Elisabeth Moss’ Love of Scientology and Cloying Good Nature Prepares You For Tonight’s Mad Men
by Alex Carnevale
Despite being a Scientologist and by all evidence thinking she actually is Peggy Olson, Elisabeth Moss has extended her L . Ron Hubbardian tendils over our hearts.
Moss will star in the Madonna role in the revival of David Mamet’s best Hollywood satire, Speed-the-Plow, this fall opposite Jeremy Piven. This is the best casting since we heard Jon Hamm will reprise Al Pacino’s role in The Godfather remake.
As the highest rising young exec in the advertising business, she is the shining of example of not being able to hook up with a secretary and get away with it. Her weird relationship with Don Draper has us concerned. Is Season 3 going to be all about them doing it in a pile of Allen Ginsburg books while Draper’s former flames look on accusingly? Is Matt Weiner going to start breaking out the Tony Soprano dream sequences so Peggy can imagine dumping a Cleveland Steamer right in Pete Campbell’s mouth?
Virtually all the answers to your questions are found in the following interview with Ms. Olson, I mean Ms. Moss. I don’t know what I mean.
Q. Did working with Aaron Sorkin prepare you to work on a David Mamet show?
A. There is a slight similarity in the sense that they’re both very, very good writers but I don’t think anything prepares you for Mamet.
Q. How do you think “Speed-the-Plow” resonates for people today vs. an audience that would have seen it in the ’80s?
A. Karen wants Jeremy’s character to make a film that’s about the end of the world. Twenty years ago, saying that life as we know it is going to end was a far-away concept, a little bit off the wall. Now, I think audiences are going to say, “Yeah, I can see that.”
Q. Was there some baggage associated with your character because of Madonna?
A. I’ve stayed away from doing any investigation into that performance because I don’t want it to affect me, like I can’t do that because they hated when Madonna did it. I get asked about it. It’s there, but it was a long time ago. If Julia Roberts had played it last year, then I would have been like, “This is kind of intimidating.”
Q. A lot of performers find one medium and stick with it.
A. I don’t want to just do one thing. After the first season of “Mad Men,” the executive producer Matt (Weiner) said, “You should go to New York. You should do theater.” The right thing didn’t come along until after the second season. One hundred and sixty shows of Mamet on Broadway can only help me as an actress.
Q. I was glad to see that “Mad Men” received so many Emmy nominations, but none of the women in the cast were nominated.
A. There are no hard feelings. We are happy that the show got nominated in our first season, our show about advertising in the 1960s on AMC with no stars in it. Also, there are a lot of great actresses on television right now. You’re going up against Glenn Close and Sally Field and Holly Hunter.
Q. Is your character Peggy going to grow out those bangs any time soon?
Q. I’ve been hoping for that.
A. I would love it. It will be a personal victory for me and as a character when those bangs go.
Q. Does the smoke on the set bother you?
A. It’s herbal cigarettes which smell almost as bad as real cigarettes.
Q. They can’t taste very good either.
A. I’m really lucky that I never have to smoke them, but when you’re in the conference room and there’s five people smoking, it’s like, “Yuck.”
Q. Peggy’s a smart girl. What did she ever see in Pete?
A. I’ve thought a lot about that. It’s a combination of things. He represents a whole new world for her that is very magnetic. Besides that, she doesn’t know him. She sleeps with him the day that she meets him. It was plain and simple a mistake, but once you’ve fallen, it’s hard to get out.
Q. Were you concerned that there might be some plausibility issues with her secret pregnancy?
A. For sure. We knew that people were going to be like, “Come on. How could she have not known?” It is not usual, but it does happen. One of the cast members has a friend who’s a nurse, and she said that it had happened recently in the hospital.
Q. Is it a comment on the era in which the show takes place, that she was pregnant and everyone was in denial?
A. You have to think in terms of that era and you also have to think in terms of Peggy and her upbringing. She comes from a very strict Catholic upbringing, and I don’t think there were a lot of heart-to-heart talks between her and mom. Now, 11-year-old girls know what the deal is. I don’t think Peggy would have known.
Q. I’m wondering this season if it’s going to be like the “Thorn Birds,” a love story with Peggy and Colin Hanks’ priest character. They have a weird dynamic.
A. I think he sees something in her and they have more in common than she realizes. As far as where it’s going between the two of them, I can’t say anything except the audience will be completely and utterly satisfied and enthralled with what happens.
Q. A lot of your films are indies whereas on TV, it’s mainstream shows. Do you find yourself gravitating towards smaller, more character-driven films?
A. I just look for things that I’m interested in, good roles, good people to work with, a good story. I have been lucky in television to end up on things that have been good and have been very successful. I would never say that I won’t do some huge blockbuster film with Will Smith. That might be something really good.
Q. So if Michael Bay calls …
A. I would consider it.
“Before the Calm” – Two Dead Cats (mp3)
“Mr. Universe” – Aqualung (mp3)
“Good Goodnight” – Aqualung (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Will on Gertrude Stein.