When the Handmaid’s Tale team were tasked with finding a voice that could inspire Elizabeth Moss’s Offred at her lowest ebb, there could only ever be one option: Oprah Winfrey. As noted by keen-eared American fans, the original multi-hyphenate has lent her immediately recognisable tones for an uncredited voice cameo in ‘Holly,’ the eleventh episode of the show’s second season.
This instalment, which is yet to be broadcast in the UK, sees (minor spoilers ahead) Offred contemplating an escape from Gilead when she comes across a car in the wasteland. As she gets in and turns the ignition, the car’s radio flickers on, which is when we hear Oprah’s voice on the airwaves, ‘broadcasting from somewhere in the great white north.’
Her unnamed character provides an update from the world outside Gilead’s repressive regime, revealing that ‘the American government in Anchorage received promises of economic aid from India and China. The United Kingdom, additional sanctions of Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada.’
After her news bulletin, Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart begins to play. ‘Now, a tune to remind everyone who’s listening – American patriot or Gilead traitor – that we are still here,’ she continues. ‘Stars and stripes forever, baby.’
Though we never learn more about Oprah’s ‘character,’ the show’s team has confirmed that, no, she isn’t playing herself. ‘We did not think of that role] specifically as that person,’ co-executive producer Kira Snyder told [The Hollywood Reporter. ‘It’s left up to the viewer’s imagination. You hear what you hear.’ It’s an element of ambiguity that has led some fans to sublimate their hopes (hopes which, sadly, Oprah herself has already debunked) of a Winfrey 2020 presidential campaign onto the show’s narrative – could Oprah be voicing a rebel President?
According to showrunner Bruce Miller, the cameo came about when the production team learned of Oprah’s love for the show. ‘We’d heard Oprah was a fan […] and had a story idea, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if…” he explained to THR. ‘So we asked and she said yes, and it was a lovely, easy process.’ Her broadcast, he explained, was ‘inspired by the free radio of the Allies from World War II. It was an absolute honour to have Oprah featured on the show, and especially thrilling as she was the one who presented us with the Emmy last year.’
‘It’s an inspiring voice for anyone to hear, but especially for June in that moment,’ Snyder added. ‘The knowledge that the outside world at all is still there, and specifically the United States, is completely inspiring to her, to hear that voice and to hear the music that comes up underneath it.’
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