Hey, Georgia, hi, David. I know how much you love drinking things with my face on ice. Disgusting.
Well, lo we got married. Oh David. And does a podcast with has got merchandise. A sentence. I never thought I'd say yes.
Would you like a reusable bamboo fiber travel mug. Yes, please. A metal water bottle.
And that a rather stylish cuts. Don't know those plastic bottles and paper cups doesn't it. Very good.
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Hello. Why are you doing? How are you? Oh, very all the better for seeing you. How's it going?
So nice to see you dear.
I look at you and your your there my my makeshift studio. Yeah. I think the best. Oh, you've got fairy lights in years. That's pretty good.
Yeah. I've got a little bit of a little bit of a nice background. You can see me.
Yes. You're quite it's you got Vaseline on the lens there. You're very sort of soft focus I think.
Now let me make sure this is so you guys can hear me OK. Yeah we can. Yeah. Is that good. Yes.
All right. Wow. It's miraculous. Well we then we could just start.
I figured a lot. Just look at that. Oh yeah. We could just begin.
David Tennant was a podcast with Elisabeth Moss. Elizabeth, thank you for being. Thank you for having me. What a treat to see you again, albeit only over the interweb. I know.
I'm so glad we finally got to do this. I feel like we've been talking about it for so long.
I think you remember that one of the first people we were going to get for the show you were on that you were on the first list.
I think finally we've done it. Mm hmm.
I remember Sarah, our mutual agent, talking about the fact that you might do this and. Yeah. And telling me about it before it even started. Yeah. So basically what I'm saying is I'm responsible for points down to you.
Yes. I think that's what I saw on the promise of having you as a guest. I think it would nothing would have nothing would have come of it without you finally finally cashing in. Yeah. Yeah I do. Of course I do. Yeah.
And somebody what when people do as they do, they do they compile those lists of like the greatest TV shows of the century or the greatest TV shows of all time.
And you've got you've got West Wing, you've got Mad Men, you had top of the lake, you've got Handmaids, you got like four entries on those lists, which is almost greedy, I'd say.
Is that selfish?
At the risk of opening with a very impossible to answer question, what is the ratio of luck to judgment that has landed you on the list of greatest television shows of all time? Four times?
I would say it's pretty probably 50 50 at best. That's good, though. That's all right. Yeah. I mean, I think because.
A couple of them I didn't have any choice in the matter in the sense of I was just auditioning for things and those were the the projects that I got. So, yeah, West Wing and Mad Men I just auditioned for and I was seventeen and twenty three respectively. And I would have, you know, taken any decent, somewhat decent job that I could have gotten. And and then the top of the lake and handmaids, I had a little bit more choice and.
Sure. You know. So are you aware of what it is that gets you magnetized to one thing and not to another on a sort of really impossible to define level?
I guess, you know, it's sort of one of those things. I don't know if you feel this way when you're picking what you do, but you just kind of feel it. And it's sort of silly as that sounds it. My thing is quite often, if I can't imagine, if I if I hate the idea of somebody else doing it, if the idea of somebody else do you me with rage and jealousy. Yes. Yes. You know, and I start to think about who they're going to go to next and probably who they're going to talk.
You know, I know the people that I know, the group of actresses that we often like for the same things, you know, and I think they go to Rose Byrne.
I'm going to I oughta you know, jealousy's a great clarifier, isn't it? It's a very astute observation. Yeah, it really it is.
It's it's kind of sometimes the thing that makes you go, oh, this this is actually something I really want to do. You know, it's it's an it's not only that, but if that is part of it, the specter of Rose Byrne doing it instead.
I shall not allow it.
I wonder if she feels the same. I wonder if you're on her list. I bet you are. I bet you're on everyone's list these days.
She's probably a lovely, non jealous person who's just would be happy for anybody to get a great role.
She is very lovely. And she I'm sure she has great generosity. But I don't doubt for a second that jealousy is a great clarify for Rose as well. I think that I think all actors will appreciate that.
I, I think so and so and as you get sort of older and wiser and further along in the industry, does that make those choices because the choices are going to be more scrutinized? Elizabeth Moss does next kind of carries more weight. Can you still separate out your instincts from what is, I don't know, expected of you? Is that a challenge or are you quite clearheaded?
I think it is a challenge.
I think you have to be aware of it, you know, and not be crippled by it. I think that yes, you're absolutely right. The older I get, the more things they do that are known by people that, yes, you do feel a little bit more pressure.
You feel a little bit more, especially in television at this point in television, I've sort of I've gotten myself into a real pickle because I kind of really if you do know, a disaster, a disaster, I have to sort of now every time out of the gate make like this great television show that I'm sure, which is a silly amount of of pressure because not everything it's going to be, you know, that.
But I try to kind of not be crippled by that, I guess, and be fearless with Handmaid's Tale. I was not intending on doing another, you know, potentially long running show so quickly after Mad Men, it was only a couple of years, I think, at best. And I thought, well, I'll give it a little bit longer. And then the show came along and the scripts were so incredible that I kind of had to forget about my own preconceived ideas of what Elisabeth Moss would do next and just go, you know what?
I love this. I believe in it. It's touched me and I and I want to tell this story.
So your instincts actually triumphed over what was potentially sort of the clever thing to do? Yes. Oh, thank goodness for the jealousy of Rose Byrne was still a very big part of it.
Right, right. Yeah. She was there ready to jump over my.
Yeah, over my shoulder. Sure. Yeah. But you've been acting professionally since you were eight years old, right?
Yeah. Six, six, seven, eight. It's a bit unclear at the right.
And what was what was your first professional gig.
So my first, my first real gig, I think I'd maybe done like a commercial or something before that, but my first real professional acting gig was. I did this miniseries called Lucky Chances For and it was based on one of those like paperback, you know, Beach reads, I don't know if it was Daniel Steele or but it was something like it might as well have been true and.
Yeah, yeah. And I played a little girl who has to find her mother face down dead in the pool. Wow. Yeah. My mother was played by Sandra Bullock.
Oh, wow. I know this is a great first show. It was really great.
And so I had to go out to the pool and scream at finding my mom dead in the pool. And I felt like that just really sort of set the tone for the rest of my career.
The life of tragedy heroines.
Yeah, it really was like, OK, this is the kind of work and I just kept doing that kind of work for the rest of my career.
Yeah. And when you were going to auditions and stuff as a child, were your parents very encouraging? Were they pushing you or were you pushing yourself?
My mom just kind of kept checking in with me and seeing if I wanted to keep doing it, you know, and it's not like, you know, when especially when you're young or when you're not really doing a lot.
It's not like I was on set every day or even going to auditions every day. You know, I would be in school and I went to ballet school and I was really into ballet and I thought maybe I'd be a dancer. And that was a much bigger part of my life and acting right. Ballet, because I was in ballet every day. And so the acting thing was kind of just, you know, you go out on a magician, you know, once a week or once every couple of weeks.
It wasn't really at that invasive in my life. So I think that my mom kind of just kept asking me, do you still want to do this? And I clearly loved being on set and I loved acting. And I had so much fun when I was on set. And so she kind of just monitored it, you know, for sure, from a safe distance and and just kind of kept going. All right. Still having fun. Great.
But your parents are in music, right? Your mom's a harmonica player and your dad's a music manager. Right. So correct. Yeah. Presumably the arts weren't a foreign land in your in your house, even if it was from a slightly different discipline. Very much so.
I think it would have been weirder if I had wanted to be a doctor or lawyer or an accountant or something. Yeah, sure. It was such an artist's household and my brother was a musician and as a musician. And it was it was definitely very bohemian in it.
Right. Very laid back. Rather anarchic. Oh, yes. Right back. Everyone would be up till all hours of the night. They were instruments everywhere, like pianos, keyboards, drums, guitars, every there were always instruments and there always people coming over at the holidays and everybody would pick up an instrument and play. And it sounds very hippy dippy now that you talk about.
Sounds great, though. It was it was kind of great.
It really it was a real sort of artistic upbringing that, yes, I think that me going into acting was only a little odd because nobody else was acting in the family, but everyone was like, all right, sure.
So it was a happy childhood. Presumably, they say it sounds idyllic.
It does just that. It was very normal. I it wasn't it was it, you know, a sort of I suppose that sounds like it was really like that wasn't happening all the time. Right.
So there was still it was still a conventional touted as well.
Yes. Yes. We you know, we still watch TV and cartoons in school and OK. Road bikes and stuff like that.
And you mentioned the West Wing when you are only 17. Yeah, probably at that point it wasn't about what the gig was. You just needed to buy shoes.
And it's. Yeah, totally. It really was. I just auditioned for it three times I think. Yeah. And I never thought in a million years that I would get the part because I not I never got big things like that. So I thought, oh, there's no way I was going to I was going to get picked for that. And then I and then I did. And yes, I was it paid the bills for for a few years, you know.
How much did you get to see when you auditioned for it? Did you get like a whole script or just some pages or.
I think I just got my scenes and one of my first scenes was I think it was actually the first scene that I shot was with Martin Sheen. And I'm in I'm in big trouble. And he gives me this gigantic three page Aaron Sorkin written monologue. Wow. And I just got to sit on this couch and watch Martin Sheen paced around the room in this White House set and deliver this Aaron Sorkin monologue. I mean. Was like it was the craziest, coolest experience, I'll never forget it.
Yeah, you first appeared in Episode five, so presumably the show wasn't on air when you were auditioning for it.
That's right. That's right. And I was on set shooting another maybe episode six or something like that when you must have a little bit later when the show premiered and we were like that, the hour that it premiered, I was on set and we were doing one of those famous walk where they became famous. Those walk and talks to. Yeah. And which were so much fun to do.
And I remember standing in the hallway and talking to some of the cast on set and everybody was so nervous, you know, because so nobody knew this was this was a this was a slam dunk.
No, not at all. And I I think if I'm correct, I don't think it was necessarily a slam dunk right away. It was a bit of a slow burn. And I remember everybody kind of thought it's too smart for network television, that it's too complicated, the dialogue is too intelligent. And it was nothing like that on TV. And so there was a general feeling of like, I really don't know how this is going to go. Oh, hello, lovely listeners.
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Tell me about Aaron Sorkin, because I am he was the showrunner, I am mildly obsessed with it, as you know. You know, I'm an enormous West Wing fan because I've dribbled on about this to you before.
And did you meet him at the audition process?
I did. So it's funny, actually. I had a couple of auditions. And, you know, the first time you go in when nobody knows who you are, you audition for just like the mailroom attendant, you know. Right. And so I, I went to my third audition and I sat down in like two or three scenes to do. And I read with this man who I didn't know. And then I later found out that that was Aaron Sorkin and that I had actually read with.
Right. With Aaron.
Did he not say hello? My name's Aaron Sorkin. I'm sure you said his name was Aaron.
I probably was so nervous that I probably wasn't even, like, listening or either. I mean, I probably was just like heart pounding. So nervous.
But you were you were only 17. So, yeah, it wasn't your first job by any stretch, but it was the first job of that sort of scale, presumably, that that sort of production that you were on. Did you just think this is something out of the ordinary or did you think on all all all big shows are like this or did it feel different?
I didn't really have anything to compare it to, honestly, so I didn't know what it was supposed to be like. I'd never been on a big network show before. If anything, I think it must have been. Different because it felt because of the the writing, the writing was so unusual and so different for anything that was on television, and it was just it felt special. And I don't know if that's just in retrospect, looking back on what it became, I can say that.
I mean, I suppose if it had been a disaster and cancelled, I wouldn't I wouldn't be saying we wouldn't be talking about it today.
Right. So I don't know. There felt like a little bit of a crackle of energy in the air.
Yes. I went back yesterday. I watched your first appearance in an episode. You did? I did. It's very sweet. You're making chili with Charlie.
Yes. There's this lovely little sweet scene. And I mean, I don't know I don't know how far Aaron Sorkin planned ahead, but it looked like already he was planting a little seed. You know, they're going to have a little thing. And then five minutes later, Martin Sheen is addressing the room and doing one of those glorious speeches.
And I'm in tears. It's just one of those. It's just got the power of the words, as Gloria.
I know. I know. It was it was truly such a special experience. And everybody was it really taught me how you're supposed to act on that kind of a set and how you're supposed to be. Everyone was so professional and so kind. And Martin Sheen led the way in that and really set the tone. And then all the other actors, Brad and Allison Janney and Richard Schiff and John wonderful late John Spencer, you know, everyone was so nice to each other and they were so they were funny and treated the crew so respectfully and it just and worked really hard.
And it and it really taught me I obviously had no idea at the time I was going to go on to do so much television. But it really taught me that, oh, that's how it's supposed to be. It comes down from the top and you are kind to the crew and you were respectful of everyone else and you know your lines and you don't mess up. And it just taught me that that's how it's supposed to be.
But you have been acting, as we say, since you are since you were little. You didn't you you haven't had any kind of formal training, as it were.
You've just kind of done it, which is probably a better training than actually going to drama school. And so have you developed a view developed, do you think, your own routine or process that you apply to each new job?
Do you have a kind of do you have your own technique, your own method?
I think I have developed a sort of slipshod, messy method. It's very improvisational and it really depends on what the project is. So for something that like, you know, I'm playing a real person like Shirley, like something that then I did a lot more research than I ever would have done before. I read biographies and I listen to a tape of her and all this stuff that I never really done before. And then there's some stuff that I just I think the thing that I probably do every time is I try to work really closely with the writer or the writer and director, write and go over every scene with them and talk to them about it and ask questions and and get them to tell me about the scene and just listen.
And I really tried to mine the the material as much as possible, but I it is very messy and it depends on it just depends on what the project is.
So it's instinctive. You work from instinct and but very pragmatically. I think you're quite a pragmatic person, aren't you. Yeah, I am.
I'm very pragmatic and I'm very like I kind of I suppose it is instinctive and I sort of take I take what I need and what I can when I can get about it and what I do as much thinking about it as I think I need to do and then forget about it. Right.
So do you think you work off quite a strong bed of self-confidence? You know what you need and you know you don't need. I guess so. I guess so, I think I just I over the years, especially the last decade, I've learned a lot of a lot more about what what my process is on set and what I need. And I find that so much of what I do is is honestly instinctive in a last minute idea. You know, sometimes I find that I can think about something until I'm blue in the face and I can study it and study it and think about it and talk about it.
But until I'm on set with the other actor. In the costume, listening and feeding off of them, it doesn't really matter because then there's there's going to be something else that's going to happen once you're there. Right.
But that needs that you need to have a belief in yourself to to be thinking all work out on the day. I know. I'll get there somehow.
I guess so. Yeah. I wonder if growing up around people who were professionally creative. Gives you a sense of being allowed to be at that party. My 18 year old is no acting and I when I would go and see him in school, please, because he'd grown up around actors and there was another kid who went to the same school who'd also grown up around people who are in the industry.
And when the two of them walked on stage, it's not even that they were necessarily better than everyone else he was, but just he just him.
And there's this other kid. They just had a sense of going, I'm allowed to do this. This is a legitimate thing to do, which I think a lot of people who don't come through that sort of world can struggle to feel like you're allowed to be there and can and can struggle with imposter syndrome, which I don't feel that you do.
I 100 percent agree with that, I think that's that's exactly right. I think that, you know, as evidenced in your son and, you know, anyone that has grown up in that kind of artistic, creative family, you definitely do. You have your sort of authorized to explore something that is really kind of insane to try to do. And is is, as you know, our our industry and our business is so much chance and there's so much unknown.
And, you know, you can make a movie that you think is going to be the best movie ever made. And, you know, that's a slam dunk and it can go nowhere. And so I do think that, yeah, you have an authorization kind of from your creative parents to to go. I deserve to be at the party. I think that's a great way of putting it.
Do you feel, therefore, that you don't have to suffer for your art because there's that fashion of acting has to be hard, but I don't get that from you.
I feel that you're you feel like if I can get there in a straight line, that's fine. Is that fair? That's absolutely fair. 100 percent I. I am. I'm not a method actor, as you know, you know, and I haven't I sort of have a slight jealousy and admiration for actors who kind of like, you know, like your Daniel Day Lewis and you're you're walking Phoenix Sukuk, who just really goes so well, it looks it looks so special, doesn't it?
It looks kind of spiritual or something. Yes, exactly.
Yeah. They look like they're working so hard, so hard, so admirable, so hard. And I have that kind of like, oh, maybe I should do that. And that would be better. But I, I know that I would just get. Board immediately, I just can't do it, I know that I would just I would spend one day acting like that character and living in that world and I'd be so bored with myself. Right.
Right. Even though you don't worry about appearing fraudulent if it doesn't seem to cost you enough. Yes, exactly, that's exactly right. I just think that everybody has thought everybody's got their own way of doing it and whatever, I guess, brings the story to life in the best way. But for me, I just. I don't know if it has to be that hard, right, when we worked together a few years ago, we did a very small scale British movie that filmed on an on an ex pig farm in the depths of I was going to say, a converted pig farm.
But it was only semi converted. It was still pretty much a pig farm in the depths of Yorkshire.
And it's interesting because when we worked on that on that movie, you were very easy, delightful to be on set with and never got grumpy or difficult or any of that stuff that one might expect.
You know, no, absolutely. And highly motivated.
But I do remember there was a couple of moments where you were very you very specifically and in an entirely measured and thoughtful way, made it clear that you had a different creative idea to the one that may have been being suggested in that in that moment. And I thought, that's it.
And you did it with absolute grace and absolute clarity. And I thought that was it was very impressive because you clearly had a very although you were very open to being encouraged to do different things into trying different things, you still had a very clear sense of knowing what works and doesn't work for you. Have you always had that, do you think? Is that a fair assessment?
I think that over the years, as you know, when you do work and people think it's good and and you start to get a little bit more confident in your instincts and in the fact that you might be right about certain things, and it's never something of like I had an idea that I was going to do it this way and I've planned to do it this way since I woke up this morning. And on the drive in, I have planned that this is how I was going to do the scene.
And it comes from a place of which you probably feel as well and saw when we were working together. It just comes from a place of something not feeling right or feeling like I can't do a good job at whatever it is that I'm being asked to do. You know or not, I don't understand it and I'm perfectly willing to try anything. But I have to kind of I have to kind of understand it and and feel it. Otherwise, I feel like I can't do a good job at whatever it is.
So tell me how Mad Men came about so Mad Men, I was twenty three and I was living in New York City because I did the opposite that everybody does in the states where everybody moves to L.A. and pursues a career.
Now, why is that? Is that because New York suits you more than L.A., do you think? Yeah, I love New York, I've lived here for 18 years now, and I just I love the energy of it. I love the architecture. I love the the the culture of it. The museums, the you know, the theater. Obviously, I, I love the diversity of it. I just it's more my speed, honestly, you know.
So I moved to New York to do a play off Broadway when I was 19. So I, I left L.A. where everybody was moving to and trying to do work and get into acting. And I went to the I went to New York and got into theater, which was just the opposite of what you're supposed to do. Yes. Yes. And I and I went on I got this incredible script. The pilot for Mad Men, I think it was called Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and.
There was this incredible part that I just fell in love with, like she had me hook, line and sinker from the very beginning. I loved that character and I auditioned a couple of times for it. And I remember that at the time it was like pilot season. Right. Which is the time when everybody auditions for pilots. And I there were two pilots at the time going around New York that were really, really special. And there was Mad Men.
And then there was this other one that was written by a quite famous writer. And I auditioned for both of them. And I remember going to the Mad Men audition and having such a great time and feeling like this character fit like a glove. And I was just it was one of those really special and memorable experiences. And then I went and auditioned for this other thing. And I remember walking into the waiting room and there was just all the most beautiful people in New York.
And everyone just I just I looked around and like gorgeous girls and I just remember thinking, oh, God, there's no way I'm going to there's no way I'm going to get this. But that was the one that everybody wanted to get that right. That was the that was the big one because it was on network television and ours was on AMC, which nobody knew what the hell that was.
It didn't make shows back then, did it? No, they just made movies and everybody called it Annie or nobody knew what it was. So everybody wanted to get this other one. And I was I wanted to get it, too. And I'm never going to get this. They're going to hire some attractive, skinny, beautiful woman and I'm never going to get it. And and I ended up not getting that. And I did get Mad Men.
And that other show was canceled halfway through the season. Right. There you go.
And Mad Men and Mad Men became what it was. And it was a good lesson for me. It really was.
So so in a sense, Mad Men felt like the consolation prize at the time. I hate to say that because it was a very, very it was incredible script. And it had this everybody was coming off of The Sopranos and like it was we made the pilot with the entire Sopranos crew on The Sopranos set at Silver Cup Studios. And it was it had that about it, but it definitely felt like it was it was one or the other at the time, right?
Yes. They were of equal importance to show.
But it does take off you and you you get nominated for an Emmy in 2009 for the first of many. Does that is that does that feel like a big moment? Do you feel like, oh my God, I've arrived?
Yeah, it was kind of it was crazy. I mean, it's still crazy. Honestly, I still I still at any time I get nominated for an award, it's as as as fake as it may sound. Anytime I get I get nominated for a award. I'm always a little bit like, well, that's nice.
Sure. Sure. I know that they think I did a good job. Well, that isn't that nice. It's no.
Not an uncommon occurrence for you but but then not first time. That must be like, oh my God, this little this little show that nobody thought I had a chance in hell. I know. I'm getting all dressed up and going to the Emmys. Yeah.
And it was for best actress too, which was really I felt kind of like I was only I guess at twenty nine. I'm terrible at math, but I was young and it felt it was incredible. It really was, it was a very, it was great going the year that I don't think I was nominated the first year and it was great going that year to like it was with the cast. Like that was cool. Yeah. We were nominated and it was cool, like and we I think we won and it was like it was unbelievable.
Right, right. Right.
I get so nervous tonight and it's like I, I guess I get anxious. I mean I get butterflies in my stomach just talking about it. I get so nervous every single time and I've lost far more times than I've ever won. And so sure you have this feeling of this adrenaline and and and. I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but. I find that in the moment that they read those names out. When they read out your category, even if you think that there's no way you're going to win, even if you spent this whole time thinking there's no way you're going to win in that moment, it's anyone's it's like feels like it's anyone's ballgame at that moment.
You're like you're like, could be me, me, me.
Well, it could. I mean, you know, you're you're down to the last four. It could it's not unrealistic to think of it now.
It feels like you've got a one in five chance. And then the comedown from that, when you inevitably lose it is just it's terrible.
The terrible thing about that is, though, you have got the idea then. And again, that sounds like a terrible cliche, but the act being nominated is a wonderful, sort of extraordinary thing. You are down to the last four and you're in that moment when it's not you, you just feel like a fucking loser.
That's exactly right. You're so happy. And this is incredible. You're one of four, five or six actors of the year. Yeah.
Five hundred television shows, which is great until they open the envelope and then you're just the one who didn't win it and then you're just a fucking loser and you just didn't do a good enough job. Yeah.
Fuck yeah. Go home and cry.
My friends and I have a joke where we say, well I guess I guess you just weren't good enough this year because one of the things that made Peggy Olson such a hit was that she came she came to embody a kind of moment in time with regard to women in the workplace. You know, that was part of the story that Mad Men was telling. And she became something of a symbol for for sort of strong, ambitious women in the modern day as well.
Did that TransFair as a sort of pressure on you playing that part?
Did you feel the weight of expectation that you had to sort of witness to that outside the job? Almost. In a way, a little bit, I don't think I felt it as much as I felt it or feel it, I should say it was nothing.
It was nothing to what you had coming. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It was like at the time, I think it felt like significant and and but now I'm like, oh, that was. Yes. Something.
I think also I kind of kept I don't know, you know, when you make things, you're in a little bit of a bubble sometimes.
And I just thought of Peggy as this. Every woman I thought of her as, you know, that, you know, that movie Marty the Ernest Borgnine, though. Yeah. I always thought of her as Marty. I thought of her as just just regular person. And I didn't think of her as as a feminist icon or as a leader of a movement. I just thought of her as this as a as a writer and a woman in the workplace.
And so I kept I kept her in that bubble. So I didn't really feel that kind of pressure at the time. And and it and it was a different time in the sense of it was before the Metoo movement and time's up and everything. So sort of this idea of you say, I mean, the women on the show we used to do interviews and Q&A is and is so different than it is now because the interviewer would sort of think that they were massively intelligent and ahead of the curve and say, wow.
So sexism in the workplace. Right? I mean, this is this is a big deal. And, you know, we as women would be like, yeah, yeah. Huh. Yeah, that's a that's a real thing. But it was like a thing at the time of like. Can you believe how they used to treat women? Yeah.
Yes. It was an interesting thing was that the Mad Men felt like it had to go back to the 60s to to point out a truth about. No, I suppose that's what drama has always done. But yes. Yeah.
And then, of course, a few years later, as you as you say, as we enter 2016, you're filming season one of The Handmaid's Tale in Canada. And Hillary Clinton is not elected as the first female president of the United States.
And then suddenly, what was a very skillful TV adaptation of an 80s novel that was about a sort of fantasy, dystopian future and became vibrating relevant. And by the time the first series was on air, women's rights, reproductive rights, civil liberties are being discussed and indeed threatened in a way that many of us never imagined we would see in our lifetime. And the unexpected relevance only only adds to the brilliance of that series. But did that mean that you found when it came to promote that series and talk about that series you are having?
It was prescient in a way that you never predicted.
It really, really was. And it was an interesting place to be because we were balancing. Not wanting to capitalize on what was going on in a way that was insensitive, so there were these there were these gigantic relevant themes in the show, but we were trying to also be really careful not to look like we were just using the political climate to promote our stupid TV show. So you had to really balance talking about the things that were relevant and and very obvious while at the same time recognizing.
That we didn't intend for it to be that way, we weren't trying to obviously this book was written in the 80s and it was incredibly prescient and. We were shooting Episode four, four and five at the time that Hillary didn't win, and I remember going to work the next day and Josephine's had to say one of the most incredible lines from the book in the show, which is better, never means better for everyone. It's always worse for some.
And wow, it was a really intense life moment that I will never forget. And so that was important to us to talk about. But at the same time, we didn't want to look like we were capitalizing on it for some some dumb show, you know? Yeah, sure.
You've been quite candid, actually. I've seen you talking about that. That was a very steep learning curve in that you got it wrong a couple of times as you sort of tried to find where you sat in that space and let you say an actress in a show who suddenly becomes almost a symbol for a movement.
Yeah, I got it wrong. One big particular time, it was really interesting that we were doing a Q&A after the premiere of the show of the first episode and I think the New York Film Festival or something like that. And we were all on stage 10 of us doing this Q&A and and it was awkward. And we kind of were all having trouble hearing each other. And we were asked this question about, is The Handmaid's Tale a feminist novel?
I think it was. And we all answered. But I said, you know, I said that I didn't think it. I said I can actually remember what I said. But basically I would say the right thing. And I and I said that I found it. That was a humanist tale and it was a human story. And I got big trouble for that, understandably. And I think that and I had to clarify what I meant, which was clearly obviously that, of course, I'm a feminist.
Of course, it's a feminist novel. And I just what I meant was that I think there's stories for about all humans in it and. The learning curve was really, really fascinating because it was the moment that I realized that what I say people were listening to and I just didn't know that, as silly as that may sound, I just didn't think like that. And like you said, I'm an actress. You know, I'm not a politician.
I'm not I'm an activist as a as a citizen. But I'm it's not my vocation. And so I had to learn kind of what the languages that you can can use your platform for. And in that it actually makes a difference what you say and that people are listening. And it's really interesting. Interesting lesson.
Do you feel like you've embraced that that role as the seasons have gone on?
Do you feel more comfortable with it and does it feel like something you're actively enjoy taking that role now?
Yeah, it does. I mean, I always try to kind of be. Respectful of the fact that I am not a politician and they may not always have the all the information and I try to make it clear, if I don't feel like I'm educated on a particular thing, that I don't think I can I can speak on it. But I think it's something I've definitely become more comfortable with over the over the past few years and more understanding that there are perhaps people who rely on you to use your platform to speak for them.
And and then there are people who don't like when you do that and you kind of have to get over that and go. All right. Well, screw you guys. I'm going to do it anyway. Right?
OK, because you're an active producer on the show as well, aren't you? So it's very you know, it's it's a it's a huge part of your life currently and and, you know, directing an episode, right?
Yes. Yes. I am directing episode three while I was directing it, because I allegedly still am directing episode three. Yeah, well, we're talking in in sort of late May of twenty twenty when the world has shut down for a while. So presumably by the time people listen to this, you, you may well be back at work and directing again. And exactly. Have you figured out what kind of director you're going to be.
No, I don't know.
So much like the acting. You're kind of winging it day to day. No, they don't really want you to be instinctive. Too much on set. They kind of they kind of what? You'd have a plan, as I see. Yes.
Very, very different. I think what I found in my I did two days, so I certainly cannot speak as a director. But I, I think what I found surprising to me was I was really nervous about talking to actors. And I thought that I actually I actually really love the visual stuff. I really do love the planning and I love the prep and I love working on the script and I love all of that stuff.
And then I was kind of like, how the hell am I going to talk to an actor? I mean, I don't know what to say. You know, what if they what if they want an idea and I don't have it? Or what if they think my ideas are stupid? And how do I tell them to just do it better? And, you know. Yeah, all of that. And and then I had two days where I got to work with I luckily I wasn't acting myself and I got to work with Josephine's Max Minghella, Bradley and Bradley Whitford and these four men, these four incredible male actors.
And it was one of the greatest days I've ever had on set. It was like having this, you know, chamber orchestra to conduct. And it was such a joy to go in there. And everyone's doing a great job. You're never telling anybody. They're already doing amazing on their first take. So you're just trying to go in and tell them I don't know anything to get the do something different or to get anything different out of them. And so you go in and you just say one little thing or that little thing, and then you go back to the monitor and sit and watch and you're like and to see what they how they took, what you said and how they transpose it and do it was just mind blowing.
And I, I was really surprising how much I loved that process. I didn't know. I didn't know. I'd love it.
Have you figured out how you're going to direct yourself yet? Well, you have to watch every take back as you go. Or will you just know when you've nailed it? I think it's going to be a combination.
I think it's going to be a real kind of flying by the seat of your pants experiment. You know, we have it set up so I can watch playback, but I can't watch playback every time because we don't have endless amount of hours to shoot something. So I think a lot of it's going to be like relying on my DP and relying on any other sort of on set producers to have a look and making sure things look OK. And, you know, I I had I had good advice actually from a director who was mentoring me, who's directing episodes one and two, Daina Reid, an Australian director.
And she said, you need to do a pass through the script where you actually. Think about June. As a director and not as the person playing Jim, OK? And I thought that was really good advice that you actually then you kind of have to put aside the actor part of you and go, if I was just directing this other person, what would I what would I say and what would I want from them? So I have to do that.
I don't yet do that at some point. Sure.
You were in one of the last I mean, possibly the last movie to make a lot of money at the box office before the world shut down in this weird moment where the invisible man was a proper, like jump out of your seat popcorn movie, albeit with a very human story at the center of it, the big shiny multiplex movies.
Is that the next world you want you're looking to conquer?
Yeah, I don't know. I think that. I liked being able to do something that people saw, not at the movies I do, it's very small, audiences actually managed to see them. So it was nice to do something that people saw and was in the movie theaters and had posters and all of that that you could see.
You were on the side of buses outside our house. Oh, yeah. Yeah. That's so funny. Apologies for that was great, but I don't think I'll ever necessarily.
Approach things from that place, I just don't know how to I think that I, I like to do things that people see. Of course, I don't want to do things in just like a vacuum. But even that movie, even though that was a bigger sort of popcorn studio film, it still was about gaslighting and relationship and, you know, still had these really dark themes to it. Did it need to have that to lure? Um, yeah.
I mean, I think I don't think it wasn't even like luring me and I don't think they would have wanted me to do it if it wasn't that like when I remember them coming to me and saying they're doing a reboot of The Invisible Man. And I was like, OK. And, you know, they're going to get the offer to be in it. I was like, OK, it this doesn't make any sense. And then I read the script and I was like, Oh, I get it right.
I get why they want me to do it. Yeah. Fun though I guess.
Right. Lost all that running around and dive in a boat.
It's so much fun. It was so much fun doing the rehearsals and having to stretch before you do a scene which is not something I usually have to do. Right. Yeah.
You but I'm having to warm up before a scene was very fun and it was great.
And the mechanical parts of it I really liked and the visual effects parts were interesting. And it was, it was like a whole new experience.
I usually just sort of sit around in a chair and blink as one solitary tear dribbles day or two, just. Yeah, yeah.
That's that's the amount of exercise I've had for the day. So, yeah, it was it was definitely a different experience.
Well, whether by luck or judgment or a combination of both, you do seem to have a Midas touch with the projects that you've been involved in over the years. This is undoubtedly going to continue. But just see, it didn't just see the face did something weird. And Elisabeth Moss was finished as an acting phenomenon.
How would you be how would you be in your apartment in New York with nothing to do and be fucked?
It completely. But I don't have any other skills. I have no education. I have no formal education in anything. I didn't go to college or university. I, I don't know how to do anything else. I'm a bit royally screwed. And if my career takes after this podcast, I'm, I'm coming to the UK and finding you not find.
I'm very happy to take the break. We'll find this. This will be the marker. This will be when everything changed. I did that podcast with David and then everything just completely went to shit.
Well, we need a new cleaner. So if you you know, if you're ready. Yes, I am quite good at cleaning. I bet you are.
Well, you know, you're always welcome to clean in our house. Elisabeth Moss.
It's so kind of you. Thank you so much. So thank you so much for taking the time. It's been a joy. So nice to see you.
So nice to see you, too. Thanks for doing this.
David Tennant does a podcast with his Are Something Else and No Mystery production produced by Zooey Edwards, additional production from Harriet Wells, Sarah CamNet, Steve Akerman and George Tenet. The sound engineer was Josh Gibson. The executive producer is Christina. Next time Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin, they don't know what power is power. Power is being able to get all of these Batman's to say what you want them to say and do Joker.