Elisabeth Moss has had quite a string of successful television shows. From 2007 to 2015, she earned six Emmy nominations for her performance as Peggy Olson, a secretary who rose to the level of copy chief in Mad Men‘s Sterling Cooper advertising agency. In the midst of Mad Men‘s run, she anchored the BBC miniseries Top of the Lake as hardcore detective Robin Griffin, which earned her another Emmy nom and a Golden Globe. And now Moss stars on Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which puts her Emmy acting nomination total at eight.
In between the end of Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale premiere, Moss filmed a second season of Top of the Lake, which debuted in the US Sunday, September 10, on Sundance, just a week before the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards, where she is favored to take home a statuette for her work on The Handmaid’s Tale. But Moss isn’t in this for the hardware. At the 2017 TCA summer press tour, she told Brit + Co and several other reporters that this acting embarrassment of riches is incredibly rewarding — and she wishes she had more time to take on even more quality projects.
“I feel still so excited about the projects that I’m doing. And I feel like there’s so much left to do and there’s not enough time and I’m only one person,” Moss said with a laugh. “That’s my only frustration — there are so many good things out there right now and so many great scripts being written. … I’m very much enjoying it.”
Part of what makes her projects so exciting is the women’s issues they portray. A self-proclaimed feminist, Moss says the rise of women in the 1960s workforce, or the dystopian world of Gilead taking away women’s agency when it comes to sexuality, fertility, and reproduction, are still very much front and center in the present-day world.
“I’m a 35-year-old American woman. These are the through lines of my life. This is what I deal with — and I deal with a tiny, tiny bit of it. As a white woman in America, I get the good end of the f**king stick,” Moss said. “These are the through lines of our existence and so, yeah, I absolutely see [the feminist themes]. It’s what I’m interested in as a person and usually what you’re interested in as a person is also what you’re interested in as an artist.”
A popular meme that began circulating on the internet during The Handmaid’s Tale‘s first season juxtaposed Moss’s Peggy and Offred, captioned “2016 vs. 2017,” in reference to where women are today versus a year ago. Moss said no one on Handmaid’s Tale anticipated their show would be so prescient.
“We all thought we’d have a female president. I went out that night to watch. I never go out! That’s how much I thought it was going to be a female president,” Moss said, adding that she is flattered by the way viewers have grabbed on to these two characters as a touchstone.
“It’s something I’m intensely flattered by, obviously. This is sh*t that’s really important to me as a woman and these are issues that are really near and dear to my heart, so to be in any way associated with that movement is incredibly flattering to me, it’s a great honor,” Moss said.
While Moss does acknowledge that women still have a long way to go, she thinks that feminism has made great strides in recent years. “I think for me, feminism is better than it’s ever been. I think women are really embracing it in a way that they never have before and men are embracing it in a way they never have before,” she said. “Obviously it needs to reflect more in our politics and a little bit more in our government, but I think as a people we’re on pretty much the same page. Art often reflects what’s going on in the world and we’re seeing stories that are very diverse and we’re seeing stories that are led by women and made by women because that’s what we have, that’s what’s in our world.”
Of course, in many spaces, women are still being told to stay in their lane. In fact, in the new season of Top of the Lake, Moss and Gwendoline Christie’s characters, who are both police officers, talk about being “too much” for their male colleagues — something neither Robin nor Moss cares about at all.
“I don’t pay much attention to whether or not anyone thinks I’m too much,” Moss said with a laugh. “But I think it’s a very valid, common thing. I think as women we’re supposed to be quiet and stay in line and not be too vocal. It’s the old saying of, if you’re outspoken about something or you’re harsh or aggressive about something, you’re called a b*tch, whereas a man is called powerful and in control and all these other much nicer words. So, yeah, of course. That’s an age-old thing and I just don’t pay attention to it or care.”
Top of the Lake season two runs over three nights from September 10-12 at 9pm ET/PT on Sundance.
Which of Elisabeth Moss’ characters is your favorite? Tell us @BritandCo.
(Photos via SundanceTV + Hulu + Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty)