'The Handmaid's Tale': Bradley Whitford and Max Minghella Discuss Motivation and 'Moral Compass' in Season 5 (Exclusive)

The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 premiered Wednesday with two brand new episodes following June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) as she continued her crusade against Gilead in the hopes she can save her daughter Hannah. Ahead of the season premiere, PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with some of the cast, including Bradley Whitford and Max Minghella, who play Commander Joseph Lawrence and Commander Nick Blaine, respectively. Notably, Nick and June had a romantic relationship when they were both under the thumb of the now-deceased Commander Waterford. Lawrence and June have had a more complicated connection, as he occasionally works with Mayday, a shadowy anti-Gilead group, though his motives have often been in question.

When asked his thoughts on the balance of Lawrence's motivation being between survival and his personal code of ethics, Whitford replied, "I think I've been talking about this a lot today. I think part of the power of the show, the core of it is this character June. And part of her power is you see her blow on the spark of decency in Nick and in me. I think, to my surprise, I think in the wake of the death of Eleanor [Lawrence's wife], I probably could have killed myself. I think I'm aware of what I created, and I think that June has shown me a possible path to redemption." He added, "I also think I'm not naive in the way that I see June is about how quickly you can change a fascist regime in a world which, very much like our own, democracy seems to be on the wane and white nationalism seems to be on the rise. So somewhere in there."

While Lawrence is dealing with the shameful fact that he is one of the founders of Gilead, Nick is a much different story, because he is a new commander who rose through the ranks but still is clearly averse to what is happening. "I don't think that Nick was a particularly developed person yet when he came into Gilead. He was a kid, literally a kid," he said. "So a kid who'd not traveled much, who was not particularly educated, and I don't think he knows anything outside of this. I don't think it's honestly occurred to him that that would really be an option. He has no example to point to or something like that."

Minghella added, "I think always for everybody in life, we need inspiration. We need something to inspire us to take those kinds of risks. So I think he is somebody who wants to be a good person. That's how I see him. I think he's somebody who's trying to figure out how to have a moral compass, but he has no guidance around him to help facilitate that. 

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For Minghella, he also sees Nick as almost finding a positive role model in Lawrence, in as much as possible in the very complex situation they are both in. "I think in Lawrence, it's actually the first time he has had a figure in his life who can help guide him with any kind of intelligence." The first two episodes of The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 are now streaming on Hulu. Keep it locked to PopCulture for more series interviews and exclusives!