Moss finds a perfect fit on ‘Mad Men’

[28 July 2008]

By Luaine Lee

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

BEVERLY HILLS - Though she’s been acting most of her life, Elisabeth Moss figures she’s fortunate she’s never been famous. That streak of luck may have run out as Moss maneuvers her naive secretary, Peggy, from AMC’s “Mad Men” into new adventures and a second season.

“I was about 6 when I started but I wasn’t a ‘child actress’ because I didn’t really do some huge thing that made everybody know who I was,” she says in a congested hotel restaurant.

“So I was able to just work and get better and improve and work with other amazing people that I could learn from, to where I could get to the place where I had the right role and the right people and the right show and be able to do what I had learned.”

Moss also studied ballet for 10 years starting when she was a moppet of 5. “I went back and forth between those two. And at 15 I decided to just go with acting because it was more fulfilling for me,” says Moss, who’s dressed in a fire-engine red, knit mini-dress.

Her years of comfortable anonymity may be over because of the engrossing role as the tenderfoot who begins to climb the corporate ladder in “Mad Men.”

When she first read the script she knew the role of Peggy fit like a Speedo.

“She was perfect for me,” she says, grinning. “It was a perfect fit, and I loved playing her from the first audition. I loved that role! The first audition it was executive producers Matt (Weiner) and Scott (Hornbacher) and Alan Taylor, who directed the pilot, and the casting director. I auditioned twice for it and it was one of those really cool moments where it just fits. And you know it works and they know it works and it’s one of those, ‘OK, this is good.’

“I walked out of the room and called my manager and said, talking about Matt, I said, ‘I could work with him. I would work with him. I would sign that contract for however many years if I could totally work with that man.’ And that was it.”

Moss, 25, continues to indulge the vivid imagination that dogged her childhood. She used to play “library” on the staircase and coax her family into checking out books. When she was 5 she planted an imaginary garden in the back yard, using only sticks in the ground as her seedlings.

“I would read a book like ‘Little House in the Prairie’ and for a month pretend I was in ‘Little House in the Prairie’ with detail - riding horses and I had a farm and had a huge imagination that, in an obvious way, led into the acting thing.

“I was very serious about my playing.”

She’s always been serious about her work, too. When she was 13 she left L.A. for New York on her own to study with the School of American Ballet. Though she stayed in a dorm, she was essentially alone in the big city. Her parents - both artists - supported her passions.

Her father manages jazz musicians and her mother plays the blues harmonica. “They’re both very successful at what they do. I think they were happy I went into the arts. I think they were happy I didn’t become a musician,” she says, then giggles.

It was her role as the President’s daughter on “The West Wing,” that brought Moss the attention that had evaded her most of her life.

“It was the biggest thing I’d been a part of. ... I went from 17 to 24 on that show. Besides what I did on the outside of my career, what it did for me personally is I got to work with all these incredible actors who’d been in the business for so long. ... And I got to kind of play with them - as a 17-, 18-year-old you don’t get that, especially on television.”

Though she loves travel and dreams of exotic locations like Egypt and India, for now Moss is concentrating on her career. She’s not dating, though she has nothing against dating other actors.

“I want to marry and have family someday. I’m 25 and it’s not, like, something I think about every day. I think I’m more into that state of falling in love is what I look forward to. I’m a deep romantic. I’m very much a romantic so I think for me it’s more about that, and everything else that comes after is icing on the cake.”

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Host Bob Costas and the rest of the NBC Olympics team are in Beijing readying for the event which begins on Aug. 8. Costas is an old hand at hosting the sports spectacular, and says that the event is held only every four years makes it mega-special.

“For most of the athletes, this is their one and only Olympic chance. Unless you’re Dara Torres, of course, who will be competing in the 2032 Olympics. But apart from that, for most of them, it’s their one and only chance. For a handful, they might have two or three chances, but they have to wait four years,” he says.

“Despite the disappointment, Tom Brady and the Patriots are about to go right back at it and go to training camp. And Eli Manning and the Giants will have to prove it all over again. And the Lakers are already making plans for how they can unseat the Celtics. And there will be another World Series coming up as soon as this October’s World Series is over with.

“Not so in the Olympics. It’s once every four years at most; for many of these competitors, once in a lifetime. And many of the events go by in an eye blink. So you think of the drama involved in preparing your entire life and then intensely for several years prior to this event, and maybe you’re in an event that lasts 10 seconds or less or lasts just a few minutes. And it is this which will define you for your entire career. I think that raises the stakes and raises the drama, and it’s why so many people around the world, Americans included, pay attention to events at the Olympics. . .”

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Actress Sean Young is one of the contestants on CMT’s new season of “Gone Country,” the network’s highest rated series, which premieres Aug. 15. Here, the competitors - from other fields of endeavor - find out what it’s like to function in the world of country music, with one lucky winner earning a chance to cut a record.

Young, who was a bit of a wild card during her salad days in Hollywood (“Blade Runner,” “No Way Out”) claims she’s calmed down.

“I do yoga three times a week. I spin. I raise my kids. I don’t pursue work real aggressively anymore. I don’t really want to. I guess in January this last year, when I got drunk at the DGA (Directors Guild Awards), I guess I finally just went, ‘You know, I’ve had enough. I think it was, like, a lot of years of feeling social anxiety about some of the stuff I went through in my career that I always felt was sort of unfair. But my social anxiety has kind of turned into social hostility. It’s like I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. . .”

Though she didn’t mention it, Young checked herself into rehab for alcohol abuse following the DGA event.

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If you need a life-sized dinosaur to menace your hero, you go to the dinosaur guy, Tim Haines, who was responsible for much of the clawing and grazing in “Walking with Dinosaurs.”

Now Haines lends his hand to make-believe with BBC America’s new series, “Primeval,” premiering Aug. 9. Here, creatures from the past collide with the present in their most forbidding form.

Haines says he enjoyed working with his imagination for a change. “After years of discussing things like the angle of an Abelisaur’s front arm, I think it’s great to just say, ‘Well, this is SORT of what they looked like.’ And primarily what they are, are characters. They are things that play amongst the actors, and therefore they’ve got to perform their roles. We don’t worry about scientific accuracy because the whole premise is a science fiction one. At the same time, sometimes that information can really fire off ideas. If you know a creature behaved in this way or you knew what it should be like, that can give you a great dramatic story.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/moss-finds-a-perfect-fit-on-mad-men/