Elisabeth Moss on her feminist evolution: ‘I was born, and then I was a feminist’

Premiere of Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' - Arrivals

I’ve been unapologetic in my love for Elisabeth Moss for a while. I know she’s a Scientologist and everything, but… she was raised in the cult and I get the feeling that she’s not super-involved in it. She doesn’t even live in LA anymore, she lives in New York (further away from the CoS’s centers in LA and Clearwater, FL). While I’m wary of loving Scientologists, I’ll make an exception for Moss, mostly because she’s turned out to be one of the most talented actresses of her generation. Moss currently stars in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I didn’t know before now that she was also a hands-on producer of the series too. To promote the project, Moss gave a lengthy, charming, funny and incredibly normal interview to Vulture. When I say “normal,” I mean that Moss always comes across as completely unaffected, like she’s truly the girl next door. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

Her life goals: “I’m like an 82-year-old woman. I live in my Upper West Side apartment alone with my two cats, and I love it,” Moss says, referring to the two orange tabbys, Ethel and Lucy, she adopted as strays. “I shouldn’t even be telling this story. My publicist would be like, ‘Are you trying to ruin everything?’ But I was in Duane Reade when I was really sick the other day and I was dressed in god knows what, just terrible sweats and hat and jacket. I was sniffling, and I was rolling my Duane Reade cart around and buying Kleenex and cat food — the worst, most embarrassing stuff — and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I literally have become an old lady on the Upper West Side. This is amazing!’”

She’s wearing one of her many Chicago Cubs shirts & a diamond ring: “It’s on an appropriate finger for me seeing that I’m single.” She gifted it to herself after she won her Golden Globe. “This sounds so potentially lame, but January Jones taught me this: to buy jewelry for yourself. That way it’s never like, ‘Oh, a man got me this so I can’t wear it now that we’ve broken up.’”

She was offered The Handmaid’s Tale flat-out: “I auditioned for Mad Men, I auditioned for Top of the Lake, I obviously auditioned for West Wing, so I still get excited when I get offered stuff. Like, a part of me thinks, They think I can do it! That’s awesome! And that’s a part of me I have to squash, otherwise I would do everything just because people gave it to me.”

Post-production on THT: “Literally this is what I do every day. I wake up, I make myself coffee, I feed the cats, then I turn on The Handmaid’s Tale, and I watch whatever cut I’m supposed to watch of the show. People get up and read the New York Times, and I wake up and I’m like, ‘Time to watch The Handmaid’s Tale!’”

How she evolved into a feminist: “I was born. I was born, and then I was a feminist.”

What would have happened between Mad Men’s Peggy & Stan? “I would like to think they get married and have kids, because I think she would have made a great mom. In my imagination, they have a great modern relationship where they both continue working. Or I could see Stan staying at home with the kids.” The way Moss sees Peggy is as an extreme pragmatist who became an “accidental feminist,” someone from an old-fashioned background who was just very confused, from a logical standpoint, about why she wasn’t getting paid the same as men. “She didn’t set out going like, ‘I’m going to fight for equal pay and I’m going to get promoted and I’m going to have everything that men have. She was like, ‘Wait, what? I thought you like what I wrote and now you pay me for what I did, right?’” (If Peggy were real and alive today, Moss is also certain she would’ve been a Hillary Clinton supporter. “It’s a no-brainer.”)

Becoming an equal-pay advocate after reading J-Law’s letter: “There’s this whole feeling that women should be small and quiet and polite, and I don’t think that’s really gotten us anywhere.” Still, she’s glad she pays people to ask for raises for her. “I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I’m so afraid of confrontation.”

[From Vulture]

I mean… her life sounds pretty cool. Cool apartment, cool cats, cool job that challenges her and excites her. She says towards the end that she does want to become a mother at some point, and she sounds pretty open to adoption and other options too, and I get the impression that she’s single. Oh, and here’s some other stuff I learned: she insisted that Handmaid’s producers hire Reed Morano as cinematographer because Morano did Beyonce’s Lemonade (amazing) and Moss also fought for Handmaid’s episodes to be mostly directed by women.

My one disagreement: I don’t think Peggy and Stan would have kids, honestly. I think they would work and have fun and maybe get some cats. And that’s fine too.

Premiere of Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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30 Responses to “Elisabeth Moss on her feminist evolution: ‘I was born, and then I was a feminist’”

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  1. Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

    I can’t wait for this to come to the UK. I like her, she is good actress and she doesn’t shove her ‘religion’ in people’s faces. She doesn’t seem to drink from the same cool aid fountain that Cruise and the Travolta’s do.

  2. Elisa the I. says:

    I have no clue who she is but it’s awesome that she is buying herself jewelry.

  3. Megan says:

    If she is still paying her dues to Scientology, she will never be cool in my mind.

    • fluffyrabbit says:

      This. As long as she is in an abusive cult that destroys lives I will never take her seriously nor care to listen to her thoughts on life.

    • Nicole says:

      This. And there’s a HUGE Scientology center in NYC. It’s right across the street from Hamilton. So it’s not like she cannot still be active

      • FLORC says:


        Maybe she’s not wanting to discuss it to avoid making waves. Maybe she’s afraid to leave fearing isolation from her friends and family.
        But, because she doesn’t discuss it openly doesn’t mean she’s not involved. It means she’s protective of her career and image.

        And yea. If she pays dues and even baseline active she’s contributing.

        I also can’t figure how she can want equality for genders while being part of cos

    • Char says:

      Isn’t ironic she plays someone who is a slave in a series and she’s into a cult that it’s ok with slavery? Not cool, never cool.

    • ell says:

      do you apply to same logic to any religion? because they also ruin lives. speaking as an atheist, as long as you’re not shoving your beliefs down my throat, i’m good.

    • ash says:

      what about people paying dues to christian churches and stuff???? are they still cool and all
      you know with what Christianity has been involved in —- the inquisition, catholic church abuse cases, conquest and annihilation of indigenous religions and stuff, mainly supporting pro choice (against womens rights), etc.

      I think we need to divorce people’s religion from their character…. like ok she’s scientology, and theyre member have done some bat-sh*t stuff, but so has all the major religions.

      She seems cool and aware (woke), and thoughtful.

    • thaliasghost says:

      Yes. Especially playing and discussing a major role that is set in a totalitarian dictatorship …

  4. Svea says:


  5. Bettyrose says:

    Is it possible she was pregnant while filming HMT and has kept a baby annoncement under wraps until after promotion has died down? I can point out a couple of specific scenes in episodes 1 & 2 (most notably after the first rape scene when she runs into the yard in her night gown).

  6. pyritedigger says:

    She’s very involved in Scientology according to Tony Ortega. She always defends it –when she’s willing to speak about it– by claiming it is very misunderstood, etc.

    • Don't kill me I am French says:

      She refuses to talk about Scientology with the journalists until to stop the interview if they talk about it in a way or another

  7. beth says:

    is her dress vintage? Or if not, who is the designer?

  8. tracking says:

    The jewelry thing was a lesson I discovered as an adult. It’s sweet when Mr. tracking buys me something, but I have extra love for the jewelry I buy for myself. Raised in a family with traditional gender roles, where women expected the men to gift them with jewelry, it feels liberating to do that for myself.

    I was so peeved about her last set of comments about feminism, glad she redeemed herself here. (though of course agree that Scientology is a big no).

  9. H says:

    This is probably just wishful thinking, but Moss is working with Nicole Kidman so maybe that means that she is not that involved with the $os anymore…

  10. Moon says:

    I loved Top of the Lake, always thought it was a shame that true detective (which I found overrated) overshadowed totl. I love the characters Elisabeth Moss plays but I’m not going to confuse the actor with the characters I love. Her Scientology background very much skeeves me out, even if she’s made a career of feminist roles. She played the Heidi chronicles on stage too, I think she’s the number one pick for feisty independent smart woman roles, but those are the characters not her.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Moon – this x10000000000! I’ve binged Mad Men twice since the end of its run, when I was a loyal watcher, and I’m always amazed at how much I relate to Peggy. Loving EM’s work while not entirely feeling good about her is a weird feeling, but I’m not going to deny myself enjoyment of her shows, either.

  11. Millie says:

    I love her as an actress because of Mad Men. Back when it first aired I had no idea she was a Scientologist but now that I know it is upsetting. I watched a bit of ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’. I never read the book and decided to read up on it in between episodes.

    I was a little annoyed with the casting once I got some background as well with the directors comments that ‘fertility trumps everything’ in this adaption. I just felt as a black woman the diversity quota did leave a bit of a poor taste in my mouth because in an effort to promote diversity it does not consider the historical way in which black bodies were treated in America vs. White bodies. I think it is a form of erasure in some sense even if it was well-intentioned.

    The original source material seems to take this into consideration with the labeling of blacks as ‘The Children of Ham’ and highlights how the society in the Republic of Gilead does focus on white fertility in its doctrine. I don’t understand why the t.v. show had to go away from this saying fertility trumps all when one’s fertility often goes in hand with purity and thus one’s race.

    • bettyrose says:

      Great points. I’ve read the book twice, first as a teen and again recently. It had a profound affect on me than as now, and I was reluctant to watch the show, but I’m now three episodes in. It obviously couldn’t be 100% faithful to the book, which isn’t very long, and I like how they’re building the back story to further develop the horror of how life was once “normal” for these women, but it’s also far more brutally violent than the book. Which, maybe is what’s necessary to get people angry in this day and age.

      But I agree that the book wasn’t as obsessed with fertility as with the subjugation of women and reinstatement of an all powerful ruling class. Offred even says in the book that she doesn’t think she’s being “raped” because she chose to be a handmaiden rather than a laborer. Gawd, so much to dissect here.

      • ell says:

        i also adored the book, and margaret atwood is my favourite author, but it’s an adaptation. really, changes are par for course.

  12. Silvie says:

    I love her. As an actress, the empathy she evokes from The Handmaids Tale is phenomenal. You feel like you’re suffering the same humiliations as Offred while you’re watching. She is enormously talented. The show simply wouldn’t be what it is without her in the role, and considering the political climate in the US, it was most certainly a risky undertaking for any actress to take on.

  13. Giulia says:

    She’s such a good actress, really like her. I’ve read something recently that there’s a trend of scientologists quietly drifing away, so as not to become a target, rather than quitting publicly.

  14. annike says:


  15. jugil1 says:

    So this article wants to giver her a pass on the Scientology thing because she’s “talented”. Hmmm….sounds selective to me. She pays her money dues to stay in Scientology which means she still supports it. How is she a feminist when the Sea Org members FORCE women to get abortions? How does she feel about supporting (with her money & PR) slave labor used in Scientology? I guess it doesn’t matter because she’s “talented”.

  16. K says:

    It is a bit unsettling that someone can make a series about a cult, and be a Scientologist – especially as the cult also seems pretty misogynist and male-focused. But I guess if you are born in, and stay on the quiet outside so you can stay in with family and loved ones, then that’s probably a valid choice – at times the only choice. She’s never promoted it that I know of. And I love her, too, so I hope she’s not been too damaged or abused by them.

    Great actor and she comes across as so sane and measured in interview. I’m really excited to see this new series – much as I loved Natasha Richardson, Lord rest her soul, I did not love that movie. I hope the series better reflects the brilliance of the novel.

    So depressing that something that fascinated me as sci fi horror in my teens is now being read so widely because it’s seen as reflecting the Quiverfull insanity of Pence et al, and the misogyny and crassness of Trump.

  17. Tanya says:

    Doesn’t Scientology invalidate her feminism, though?