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Elisabeth Moss on 'Mad Men,' Indie Film and Her Amazing Year

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 2, 2014 at 10:00AM

Only three weeks into 2014, Elisabeth Moss had already won a Golden Globe for "Top of the Lake," world premiered two films at the Sundance Film Festival, and shot some scenes for the upcoming final season of "Mad Men." Talk about a great way to kick off the new year.
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"The One I Love"
Sundance "The One I Love"

Moss, who was in Park City in January with Alex Ross Perry's acclaimed literary drama "Listen Up Phillip" and the high-concept relationship comedy "The One I Love," (acquired by RADiUS-TWC at the festival) sat down with Indiewire on her last day of the fest to talk about the last few weeks, the experience of having two films in Sundance, and saying goodbye to Peggy Olson.

[ Editor's Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. This interview was originally published during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.]

You've had an amazing 2014 and we're still in January.

I feel like the rest of it's going to suck! [laughs] January's going to be amazing and the rest of the year's going to be downhill.

So what's this all been like? The Golden Globe win, two films at Sundance…

It's been surprising and I feel very lucky. I made these two films in my hiatus and I was really proud and happy to do both of them. And the fact that they both came to Sundance is a dream come true, because that's exactly what we wanted for the both of them.

"Top of the Lake"
Sundance "Top of the Lake"

And then the Golden Globe is extremely surprising. The fact it happened the week before Sundance, I was able to maybe help out the films with that. And just the fact that I was able to come to Sundance because I'm filming "Mad Men" right now... I had to get clearance to come here, which is impossible to do. So I just feel really fortunate... and tired. [laughs]

I first became familiar with you via "Mad Men," but you've been a working actress since the early '90s -- most of your life! Do you feel like you've been working up to this point your entire career?

Yeah, I guess so. I do feel like I've been working for a long time. And I feel like I'm in a place I'm proud to be in. We're doing projects I'm proud of with people I like to work with. For me, I've always been a working actor (or a non working actor), so I still feel like that. I'm just happy to have a job! I'm still that person.

"I feel like I'm in a place I'm proud to be in." -- Elisabeth Moss

I've been acting for... I'm 31... wow, so 25 years. That sounds so stupid. [laughs]

And you obviously still love it.

I do. I feel the same way about it as I did when I was younger. I did my first film when I was 9 or 10 and I don't feel really any different about it that I did then.

I'm sure you feel more accomplished.

Well, I feel a lot more confident, maybe. [laughs]

You were last here with "Top of the Lake." How is this Sundance experience different?

Now I feel like I'm having the real Sundance experience. I'm here with films that need distribution. You're trying to get it sold and to get people to watch it. Last year was cool, but it was more of a reveal. It was about the reviews and people seeing it, but we weren't under any pressure.

What's surprised you the most about your first "true" Sundance experience?

Honestly, I guess just how nice everybody is. This is a funny story -- finally, on my last day I've come up with a good Sundance story! I was at the hotel coming to the Q&A after the "One I Love" screening and my car wasn't there. A random person gave me a ride to the screening. He was like, "Do you need a ride?" And I said, "Kind of." And he gave me a ride! He was so nice. I think his name is Jason, he's a venture capitalist. I also told everybody at the hotel to take down his license plate number in case I get murdered. [laughs]

"Mad Men"
AMC "Mad Men"

I'm sure your publicist was having a heart attack.

She was on a plane! This is what happens when I'm abandoned.

Did Jason recognize you?

Yeah, that was the thing – he was a big fan of "Mad Men."

You strike me a bit of a workaholic. Do you enjoy down time or prefer being on set?

Well, I feel more comfortable in bed sleeping. But I do like being on set. And "Mad Men" are my family. It sounds like a dorky thing to say, but my favorite place to be is on set and working. I love it. Otherwise I obviously shouldn't be doing it.

"It sounds like a dorky thing to say, but my favorite place to be is on set and working." -- Elisabeth Moss

Are you staying so busy to ensure you have a sustainable career once "Mad Men" ends?

I don't know if that's up to me in a way. I'll just work on things that I think are good, that are offered to me. I'm maybe more in demand than I used to be. There's no grand plan or scheme or anything. I'm just hoping for the best.

Are you ready to say goodbye to Peggy?

I think it's going to be weird. I just don't think it's going to be real to me. We're going to finish and it's going to take six months for it to be real. I'm just going to think that we're coming back, like we always do.

To the character or to the working environment?

To the character. I know I'm going to see these people again. We're all family. It won't be the same context though. But it's really the character that's going to be weird to say goodbye to. I just keep thinking about the last scene, the last take.

Have you spoken with anybody who's gone through that experience of saying goodbye to a character, like Aaron Paul or Bryan Cranston?

I talked to Aaron and Bryan about it. They get what it's like when you talk about it. It's a very strange experience.

"Mad Men"
AMC "Mad Men"

What have you learned about yourself by playing Peggy? In my mind she's the character who's gone through the most growth and change on the show.

I felt like I was always a little bit ahead of her because she was 20 when we started and I was 23 in 2000-whatever. We were just very different women. I feel like she caught up to me a bit. But at the same time it's very difficult to tell the difference between what is informing you as a person and what you are putting into the character, especially when you get so close to a character.

Peggy is a part of my whole life. That's the thing that I experience with Peggy. I'll go back to a season, and looking back I'm like, wow, that's exactly what happened to me that year -- and it will be on the show. In a weird, subtle way it's the same thing. For me it's a very blurry line.

How do you want her storyline to end?

I kind of want them to come up with it. I've been surprised in the past in the best ways. I think whatever they come up with is going to be way better than anything I could ever think of. So I'm going to leave it. I don't want to guess. I don't want to be a part of it. I read it too. I watch it too, like a viewer.


Indiewire has partnered with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand to kick off Indie Film Month. Enjoy exceptionally creative and uniquely entertaining new Indie releases ("Under the Skin," "The Congress," "The Trip to Italy," and more) along with classic, Throwback Thursday indie titles ("Swingers," "Black Swan," and more) - all month long on Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand. Go HERE daily for movie reviews, interviews, and exclusive footage of the suggested TWC movie of the day and catch the best Indie titles on TWC Movies On Demand.


This article is related to: Interviews, Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men, The One I Love, Golden Globes, Sundance 2014, TWC Indie Film Month, Elisabeth Moss