Madeline Brewer was packing for a flight to Europe when we spoke on the phone. She was gearing up to shoot her "dream" role as Sally Bowls in the West End. Brewer was also preparing for the highly-anticipated launch of The Handmaid's Tale—which couldn't come at a more concerning time in U.S. history. "It's an immense honor, but also, at this time, given the state of our union, it becomes more of a parallel to our world," Brewer tells me about the show's release.
It's hard not to draw similarities between the dystopian story and our own current events—both illustrating how quickly and easily women's reproductive and human rights can fall under consistent attack. Brewer's starring role in the show makes her feelings even more complex. "The Handmaid's Tale is a work of fiction based on the truths of many women worldwide," she tells me. "A lot of work needs to be done."
Despite the dark nature of the show, playing Jeanine has brought a bright light to Brewer's life. "We have such an incredible time, and it's a very happy and healthy work environment," she tells me of the feeling on the set of The Handmaid's Tale. "Jeanine is like my sister. I've had to learn things and challenge myself alongside her. She's so much braver than me, and I admire her deeply."
Playing Jeanine is just the tip of the iceberg for Brewer, despite earning her an Emmy nomination. The actress, who recently turned 30, tells me her mindset has adjusted. Rather than feeling solely grateful, or lucky, for her success, Brewer acknowledges she deserves the things that have come her way. "For so long, my mentality has been 'I am just happy to be here,' but turning thirty has transitioned me to think, 'I belong here because I earned it,'" she tells me.
Brewer strongly believes what is meant for her will find her. "I am much better off with the things that have entered my life that I didn't expect. When I started my career, I wanted to be only a musical theater actor on Broadway and live in New York," she says. "Then Orange Is The New Black materialized right in front of me. Now I have an entire career and an Emmy nomination behind me because of the path that revealed itself to me. Now, I am taking over as Sally Bowls in The West End, my dream role that manifested a decade later."
Brewer has learned to trust the process and her gut. She decided to celebrate such liberation with a tattoo to mark this new, more confident chapter in her life. "I have a huge panther crawling up the side of my leg," she says of her latest ink. "I spent so much of my 20s holding onto things with claws, and my 30s are about living and letting go." Brewer says this transition happened instantly after her birthday. "It was overnight. I woke up and felt 30 but no longer felt insecure about who I was. I've lived with this person for 30 years, and I know her better than anyone," Brewer tells me. "I don't have to change things about myself to fit someone else's mold—whether that's a partner or a job. I am giving that love to myself."
Confidently entering her third decade also meant honing in on a beauty routine fueled by efficacy but, naturally, powered by TikTok. Brewer's number one rule for healthy (and glowing) skin: sunscreen. "Wear it on your ears, on your feet, all over your body," she says. "I'll also be honest—I like a little Botox."
Brewer's honesty about getting Botox is refreshing, yet another example of how at-home she is with herself. "Do what makes you feel good that isn't self-destructive or self-sabotaging," she says. "Anything that makes you wake up and feel good about yourself—go for it."
The actress tells me she spends a lot of time on skincare TikTok, where she's learned about new products she now considers staples. "I love Tula's Purifying Cleanser ($34) and I use it every night," she tells me while digging through her bag of beauty products. "I also love Dr. Barbara Sturm's Balancing Toner ($75), which is a much higher price point but totally worth it to me."
Balance is key in Brewer's beauty routine, which includes a range of prestige and drugstore favorites. The actress tells me her chin is prone to breakouts, and she swears by Burt's Bees Herbal Complexion Stick ($11) to stop pimples in their tracks. Brewer also credits TikTok for introducing her to Dr. Dennis Gross' cult-favorite Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($88) and Versed's Instant Resurfacing Mask ($18).
Spending time learning about her skin is just a small part of Brewer's overall wellness routine, which also includes body work through pole dancing. Brewer played Dawn alongside Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and Keke Palmer in the 2019 film Hustler's, which introduced her to the practice. "Of course, when I got the role [in Hustler's], I had respect for it [pole dancing], but I had also done a lot of research about sex workers in different mediums for a previous role, and my respect grew even more," Brewer says. "I've found that I can't get on a treadmill when I want to work out. I have to be doing something fun."
Brewer says that discovering pole dancing has helped her feel strong and sexy. "Don't get me wrong, I think I'm sexy in a very Maddy way, but I had no idea how to be sexy," Brewer says. "I've fallen in love with how vulnerable and creative it allows you to be. You are an artist, and your medium is your body."
When Brewer gets a rare day off, she's also doing pilates, which she'll be doing by way of Forma's online app while she travels for work. Brewer tells me that those occasional moments of peace and nothingness are few and far between but usually consist of reading, watching Ru Paul's Drag Race, nourishing her body, and cuddling with her dog. It's a sweet juxtaposition to a busy, glorious career that Brewer's worked hard for, and—the best part is—she's only just getting started.