Elisabeth Moss is a three-time Emmy nominee for her wonderful work as Peggy Olson on AMC's accolade-magnet, Mad Men. But coming off the fifth season, where Peggy stood up to Don and stepped out of his shadow, many are speculating that this could be the year Moss goes from "Emmy Nominee" to "Emmy Winner."
ETonline caught up with the actress on the set of her hotly anticipated miniseries, Top of the Lake (airing on Sundance Channel in 2013), to talk about Peggy's journey throughout the series, but particularly in season five, in hopes of deducing what it means for Moss' future on Mad Men!
ETonline: Season five served as a major turning point for Peggy -- what excited you about her journey from the premiere to the finale?
Elisabeth Moss: All season I felt her frustrations very closely. I completely understood how she felt closeted and like she wasn't being appreciated. I really wanted her to have that moment where she busts out, so I was really proud that she finally chose to go out on her own. It's been a really pivotal season for her which I didn't anticipate. You never really know what's going to happen during the season on our show but I really didn't know it was going to be such a big season for her.
ETonline: As sad as I was to see Peggy go, Don kissing her hand goodbye was one of the most haunting images the show has ever created. What was filming that scene like for you and Jon [Hamm, who plays Don]?
Moss: That was a very emotional scene. It was written so beautifully so we didn't really want to talk about it too much. There have been a few of those beautiful scenes -- like the one with Pete at the end of season two -- that have such a simplicity to them you just honor the scene. In this case, a lot of those tears were real regardless of what was happening to Peggy. In the life of Mad Men it's like the end of a chapter in terms of not working at that company anymore, at least for now. It definitely felt like a big moment, but it was also fun. Those are the kinds of scenes I just love doing.
ETonline: The next time we saw Peggy after that, running into Don in the movie theater, there was a lightness about her. How do you feel about where the finale left her?
Moss: I think leaving [Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce] is a very positive thing for her. It's difficult to move on, especially from someone that you love and having a close working relationship with, but she's just starting her life and her journey, so this is where i gets very exciting for her professionally. That's why the scene in the movie theater was so interesting because it was very different than anything Jon and I had ever done. I didn't realize it until quite a bit after but that was the first scene we ever did where he wasn't my boss.
ETonline: Not only is Don no longer Peggy's boss, but given her new job, they're almost equals!
Moss: Exactly, exactly. It's a completely new dynamic, completely new relationship and Jon and I just fell into the scene really easily. We were just friends in a movie theater which is much closer to my real relationship with Jon. It wasn't until afterwards when I realized that never, ever in our history of Mad Men had we done a scene like that. It was just normal and happy and funny!
ETonline: Peggy's new salary was said to be $19,000 a year -- which is equivalent to roughly $126,000 in today's dollars -- did you know that?
Moss: Wow, really? God ... I didn't realize it was that much. That's amazing.
ETonline: I bring it up because this is yet another instance in which Peggy is a trailblazer of her time. What has it meant to you to play such a progressive character?
Moss: It's exciting. But more than that, it feels like we've done the story real justice. The writers have told it so well. To me, she's this woman who just wants the chance to do what she loves. Peggy's never going to be a hippie, she's probably always going to dress like that just like grandmothers always wore the same clothes they did in the 60s and 70s. She's a true feminist and she just wants equality. That story could have been told in a very cliche way but I think it has been told in a very complex, very delicate and very interesting way over the past five years. I mean, if you think about it, it would be perfectly fine for Peggy to still be Don's secretary like [she was in] season one. And that would have been fine and I would have loved it, but the fact that she's had so much to do and the fact that they're continually pushing the character to so many places and giving her the opportunity to grow is something you really cant take for granted.
ETonline: There are so many stand-out moments from season five -- what are yours?
Moss: Lane's suicide was pretty shocking. We all loved Jared [Harris] so much on the show, and as an actor. I mean, he's such an incredible colleague who brought so much to the show, so for him to be killed off is pretty scary.
ETonline: After Lane's death, Jared Harris did a conference call where he said Peggy leaving SCDP meant you were leaving the show. The finale proved that wrong, but what was it like when Matthew Weiner told you the plan for Peggy?
Moss: I was shocked, but it also made a lot of sense at the same time. Where else is she going to go? What else is she going to do? She can't keep asking for a raise that never comes. Plus, as an actress, you never want to play the same thing over and over -- how many scenes can you have where she’s disgruntled and upset at Don? She had to go somewhere. So for me that made sense.
ETonline: When characters on Mad Men have exited Don's sphere, they've often been pushed to the sidelines of the show -- did you and Weiner have any conversations about Peggy's continued role on the show?
Moss: You know, I can't talk too much about when I now know ... I mean, we are always so secretive on the show but now I have to be like kind of extremely secretive to the point where I can't even talk about whether or not I'm on the final season, which is very aggravating and frustrating because I really would love to talk about it [laughs]. I will say I've always, always, always, always trusted Matt. He's never led me in the wrong direction. He's never led Peggy in the wrong direction. There's this huge amount of trust with what he's going to do with her, so I feel pretty good about it.
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- Elisabeth Moss
- Peggy Olson