Girl ‘On Top’: OTB Talks To Elisabeth Moss

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“I can’t tell you that!”, Peggy Olsen yells down the phone. I imagine her slamming a defiant fist on a walnut desk, mustard twin set clashing with the angry rouge of her cheeks. “I’d be murdered.”

I take a moment to remind myself that I am not speaking to Olsen, erstwhile employee of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but actress Elisabeth Moss. But after six years, separating the two ambitious young women is no straight forward task. One thing that is clear, however, is that the secrets of Mad Men Season 6 remain as closely guarded as you might expect of an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning show, watched by millions and obsessed over by fashionistas and fans alike.

The penultimate round of malt-swigging and general malaise is fast approaching and fans are already getting excited about the prospect of a return to Madison Avenue. Rightly so, it seems. “It’s about people thinking that they’ve changed and finding that they’re back in the same situations that they were before”, Moss divulges. “The idea that your weaknesses are your weaknesses and, sometimes, people never change.” Angst, regression and our old friend hamartia; paradise for the Mad Men brigade.

And what about Peggy? The reserved and intimidated twenty-something we once knew has blossomed into something of a feminist icon, rejecting the pressure to use her sexuality to get ahead and making demands of her male superiors. The scene in the last series where Peggy flips the power dynamics with boss Roger (John Slattery), glancing from under brow to ask “how much you got?” after he demands she stand in for him designing a new corporate image campaign, has been branded ‘BEST LINE EVER’ by enthusiastic cyber fans who have posted and re-posted the clip on social networking sites.

I ask Moss whether she has enjoyed playing something of a badass of late. “Peggy has always been sort trodden on and naïve and taken advantage of, so for me it was super fun to see her have the upper hand and be a little smarter and be a little bit more on top of things.

“But she wouldn’t be where she is if she didn’t have some confidence and she wasn’t smart and she didn’t start to develop some attitude. She has had Don Draper for her mentor after all. She’s becoming a little bit more cocky and confident in taking on some of those attitudes.”

And what about Moss? What next for the girl who came out of the blue to steal hearts and subvert power dynamics to become one of the most popular characters of the series? First up, a stint under Jane Campion’s direction in new detective drama Top Of The Lake.

Due to air on BBC4 later this year, yet again, Moss is playing a woman fighting to hold her own in a man’s world. “I think it’s an important story and it’s a very true story”, she says. “I think women identify with it, on all levels. Whether it is just that women don’t make as much money as a man does or don’t have the same opportunities. I don’t wake up in the morning and go ‘yes we need to tell this story’ but I think it is interesting and important.”

Her last major role – squeezed in between filming series of Mad Men – saw the actress treading the boards in London’s West End as the second half of The Children’s Hour duo with Keira Knightley. Moss may not have any plans to return to the stage just yet, but the good news for British fans of the ambitious US star is that she loves the UK and already has a scout on the ground in London, sniffing out new opportunities.

“We haven’t found the right thing yet but possibly during the hiatus I’ll find something that’s right for next time. I’ve spent a bit of time [in the UK] now, and have lots of friends there. I’d love to come back for work…or pleasure.” She’ll have to brush up on her cockney rhyming slang before her next trip though. When quizzed, her twangy accent squeezed out a rather comical “alright Guv’nahh”. Best stick to Manhattan for now.

Season 6 of Mad Men starts on Sky Atlantic on Wednesday 10 April at 10pm

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