She’s a major new character on this season of The Handmaid’s Tale and, for 35-year-old Genevieve Angelson that involves making a villain vulnerable, finding a “soothing balance” with her beloved makeup artist, and lots of time after work with her dog and friends.
Playing Mrs. Wheeler cannot be easy. How do you get ready to step into character and what do you do to step out of it?
I get ready by collaborating with my friend, Bonz. They’re my work husband. We go through scenes and plot out the most dynamic, surprising choices I can make to create a full human being out of a character who exists only in words. I may be playing a “villain” in Mrs. Wheeler, but, to herself, she’s a hero and all her choices come with good reasons. From there, I want to give a character as large of an arc as possible over a season. That means knowing where she is ultimately headed and making sure to start her out from the most opposite place possible so the viewer can see someone with high stakes and real vulnerability. I go to set with that plan, and then throw it all away. I breathe, tell the truth, and allow spontaneity and mess.
When it’s time to unwind, first I bury my face in my dog. Then I unwind with my friends. I have the most incredible community in Los Angeles and when I wrapped shooting in Toronto, I buried myself in a puppy pile of their love and laughter and support.
Anything glam-wise you use on set to get into character?
Yes! The world’s greatest makeup artist, Burton Le Blanc. He’s not how I get into character but spending time with him is always the best part of the day. We love to giggle and gossip and he’s a soothing balance to the intensity of the show. To get into character, I rely on costume designer, Leslie Kavanaugh. She helped me discover the key distinction of Alanis’ glamour, compared to most Gilead wives. Mrs. Wheeler might champion Gilead social structures, but she also loves to dress up and be fabulous. She’s in Toronto, after all.
Any favorite glam, beauty, style moments from any of the characters you’ve played?
It will be hard for any character to ever much the iconic style and glam of Patti Robinson from Good Girls Revolt. Nothing could ever be as chic as her long wild hair, her braless tight tops and bell bottom jeans, or the way she dressed up by sticking crystals beneath her eyes. I’ll hold that image in my heart forever.
Any must-have beauty items you love at the moment?
My regimen is a mix of high, low and in the middle price points! Forever and always, I am a L’Oreal Double Extend Mascara ($14) devotee. It’s the red tube with the white end: the primer creates a layer that makes the mascara come off so easefully with no pulling. You can find it anywhere. For skin care, my facialist is Hollywood’s secret weapon Terri Lawton—she turned me on to Retrouvé Intensive Moisturizer ($380) years ago. It may cost more than a mortgage, but it’s impossible to resist once you start using it. I just use oils to clean my skin instead of any cleanser! A hot towel at the end of the day over a light layer of Monastery’s Sage Cleansing Oil ($48) is a perfect energetic release. I let out a big groan and feel all the ghosts come out of me.
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