Over the weekend NPR’s Fresh Air aired an interview with Elisabeth Moss in which the actress famous for playing Peggy on Mad Men discussed the show. Naturally, a few things stood out.
The first was Moss’ assertion that she’s done “absolutely no research” whatsoever when approaching the role of playing a female working at an ad agency in the 1960s…
MOSS: No, not at all. I’ve done absolutely no research involving “Mad Men” whatsoever.
MOSS: Let me be very clear. Everything that I’ve learned about advertising in that time period is from the show. You know, my interest has been so much more about Peggy as woman, her emotional life and who she is as a person.
Additionally, Moss said that she and her fellow cast members get the show’s scripts one at a time, as they shoot, and that there’s virtually never any rehearsal beforehand…
GROSS: So what’s it’s like for you at the beginning of a season when you get your first script? Do you get one script? Do you get several scripts? How much do you know?
MOSS: We get one script at a time. We do a read-through the day before we start the episode. So we usually get the script either the morning of the read-through or the night before. Occasionally we’ll get a couple more days advance, but it’s pretty quick, it’s pretty fast.
GROSS: So you don’t have a lot of time to rehearse.
MOSS: No, there’s no rehearsal.
GROSS: There’s no rehearsal?
MOSS: I mean, you do a little bit before you shoot, you know, just scene by scene, just normal, you go in, you rehearse, and then, you know, you block it out, figure out where everyone’s sitting and standing, talk about it a little bit, and then they light it, and then you shoot it. But you have to remember that we’ve been playing these characters for six years. We know them very well.
It’s not necessarily a matter of figuring out who this person is at this point. It’s…
GROSS: Did you have more rehearsal when you didn’t know them well, and you were just starting?
MOSS: No we didn’t. Good point. But it’s also episode by episode. You only have to play what’s happening that episode, you know, which I think is really fun. I think it’s more true to life, episodic, because you don’t know what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. And I think that for an actor it’s kind of fun. You really are living the part as Peggy experiences it.
She also talked about the “that’s what the money is for!” scene from season four that’s a personal favorite of many who watch Mad Men…
That’s definitely my personal favorite episode. I – even listening to that scene, it’s so interesting to listen to something that’s – and not watch it, and you kind of really hear the writing, and you really hear the dialogue. And that episode was very – it was kind of a bit of a dream. It was, yeah, me and Jon pretty much the whole time and so sort of this eight-day bubble that we existed in.
And it was something that you can only really get on television in a series, where you have a four-year build-up to that episode. You just can’t get that kind of drama in any other format, where people have literally waited an actual four years to have that episode. And it’s one of the things that I love about television is the way that – the time that it takes mirrors real life.
And, you know, Jon and I are really, really, really good friends, and we have a very close relationship. And so for the two of us to get to spend that time together off the set and then also to play those characters in that, sort of, really pivotal, dramatic moment, that evening of their lives. And for us to, I think, get to address things that we hadn’t talked about in four years, you know, the baby, the fact that he knows about the baby, the fact that people think that it’s his baby, or my mom thinks that it’s his baby, I think, or something like that.
It really, to me, is such a beautiful representation of their relationship and their bond, which is not romantic, it is not sexual, it is an honest to goodness friendship. It is two people who love each other but not in that way.
Here’s the scene in question for reference…
And did you know that Moss co-starred in the 1993 TV adaptation of “Gypsy” with starred Bette Midler and Lacy Chabert? Neither did I!
MOSS: I auditioned for it. I mean I was – I don’t know – 10 years old, so I can’t say that I really…
GROSS: That’s so young.
MOSS: Yeah. I know. I…
GROSS: How did you even know that the part existed? Did you have an agent? Were your parents following the casting calls?
MOSS: Yeah. No, I had an agent. Yeah. No, I had an agent. So I auditioned for it. I remember dancing and singing and it was kind of one of those like long laborious audition process, as any musical should be, and I got it. And I remember being incredibly shocked and excited. And I was a huge Bette Midler fan, even at 10 years old, I completely understood who she was and what a legend she was and so I was absolutely terrified to work with her. And it was so fun. I got to rehearse, dance rehearsals, singing rehearsals, it was like doing a musical. It was such a blast. And she was so nice.
Listen to the entire interview here.