Interview Date: 09/15/2010
Run Date: 09/21/2010
When Bullz-Eye was pitched the opportunity to chat with Elisabeth Moss about her role in “Get Him to the Greek,” the Jonah Hill / Russell Brand comedy which hits DVD on September 21st, I couldn’t possibly have raised my hand any more quickly than I did. After all, I’m the one who writes our “Mad Men” blog, so I had plenty to ask her about her full-time TV gig. In fairness to the project which brought us together, however, I did my best to split the conversation 50/50 between the two topics. Obviously, I’d rather have spent far more time chatting about the puzzle that is Peggy Olson, but given the limited amount of time allotted (I was promised 10 minutes but barely got 9), I think you’ll agree that I accomplished about as much as I possibly could have.
Elisabeth Moss: Hello…?
Bullz-Eye: Hello, Elisabeth, how are you?
EM: I’m good!
EM: Oh, wow! That was a while ago!
BE: It was, indeed. Well, between “Get Him to the Greek” and “Did You Hear About The Morgans,” you seem to be working on people’s perceptions of you as strictly a dramatic actress.
EM: Yeah, I guess so!
BE: Is that a conscious effort, or is it just the way the parts are coming to you?
EM: No, I…I think that people tend to sort of think as “Mad Men” as very much a drama and very, very serious, and it definitely is at times, but I think people forget that it’s also really, really funny. Our read-throughs we spend laughing most of the time. Of course there are incredibly dramatic moments on the show, but I think people forget that it’s really funny. So for me, it’s not as big a departure as an outsider would view.
BE: As leading men go, what are the big differences between Jon Hamm and Jonah Hill?
EM: (Laughs) Well, you know, Jonah’s obviously a very dramatic actor, and Jon is absolutely hilarious, so I think that would be the biggest difference. Jonah has no sense of humor, and Jon can’t really act. I think that’s probably the biggest difference.
BE: Oh, good, that was my perception as well. I’m glad to have you back that up.
EM: (Laughs) No problem.
BE: Was your character’s constant yawning ever a problem on set? I had visions of it being so contagious that Jonah would blow scenes because he’d start yawning, too.
EM: No, not really. (Pauses) No, it wasn’t a problem.
BE: (Laughs) Well, so much for that question. Okay, fair enough, we’ll move on to the threesome, then. We didn’t really see a lot, but we certainly heard plenty. Some actresses say that faking an orgasm onscreen is just another piece of acting. Do you at least feel a little self-conscious when you’re doing it?
EM: Oh, yeah, it’s the worst! Are you kidding? It’s horrible! I’d literally rather do anything else onscreen than have to do that. It’s so embarrassing, and… (Starts to laugh) …it’s literally the worst thing in the world to have to do. I hate it. But at least this was for comedy’s sake. That kind of changes things. When you’re doing something that’s supposed to be funny as opposed to serious, that always helps.
BE: You and Russell obviously got pretty up-close and personal during that scene. How was he to work with?
EM: He was wonderful. He was such a gentleman, and so funny and sweet. He’s so quick. His sense of humor is just so quick. I don’t know where he comes up with these things so fast, but it made it fun to work with him, because you literally don’t know what’s going to happen, and you don’t know what he’s going to do. It’s a very exciting way of working.
BE: How are your skills as an ad-libber? Were you able to keep up?
EM: Yeah, I think so. I did pretty well. It’s kind of…it’s an interesting thing, because, yes, it’s improv, but at the same time, you’re filming it, so you can’t really make any mistakes. If you say the wrong thing, you just do it again, or they don’t use it. So it’s improv, but it’s not like doing improv on stage, where you can’t go back and do it again. It’s a very safe environment to be doing improv.
BE: Well, because of our time limit, I wanted to shift into some “Mad Men” questions. I blog the series for our site, so I’m very tuned in to what’s going on with the show.
EM: Oh, great!
BE: This has been a fantastic season. “The Suitcase” may be one of my favorite episodes of all time.
EM: Oh, wonderful! Thank you!
BE: It was amazing to see the depth of the relationship of Don and Peggy finally explored during the course of the episode. How was that for you as an actress?
EM: You know, I think that depth was always there, but we just didn’t see…or hadn’t made the choice yet…to spend an hour looking at it. But I think the only reason why that episode pays off is because that depth has been there for four seasons. Honestly, as a viewer…and I’m a fan of the show, too…I just loved seeing those two characters finally get to talk about things and be together and have things come to a head. You’ve had four seasons of history and life with these two people, and I think that it was just time for us to see them address some of these things.
BE: Don is certainly not one who’s big on change, but even so, with the subsequent episode, it seemed as though he’d come to accept Peggy’s strength as a businesswoman a bit more, with him passing her the ability to fire Joey.
EM: Passed the ability…?
BE: I mean, he basically said, “Well, if you don’t like what he’s done, then fire him!”
EM: Oh, yeah! I think that 90% of what Peggy does, she’s learned from Don. I think that she really respects him and looks up to him, and I think he’s starting to ask her to make these decisions on her own. He’s giving her more and more responsibility…and that’s what she wants, but it’s also a little bit scary, and I think that she’s obviously continuing her evolution into becoming who she will be. Also, she…well, I don’t want to say that she’ll become like him, because I don’t think she’ll actually ever end up like him, but perhaps she’ll end up as savvy and professional and as good as he is at his job.
BE: I find it interesting that Peggy has continued to evolve over the course of the series, yet, as we saw again this week, Joan is very, very comfortable in her niche that she’s made for herself.
EM: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think she…I think that the interesting thing about Joan is that she actually likes where she is. I think she likes her position. And that was the original conflict between Joan and Peggy: Joan didn’t understand why Peggy was wanted more out of her job. She didn’t understand why she wasn’t satisfied with where she was. Joan has an incredibly powerful position in the office. In fact, if anything, she’s more powerful than Peggy. Joan is a very strong female character in the office as well.
Publicist: Hey, Will, we’ve got time for just one more.
BE: (Sighs) Okay, uh, well, let me just ask about something that intrigued me about “The Suitcase,” then. I’m curious what you thought about the relationship between Peggy and her former fiancée. During that failed attempt at a birthday dinner, it seemed to me that her family almost liked him more than they did her…or, at least, they were extremely sympathetic to what he was having to deal with. Would you agree with that?
EM: Yeah, I think that Peggy…she’s sort of a loner, and I think that she doesn’t get along well with her family. Family is family, but I think she’s very, very different from her mom and her sister, and they cannot see eye to eye on anything. Peggy’s from a different generation, and she describes to Don almost exactly what the problem was. She says, “He invites my family, knowing that I don’t even like them.” And to her, that shows how he doesn’t actually understand her, because if he did, then he would know not to invite her family, who she doesn’t even like. So it pits her against all of them. I think that she views Mark as a placeholder. He was sort of the easy choice…and, unfortunately, not right for her.
BE: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you again.
EM: You, too!
BE: I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season unfolds…but, please, tell Matthew Weiner that I really wish he’d give us back our advance screeners, because it’s killing me to have to stay up late every week to write my blog.EM: (Laughs) I will tell him!