Elisabeth Moss

Each Awards Season can always be counted on to deliver its fair share of manufactured smiles and hard-core Hollywood schmoozing, but every once in a while, even in this age of 24-hour publicists and on-call celebrity stylists, a moment of disarming realness can still poke through. Just ask actress Elisabeth Moss, who found herself engaged in one of these rare connections immediately after losing out on a SAG Award to Dame Helen Mirren.

“I have to say that if you’d given me the choice, I would have had a hard time choosing between the award, or that moment. I couldn’t believe it when she said my name! And then she applauded, and it equaled the Golden Globe shock for me!”

Moss was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries that night, having turned in some of the best work of her enviable career in Jane Campion’s moody Sundance Channel masterpiece, Top Of The Lake. She’d just won a Golden Globe for the same role less than a month earlier, but considering the likes of her competition, you can’t blame the actress for wanting to keep her expectations in check, nor for equating the joy of winning one of Hollywood’s most coveted awards with that of hearing an Oscar Winner praise you from the podium.

Especially when she was already ecstatic just to have landed the part … “It’s one of those things that when I first got sent [the script] – I mean, I had to audition for it – but when I initially got sent it, obviously I was like, Yes, I would love to be a part of this! But then I thought to myself, I’m sure they’re going to give it to some other actress.”

Growing up in this business, bouncing between small parts in high-profile films (A Thousand Acres, Girl, Interrupted) and larger gigs on some truly beloved TV series (Picket Fences, The West Wing), Moss had a pretty realistic view of how Hollywood works. Yet much to her surprise, she booked the once-in-a-lifetime part, and quickly dove headfirst into the abyss.

“Season five [of Mad Men] had just ended, and three days later, here I am going to a different hemisphere and working with people that I’d never worked with before and doing all this challenging stuff and doing this challenging accent. But I didn’t do anything except work on that project for four or five months, and I believe the isolation really helped me to be able to throw myself in completely, without any distraction.”

Clearly it did… yet considering that information, one can’t help but wonder how the actress delivers the goods each week – or focuses at all – on the set of Mad Men, a show that she’s filmed for seven years, and one on which, naturally, she’s made quite a few close friends. According to Ms. Moss, however, there’s a reason for that, and his name is Matthew Weiner.

“We all care so much about [the show], but Matt cares more than any of us! In the end, it’s his baby, it’s his vision, it’s his statement, so on set, there’s this drive to make it as good as it can possibly be and you just don’t rest until you think it is. And even then, you just never stop.”

It sounds exhausting, and Moss admits that it can be, but the cast and crew wouldn’t have it any other way, especially during the filming of this much-anticipated final season:

“You really are putting this thing that existed for a long time and that you were a part of for so long, to bed, and this last season, it’s for us, and it’s for our audience that has been with us the entire time. It’s kind of like a painting; you’re putting the last of your strokes on it, and then it’s a complete work of art, and then it’s done.”

As for fan-favorite Peggy Olsen, she sees everything coming full circle.  “I feel like in seasons four and five she was getting stronger and funnier and more ballsy, and so now it’s kind of about bringing back some of the elements from the beginning of the show when she was a little bit more lost and vulnerable and bringing it all together into one even more complete person.”

And yes, just like the fans, the five-time Emmy Nominee has thought about what the end will be like. “That last moment that I play [Peggy] and that last take, when they yell “cut” and check the gate: that’s the moment that’s gonna be kind of freaky. But I think when it really comes down to it, when it ends, it’s going to be very much not real to me — it’s going to feel like, Oh, we’ll be back in six months.”

Sadly, she won’t be, but the versatile star will be appearing on the big screen in a pair of buzzy upcoming indies: Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up, Phillipopposite Jason Schwartzman, and Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love with Mark Duplass. In fact, after more than two decades as a working actor, Elisabeth Moss is busier than ever, and though she remains endearingly humble, the talented star is willing to make at least one concession.

“I’ve been around for a while. I’ve had disappointments, I’ve had those moments where you really wanted to get something and you didn’t, or when you thought you could do it, but no one else did, so it’s nice to finally be like Ok, maybe I don’t suck.”

And anyone who’s got a problem with that can take it up with Helen Mirren!









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