The latest episode of Shining Girls detours away from Elisabeth Moss’s Kirby story to show how Harper (Jamie Bell) wound up with the house and to meet Klara, the woman who introduced him to Kirby.
Madeline Brewer has starred with Moss for the entire series run of The Handmaid’s Tale as Janine, a Handmaid who fights valiantly against the system into which they are enslaved.
This is the first time both actors are reunited outside of The Handmaid’s Tale, and although their scenes together are brief, Madeline’s character is pivotal.
When I teased Madeline asking if she’s ever going to get away from Moss, she laughed. “I better not. I don’t want to. Never!”
Brewer said working with Moss for Shining Girls was incredible. “I mean, especially in the fourth season, June and Jeanine established an entirely new kind of friendship.
“So after just coming off of that very traumatic season for both of us, I think I knew that she was going into Shining Girls. I remember her talking about it on set and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ I’ve heard great things about that book by Lauren Beukes. And, oh, how cool for her. And that’s exciting.
“And I’m like, ‘Okay, of course, the queen of television is going on to like another incredible thing.'”
Moss called Brewer about the role sometime in August, giving Brewer an out that if she didn’t want to do a guest spot, Moss would understand. “I was like, ‘I will follow you into the sun. I would go anywhere for you.’ And I was, of course, very flattered that she thought of me and thought I could do this role. So I was just so excited.”
The two only have one scene together, but it’s pivotal. Through Klara, Harper first meets Kirby, then Sharon, and another obsession is born.
Brewer had never worked with Bell and admired his work from afar. “I was so excited that so much of [the episode] was this relationship between these two old friends and kind of exploring their dynamic.”
Brewer laughed, “And I mean, I get to be painted green and dance around. Like what’s not to like, you know?”
She’s covered in green and dancing beautifully in choreographed scenes Brewer really enjoyed. Bell was quite menacing as Harper in the scenes they shared, but it was much different behind the scenes.
“He is so good. It’s so interesting because working with Jamie is one of the most fun times I’ve ever had on set. We just had a great time. We had fun. We joked around, and it was just really great. And we have mutual friends and everything, so that was really cool.
“But when we got into those moments, it was good because it was just like, we had had our fun, there was no tension, there was no, ‘oh, I’m the actor coming into the already established show.’ I felt so welcomed.
“So I just felt very comfortable, kind of like give it my all and to really spar with him in some of those moments, which is what all you want to do as an actor, especially trying on a new character. You just want to get in there with your other actors and brawl.”
It’s mesmerizing when Harper transfers his obsession for Klara to Kirby after the two women take to the dance floor together.
Brewer said, “Yeah, I love that moment. Actually, that scene that we shot where Klara’s kind of flirting with Sharon at the time, and well, Kirby as we know her, and then they’re like dancing and just the look on Harper’s face.
“There’s something in front of him that he wants, but he can’t have. And what a murderous rage that gives him. And then how it spiraled into, like, any woman who denies him and anyone who isn’t what he expects them to be.
“It’s really frightening, but I really appreciated that they added that little moment of flirtation between Klara and Kirby. Personally, as a bi, queer woman, understanding that it served either? For a man who’s never been exposed to that, it’s either a fetish or fury that it evokes from them.”
Harper didn’t fetishize the moment. He was furious. Brewer said, “And we see that. It was fury, obviously. And neither response is appropriate. But it is really interesting the way that spiraled out for him.
“And the fact that Klara isn’t denying him because she doesn’t love him and think he’s a wonderful person, she denies him because he just isn’t what she wants. And he’s unable to accept that.”
Harper and Klara reconnect after many years apart. He went to war, wrote her letters, and she never responded. When he reappears in Klara’s life, she’s leery but appreciative of his more sophisticated behavior.
Brewer took Klara on a roller coaster of emotions that perfectly expressed Klara’s feelings about Harper’s mood shifts.
Brewer loves the opportunity to dig into characters like that. “That’s the good stuff. You know? That’s the stuff where there’s just so much to it to grab on to.”
But her absolute favorite part of Klara’s journey was getting the opportunity to dance.
“It was just so glorious to be able to go in there and do this entirely new thing for me.”
They didn’t have much time to prepare but made the most of what they had to bring it all together. “I think we maybe had three or four days of a few hours of choreography. We had some time. We put in some work.
“Me and Jackie, the choreographer, did put in some work on that because, I mean, it was tough. It’s a very stylized dance. I’m a mover, but I would by no means call myself a dancer.”
You’d never know it watching the scenes unfold, and that thrilled Brewer, who hadn’t seen the scenes yet.
Klara gets to experience things beyond her wildest dreams when traveling through the house with Harper. If Brewer had the same opportunity, she’d his the mid-70s, a time she’s experienced through her mother, who graduated from high school in 1977.
But she wouldn’t want to connect with her mother while there. “I want to go experience my own thing. I know her. I know she was wild and crazy. I want to go do my own wild and crazy thing in 1977.”
We have no doubt she’d make the most of it.
Shining Girls airs Fridays on Apple TV+, and The Handmaid’s Tale will return to Hulu sometime later in 2022.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.