Elisabeth Moss on the Mad Men Contract Disputes, Girdles and "On the Road"

Slate's Culture Blog
April 4 2011 5:41 PM

Elisabeth Moss on the Mad Men Contract Disputes, Girdles and "On the Road"

For the devoted Mad Men fan, thecontract dispute between show creator Matthew Weiner and the companies AMCand Lionsgate was nerve-wracking. There was a moment when it seemed like thecritically acclaimed show might actually be canceled. How would we survivewithout our summertime infusion of 60s glamour and social intrigue? As disappointingas it may have been for the Don Draperobsessive ,a cancelation would be even more of a downer for the cast and crew. Luckily forall parties, Weiner and Co. resolved their standoff, and Mad Men will be returning for three moreseasons starting in 2012 . Elisabeth Moss, who plays the promising young copywriterPeggy Olsen, was watching the contract drama unfold while performing in LillianHellman’s classic 30s-era play The Children’s Hour alongside KeiraKnightley in London. Slate spoke with Moss about the contract agita, her upcomingrole in an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road , why she alwaysends up in a girdle on set, and her quest for the perfect leather jacket.

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Slate : You said in an interviewwith Broadway.com last week that the MadMen cast didn’t have any inside information about the contract disputes.What was it like to be reading about all the delays while you were so far fromthe action?

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Elisabeth Moss: You just sort of have toresign yourself to the fact that it may or may not go forward. I think we allreally trusted Matt [Weiner] though, and trusted his judgment and that he’salways looking out for what’s best for the show and for us. There’s always thepart of you, though, who wonders if that was all I’d be doing on Mad Men . But I feel that it’s such agift being on the show and to be part of it and four seasons would have been anincredible ride. I can’t believe our luck.

Slate: I would havebeen disappointed if the show ended before it had a chance to explore the late60s. [Season 4 ended in 1965.] What do you think will happen to Peggy? In thispast season she made some friends in the counter-culture. Do you think she’llbe partying at Andy Warhol’sfactory?

Moss: I’d love to know! Peggy is really smart and progressive but she lovesher job, she loves advertising first and that will probably remain. I literallyhave no idea, though. I can speculate, but there’s nothing I can come up withthat’s better than the writers come up with. You don’t want to know what Ithink, because whatever the writers come up with will be better.

But I do love the direction she wasgoing in of being a woman of the time, and a woman of that time who was seeingthat there was more to the world than being a secretary. It’s reallyinteresting for her to see that there’s this world outside of advertising—but she’sa real woman of the times, not a clichéd idea of someone who is in Andy Warhol’sstudio.

Slate: On the subject of Peggy’s being a womanof her time, you’re playing Galatea Dunkel in a film version of On the Road out later thisyear.Are you particularly drawn to period pieces or are those just the good scriptsthat are sent your way?

Moss: I did it just after Mad Men season 4 last year, and ofcourse it was one of those projects that you have to be a part of. I reallywanted to work with the director WalterSalles , I am such a huge fan of his. I’m doing a play now that is set inthe 30s [ The Children’s Hour ]. It’snot intentional, it seems to be all period stuff. If I wear a pair of jeans ina project I think I am going to faint. I literally walk on set and am like,where’s my girdle and my pantyhose?

Slate : When does therun of the Children’s Hour end? Anddo you think you’ll try to do something else before Mad Men resumes production?

Moss: This ends on May 7. It’s funnybecause there’s been this attention recently to what we’ve been doing on ourhiatus, but we’ve been on hiatus for months already. Unfortunately because Idon’t know when we’re going back, it’s so hard to know what there will be timefor. So far during our hiatus I’ve filmed Onthe Road and the Lawrence Kasdan movie Darling Companion . I did those two films, a Europeanpress tour, and the play. I’m ready to go back to work on Mad Men now. If there’s time for another film that would be great. But Istarted on the road 3 days after season 4 ended, and it’s been pretty non-stop.The schedule for [ The Children’s Hour ]has been really intense—eight shows a week. I wouldn’t mind a week off! We’llsee what happens.

Slate : Have you enjoyeddoing the show even though it’s been grueling?

Moss: It’s been one of the hardestthings I’ve ever done but one of the greatest. I’ve done theater before but I’venever had a part with this sort of depth that is so difficult and so complex. It’sthe most fulfilling for me. Keira has been—I’ve been so lucky—she’s a gift tome, one of the coolest girls I’ve ever met. It’s me and her a lot of the time,so you really have to trust the other actor, and you have to like them,hopefully. You might think, of course I’m going to say that, but she’s really wonderfuland fun.

Slate: Now for the random question we’re goingto ask everyone. What was the best thing you saw on the Internet this week?

Moss: I tend to go to theater websites,like Playbill . It’s a goodquestion, I’m bad at thinking about this kind of thing! But my favorite thingI’ve seen is probably the amazing leatherjackets on burberry.com . I’ve beenlooking for a really cool little jacket, and I found one.

Interviewhas been condensed and edited.

Photograph of Elisabeth Moss courtesy of Getty Images.