Mckenna Grace plays Esther on season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, which premiered on Hulu Tuesday 

By Ally Mauch
April 29, 2021 12:30 PM
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McKenna Grace The Handmaid’s Tale
Credit: Jasper Savage/Hulu

This post contains spoilers from season 4, episode 2 of The Handmaid's Tale.

Mckenna Grace is speaking out on the importance of her age in her new Handmaid's Tale role. 

The 14-year-old actress plays Mrs. Esther Keyes, a cigarette-smoking "wife" to a commander. In the second episode of season 4, viewers learn that Esther has been repeatedly abused and is now seeking revenge on her abusers in Gilead, looking to rebel leader June Osbourne (Elisabeth Moss) as a sort of mother figure. 

Though her character's age is never specified in any of the first three episodes of the season, which dropped on Hulu earlier this week, Grace told Elle that Esther is also meant to be 14. 

"It's funny because I'll make a joke that, 'Yeah, I'm doing this right now. I got a husband or something.' And people are like, 'How old is your character?' I'm like, '14,'" she told the outlet in an interview published Wednesday. "And they're like, 'What? That doesn't make sense.'" 

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The Handmaid's Tale -- "Mayday" - Episode 313 -- With her plan in place, June reaches the point of no return on her bold strike against Gilead and must decide how far she's willing to go. Serena Joy and Commander Waterford attempt to find their way forward in their new lives. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown.
The Handmaid's Tale
| Credit: Jasper Savage/Hulu

She continued: "But it meant a lot that I got to actually play the age Mrs. Keyes is. I did think it was important for an actual 14-year-old to play the role, especially since this 14-year-old is being raped and abused and sold off, all of these things that are happening to 14-year-olds every single day. If it makes people upset or uncomfortable that an actual 14-year-old is having to talk about how she was raped and it's acting, then maybe that will make you want to do something for actual girls who are going through this."

The Young Sheldon actress also opened up about what it was like to work with Moss on the series, which was inspired by Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name. 

"Any time I get to talk about Elisabeth Moss, I just like to say how highly I think of her and how she is one of my favorite actresses I've ever worked with," Grace said. "When I got to work with her as a director in episode 9, there was a lot of conversations about what we were doing and how the character feels. Something I saw that she did, which I thought was really cool, was that she listened to music for however that scene made her feel." 

As for those cigarette-smoking scenes, the young star clarified that they were fake — but that Moss, 38, taught her how to make it look real.  

"Miss Elisabeth Moss also taught me how to smoke a cigarette for my character. Fake cigarettes," Grace told Elle. "She was like, 'Never use this knowledge for anything else.' But having Elisabeth Moss teach you how to smoke a cigarette, that's my biggest flex."

"You know, they had taken out the cigarette in one of these scenes, but I fought to keep it in because I thought it was so shocking," she added. "Mrs. Keyes with her tall high heels and her wife's dress, her hair pinned back in a bun, smoking a cigarette — it was just such an interesting image that I'm so glad we got to bring to life. I think I actually have one of those fake cigarettes here. I stole one from set. No, I did not steal one from set — I borrowed it indefinitely, without permission." 

The first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale season 4 are available to stream on Hulu now, with the next episodes being released weekly.

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