The Handmaid’s Tale: Aunt Lydia star speaks out on moment her ‘heart broke’

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Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale know Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd) to be a stoic, harsh character who has a nasty streak and won’t stand for disobedience. The third season of the Hulu series gave viewers an insight into Aunt Lydia’s past and revealed what made her become one of the most terrifying Aunts in Gilead.

However, one scene in particular from Aunt Lydia’s past left the actor sympathising for her character, even if she is incredibly problematic now.

Aunt Lydia has always been a staunch follower of the rules of Gilead and has gone to dark extremes to retain the upper hand when it comes to the handmaids. 

However, she wasn’t always an Aunt in Gilead and in season three viewers learned she was a teacher who cared deeply for her students.

Lydia was attracted to the principal at the school and thrilled when he invited her out for New Year’s Eve. 


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They danced, drank and sang karaoke, but later in the evening when she tried to kiss him, he turned her down.

The aftermath of Lydia’s sexual advances left her heartbroken but also pushed her to take on a cold approach to love.

Reflecting on the incident, Ann admitted her “heart broke” when she learned of Lydia’s rejection as she was just a lonely lady who needed some comfort.

She told Deadline: “I was very impressed with how the writers put it out there.

“It completely fitted with who I understand Lydia to be.

“Somehow if shame runs your life, from sex, from religion, from anything at all and you’re put in a situation where shame rises up and rules the day, then we see what happens.

“Having known her for three years now, I can say that my heart broke for her, it made all the sense in the world that she could shut down so many doors.

“I thought it was beautifully written and an extraordinary experience.”

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When Lydia was rejected, she was seen looking at herself in the mirror and in that moment she made a decision to focus solely on the well-being of the children in her care.

She reported a mother to social services claiming she wasn’t a fit to parent and the child was taken away from her.

This family was one Lydia had been supporting and helping out, but this spiteful, sinister behaviour made a lot more sense after watching three seasons of her punishing other women. 

Aunt Lydia doesn’t have relationships or friends in Gilead by choice, but her connection with June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) has always been a fascinating one.


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Sometimes it seems like Aunt Lydia respects June, although this has never stopped her giving the handmaid a beating if she does something wrong. 

But there is a war coming for those left in Gilead and Aunt Lydia is out for blood, specifically June’s. 

At the end of season three, June was able to get 52 children out of Gilead after months of planning and the help of Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), Marthas and Handmaids.

It seems Aunt Lydia will be held responsible for June’s behaviour as she is questioned in season four.


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The tease showed Aunt Lydia exclaiming: “She is out there planning who knows what atrocities to visit upon our righteous nation.

“I never allowed myself to see her for what she clearly is, beyond redemption.”

If June does return to Gilead, she wouldn’t possibly be able to show her face but as she desperately tries to find her daughter Hannah, could that be Lydia’s chance to take revenge?

The Handmaid’s Tale seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Now TV now.

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