From major roles in Emmy-winning television shows like Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale to captivating performances in films like The Square, Elisabeth Moss has established herself as one of the most talented actors working today. We sat down with this one-of-a-kind performer and asked her a few pressing questions about her life and career.
1. What got you interested in acting?
Well, I guess you could say I got bit by the “acting bug” at 12 when I saw a performance of my favorite play, Spawn Vs. Blade: The Musical. Most of the actors caught mercury poisoning and several of them went blind. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an actress.
2. What was the atmosphere on the Mad Men set like?
It was basically dictated by keeping Jon Hamm from rolling his R’s all the time. Right before the show started, he had learned how to pronounce elongated R sounds in Spanish, so he was always excitedly saying words like “burro” or “guerra” because he thought people would be impressed. It once took us 14 hours to shoot a 30-second scene because he kept saying “sorrow” like “sorrrrrow.” They finally had to take all R words out of the script and banned us from saying them on set.
3. You recently took to Instagram to defend your religion, Scientology. How do you feel about the controversy surrounding the religion?
People treat Scientology like it’s a cult, but like I always say, how many cults have their own cruise ship? This isn’t just any boat—it’s a very, very large and comfortable boat. The fact that Scientology owns and operates its own cruise liner is all the proof I need that it’s not a cult, and it should be all the proof you need, too.
4. How did you prepare for a role as demanding as Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale?
In order to see the world through Offred’s eyes, I ate a spider and then I said, “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I’ve eaten a whole spider!” in Offred’s voice so I could get a sense of how she felt about eating a spider. This was how I learned that Offred is the type of woman who does not like to eat spiders. Then, before shooting particularly challenging scenes, I would get into costume as Offred in my trailer and I would say in Offred’s voice, “I sure as shit hope that goddamn spider I ate isn’t building a city in my guts with spider skyscrapers and spider cars and bullshit such as this! That would make me furious!” This was how I learned that Offred hates when spiders build cities in her guts, which gave me an astonishing level of insight into the character and her motivations.
5. You’ve had a long and successful career already, but playing Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale is your first time being the star of your very own critically acclaimed hit. What’s it like?
I’ve always been glad to play second or third to a lead, but I do have to admit that it’s nice to finally be the one who gets to toss a cup of hot coffee onto a PA’s lap, absolutely out of the blue, grab them by the collar and bark, “You will call me Draper, Donny Drapey, or the Drapester. Those are your options.” If they whimper too much, they’re fired. If they don’t whimper enough, they’re fired, and it’s really all my decision. It’s pretty crazy to be the one in the driver’s seat now, and I’m just trying to take it all in.