Now, she returns to the big screen in The Invisible Man. Playing the victim of a domestic abuse relationship, she joins GLAMOUR UNFILTERED – our bi-weekly celebrity chat show hosted by Josh Smith.
Elisabeth Moss has become one of the most in-demand and rewarded actresses of her generation for her work on the small screen. From playing Offred/June in The Handmaid’s Tale, to starring as Peggy in Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss has every award going – from two Golden Globes to an Emmy.
Here, the actress powerfully talks about her own biases towards victims of domestic violence and how The Invisible Man made her question her own thoughts. Plus, as someone who has faced countless questions for being a Scientologist, Elisabeth speaks about a woman’s right to choose, make their own decisions over their own lives and bodies why crucially we all need to respect that more…
At the centre of this jump out of your seat story is the power of this amazing, resilient woman. What have you learnt about your own strength as a woman?
I think that one of the things that I found really interesting when I did some research for this role was discovering my own biases that I perhaps had held against women in abusive relationships or victims of domestic violence. I think even as women we sort of tend to, or as men we tend to say, “Oh God, why doesn’t she get out of that? What’s wrong with her? Why is she still with that guy?” I think it’s really easy to be prejudiced against that. I really discovered what it was like to be in that relationship and what it feels like to be that victim. That was really eye-opening and I felt like I let go of some of my own biases.
What do you feel like you let go of in that experience?
Well the idea is that it has nothing to do with your strength or intelligence as a woman if you’re in that situation. I think we tend to go, “Oh well, what a choice they’re making. Why are they making that choice?” It’s not a choice. It’s not their fault. I think that discovery was very eye-opening for me.
You love an intense role but how do you look after your own mental wellbeing?
It is taxing sometimes, but I don’t really consider it something that is work. I love what I do. I don’t take it that seriously, although I love what I do so much. I don’t feel like, “Oh my God, that really happened and now I need to go escape from it.” I know that it’s not real and so I don’t get into my head about it, I guess.
Do you have a very strong relationship with your inner self?
I suppose so. I think actors do. You have awareness of yourself and you have an awareness of how to take care of yourself. I love the horror genre because you can do crazy things and put your character in incredibly challenging situations and it’s fine because it’s a scary movie and crazy sh*t happens.
Is acting therapeutic for you?
Yeah, it definitely is. For sure. I’ve watched scenes that I’ve done and been like, “Hmm, I remember that day.” Or like, “I know what that scene’s about.” It definitely is a way to exercise your emotions.
What do you feel like you’ve let out in particular from this role in The Invisible Man?
This role was interesting because I felt like I had come from Handmaid’s season three, so I’d come from this character that was really strong and really in control and almost devout in her passion for being a leader. I really wanted to do the opposite and explore being vulnerable, weak and damaged and coming out of a relationship like that and what does that feel like and how is it when you feel like you’re always looking over your shoulder? And that was interesting for me to explore in this that I hadn’t done in a second.
How have you found power in your own vulnerability in your life?
Well, I guess through acting. Because in acting, when I’m doing a role, I have the capability of being vulnerable a lot of the time, being open and being “weaker,” whatever that is. So, I can explore that in a safe space, you know?
At the centre of The Invisible Man is a toxic masculine character but also a toxic masculine society is also at play. How have you deal with these toxic masculine pressures on society in your own life?
I’ve been lucky in the sense of I’ve worked with some really, really great men and I’ve had good experiences. But at the same time, I am a 37-year-old woman, so it’s not like I’ve been living under a rock. I have had experiences with that masculine energy. People keep asking, “What was the research you did?” And I was like, “Uh, I lived for 37 years as a woman. So, I’ve been working on this for a while!” It’s interesting actually talking to people, men and women, about relationships and gaslighting. You see this expression go across people’s faces and this cloud over their eyes. I think that is something that in varying degrees, we’ve all experienced a version of that, whether it’s at work or in a toxic friendship or in a relationship. We’ve all had that moment where someone didn’t believe us or we weren’t able to be our full selves.
How has your relationship with yourself changed?
I think the older you get, the more confident you just become in who you are. You also understanding what you need and what you need to be asking for, if that’s what you need. I’m a big Oprah fan – she’s my guru – and I do think there’s a lot that I’ve learned from what she’s talked about. But one of the things is that idea of believing your instincts, trusting your gut and believing what someone’s telling you about them. I think that’s all stuff that you just learn as you get older. There’s always plenty to learn. There’s always more and there’s always a place to grow to, I think. I don’t know when this became like an Oprah Super Soul Sunday!
When it comes to trusting your instincts and believing your gut is there a time you have leaned into that and it’s paid off for you?
Yeah, I would say there’s a lot whether it’s personal relationships or work. When you have a feeling and as a producer, you’re watching something and you’re going, “Um, this doesn’t work,” or you’re reading a script and you’re just, “This doesn’t work. This doesn’t make sense to me.” And trusting that instinct. Or as an actor going, “I think we should do it again. I don’t think we quite have it yet.” And trusting that, is important and allowing yourself to be okay with the fact that maybe it’s not working yet. I think it’s something I do every day. You have to remind yourself, though. I’m not like, perfect at it. You do have to kind of go, “Whoa, remember the thing about the thing you’re supposed to do.”
I think you’re such an amazing, empowering role model for women and men. You have shed a lot of light on the plight of women and mental health through your work. But as a woman sitting here in 2020 what is the most pressing issue for you right now?
For me, what strikes me to my core is autonomy over your body. Really, it’s something that is very, very important to me and the idea that anyone would decide what a woman does with their body other than the woman herself is just preposterous to me. But also having the choice about how you want to live your life and choice about who you want to love. I mean, it’s just that is so, so important. It’s what we’re supposed to stand for, especially as a country of America. That’s what we were built on.
When it comes to everyday sexism how do you deal with it?
Do you find you’re more aware of it now than you were? That’s what I find. I’m more aware of it. I think even I have opened my eyes to like, “Oh you can’t say that.” Or being condescended to or being spoken down to. I find me and my girlfriends, we’re much more aware of that than we used to be, which I think is fantastic and really, really important. Even in everyday life you go, “Oh, that man’s talking to me in a certain way. That’s actually not right.” I think that’s very important for everyone to keep doing.
Would there be something that’s a trigger for you?
I don’t like to be talked down to and I think sometimes men, even if they don’t realise it, do it. They don’t even realise it, that they’re treating someone like a little girl thing that men can do. And I don’t think they’re even aware of it sometimes. That’s something that I’ve become very kind of honed to.
If you can sit yourself down, the you at the beginning of your career, given everything you’ve learned from these amazing roles you’ve played, what advice would you want to give her?
I would say it’s going to be okay, don’t worry about it. It’s going to be all right. I think when we’re younger and you’re coming up, you worry about this thing and that thing and, “Did I get that job and why didn’t I say that?” And, “Oh, I look this way or that way.” I think eventually you go, “Well, these things work out for a reason!” Follow your instincts, your heart and it will eventually lead you the right way. So, I think I would tell myself, “It’s going to be all right. Don’t stress about that tiny, tiny argument you had with your friend or that job you didn’t get. It’s going to be okay.”
How has your relationship with your outer self changed?
That just goes hand-in-hand. I think the more confident you are about your inner self and the more you know yourself, the more confident you are about your outer self. I’ve become somebody who wants to look good and wants to feel good, but it’s never been the thing that has been most important to me. That’s the thing. I’ve always played characters that aren’t necessarily looking their best. I really lean into to some of that stuff. I’m the one who’s like, “Can we look worse somehow?” If I come into work and I have clear eyes, blue eyes, because I’ve somehow magically gotten a night’s sleep, it’s a disaster. The makeup artist is like, “Well I don’t know what to do with this. I can see your eyeballs and that’s not good.” So, for me, I’ve used that a lot, so I’ve never prioritised that in my career, and I suppose not in my personal life either, very much.
That’s kind of amazing, your career has given you that gift…
I know. It really is. It’s a nice to go into work and not worry about the bags under your eyes. They actually work for you. You’re like, “This is great!”
What would you want the lasting message of The Invisible Man to be?
I think to create a safe space for victims. To create a place for people to be able to talk about what’s happened to them and to believe them. I think one of the things that makes it so hard for women or men in these situations is not to think they can talk about it and there isn’t a safe place for them to go where they’re not going to be judged. So I would hope that that is something that after you’re entertained, after you scream and after you eat your popcorn and it flies everywhere, I hope that afterwards you go, “You know what? I’m going to have a chat with that person and see if there’s anything they need to talk about.”
Have you learned the power of talking in your own life?
Yeah. I believe in communication. I believe it’s something that really will fix most things if you just have a conversation about something. And listening. I think listening is important. We so often just like the sound of our own voices, and it’s important to listen to other people’s viewpoints. I find if I’m ever confused by a situation or I don’t understand something or don’t understand someone, the best thing to do is just to go, ” You tell me what’s going on.” And listen to them and you’ll learn something.
Blessed be! Do you ever use the Handmaid’s Tale phrases like, ‘praise be,’ in your own life?
I do, which is super sad. It’s really sad. It’s bad when you start quoting yourself!