their portraits while they reveal their innermost thoughts, secrets and shame. There’s role-playing (Wilson dons a black wig to play Choe’s mother) and tears are shed, by the guests and by Choe. It’s simultaneously weird and compelling and, yes, cathartic for all concerned — like an acid-flashback episode of “Dr. Phil.”

Acclaimed artist David Choe hosts “The Choe Show,” an eclectic four-part interview series on FX.

The discussions between Choe and his guests are punctuated around the edges with dreamy quick-cut re-enactments overlaid with a pop-art-style veneer to add some context. And there are absolutely no barriers, particularly in Choe’s interview with the pregnant Akira. That segment is conducted in her home and is rife with f-bombs and frank sexual talk, so you might want to steer clear if you’re on the prudish side.

Choe is no stranger to the camera — he appeared in episodes of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and HBO’s “Vice” — and he’s an engaging, agreeable conversationalist who’s able to extract unexpected emotions from his guests (“To my surprise he went deep with me,” he says of Arnett) while not flinching from his own demons, including a porn addiction. “I’m an addict. An out-of-control addict,” he says, before adding that he’s “almost positive I got sexually abused” at the age of 4 when he was sent to live elsewhere by his cash-strapped parents. He and Akira call each other liars without a hint of anger or judgment while agreeing that “everyone lies” (particularly, as Akira says, when it comes to “super-f–king ugly” babies).

Each episode is roughly a half-hour long and flies by quickly courtesy of the many eye-catching distractions and the interplay between Choe and his guests. There are a few surprise cameos I’m not supposed to tell you about, but rest assured you won’t be bored by “The Choe Show,” with each episode next-day streaming on FX on Hulu if that’s your preference.

David Choe in a scene from “The Choe Show.” Filed under artists ,  fx ,  hulu ,  kat von d ,  rainn wilson ,  street artists ,  surreal ,  talk show ,  will arnett ,  6/22/21

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