Lisa Sugar: How would your friends describe you?
Elisabeth Moss: Probably as some sort of goofball who does not like getting up early in the morning and does not like to go to parties. And I feel like my friends’ perception is probably of me as a little bit more of a loner, curmudgeon. It’s not like I sit around and I’m happy and f*cking joyful all the time. Sometimes I’m kind of antisocial. I’m probably much more normal than people think. If I did interviews early in the morning, it would probably be a different story.
LS: I hear that.
EM: I’m a champion napper. For the past decade, I’ve taken a nap at lunch on set. I have a noise machine app on my phone, headphones — and that’s key. That’s probably the most important thing. If I can get an eye mask on, that’s great. And that’s it. After a half an hour, I’m like a new person. It’s just in that first half an hour, don’t talk to me.
LS: So if you’re not like your characters, what attracts you to this type of role?
EM: I think just it’s like a musician liking to play certain pieces of music rather than others. I just have more satisfaction when playing complicated things rather than some of your more straightforward, simple moments. . . . I like to be challenged.
LS: Inner strength is a hallmark of the characters you’ve chosen to play.
EM: It’s only been recently with Handmaid’s that I think this commonality has sort of emerged: characters who rise and find their strength. Anytime you have a female protagonist, it’s going to turn into some feminist angle, and it’s not a conscious thing on my part. It’s only recently that that’s been pointed out by the media . . . or pointed out by fans. I also find complicated, flawed characters interesting. What’s the opposite? To play one-dimensional, boring failures?
LS: Are lighter-hearted roles or romantic comedies of interest at all?
EM: Yeah. That’s what I love to watch. That’s my bag. When Harry Met Sally is my favorite movie. I’m a huge romantic. One of my dreams is to be in a seminal romantic comedy — Love Actually or something. I’d love to work with Richard Curtis.
LS: What attracted you to the role of Zoey Bartlet on The West Wing?
EM: I got the job! I mean, I was 17. There was not any choosing roles. I’d auditioned for pilots and never gotten them. I’ve never been your typical choice. I’ve never fit into what your male studio execs, especially at that time, thought that you should see.
But it definitely ended up being the right fit. I look at it as my real beginning and real entry into what my career ended up being. And it taught me about good writing. I mean, what an amazing start, getting to do Aaron Sorkin. Getting to speak his words. It’s incredible. And then working with all those actors. They were all great theater actors, really talented, and it taught me so much about what the set’s supposed to be like. Everyone took their work really seriously and was super professional, but didn’t take themselves seriously.