Girl Crush, Broadway Edition: Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss on Her New Role in The Heidi Chronicles
The beginning of the end of Mad Men is near, with its final episodes starting April 5. We’ll miss the ’60s spirit and style of the AMC show’s leading ladies the most, including #GirlBoss/glass ceiling-breaker extraordinaire, Peggy Olson, a role brought to life by the talented Elisabeth Moss for seven seasons strong. But it won’t be long until we see Moss take on another powerful role with her newest project, The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway. She stars as the title role in Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play, the story of one woman’s witty struggle to figure out what it means to be a woman, spanning three decades of her life.
InStyle caught up with Moss during rehearsals for the play—while she was on a Starbucks run—which is now in previews and opens officially on March 19. “It’s definitely tougher than anything else I’ve ever done,” she told us. “I’m in every scene, so I don’t really get any breaks or anything." She is bringing a bit of tried-and-true Peggy into her performance, though. “There’s so much of me in her that it’s very hard for me to say what is her and what’s me at this point,” she said. Scroll down to read our full interview, including what she thinks about being back on Broadway, living in New York, Peggy’s now-infamous pantsuit and more. (Tickets are available at theheidichroniclesonbroadway.com.)
How are we going to see you in a different way in The Heidi Chronicles than we’ve ever seen you before?It’s definitely the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, not only on stage, but in film and television, too. It’s definitely making me stretch in ways that I haven’t done before. I have a four-page monologue to the audience in the middle of it. I’ve never done that before, so that’s a challenge for me, and it’s a fear that I’m going to have to overcome.
Birdman just won best picture and it focused on a movie actor going to Broadway and having a bit of a meltdown. Did that portrayal scare you?I didn’t see it, actually! One of my best friends just saw it, and I really wanted to see it, because it looks so great. But she advised me not to see while I was going to do this play on Broadway. I don’t know what happens in it, but she thought it would instill fear in me. I am disappointed that I can’t see it. But yes, it might make me more anxious than I need to be.
This play is set partly in the '80s; does that influence the hair and makeup?I’m actually doing wig fitting today. I know it’s going to be very natural. We don’t want to be married to any particular decade, because we travel through time so quickly. Same thing for the makeup: Natural and timeless. There are a million quick changes, so I don’t have time to change to different hairstyles and makeup.
For the costumes, are you wearing an '80s power suit with big shoulders?The show goes from 1965 to 1989, so it’s not just '80s, it’s '60s, '70s, and '80s. Jessica Pabst is our costume designer and it was really important to her to have costumes that you could just walk off the stage and take the subway in. When we do get to the '80s, there is some stuff that has an '80s silhouette, but in a way that, you know, Marc Jacobs would do today. It’s not garish, just a little nod to different decades.
How did you bond with your co-stars Bryce Pinkham and Jason Biggs?I am the luckiest girl in Manhattan, honestly. They’re so wonderful in different ways. They’re both so talented, obviously, they’re super nice people, which is something that doesn’t always happen. I get to go from one to the other. I’m sure I'm the envy of all ladies.
Performing eight shows a week is going to be intense. How do you get pumped up—or calmed down?Listening to music! I’ve had three songs on rotation: “Four Five Seconds,” by Rihanna, Paul McCartney, and Kanye West is one of them. If I’m tired, I do a little “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. Then if I need to get into a groove, I turn to Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” song from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. Oh my god, it’s so good.
Did you watch the 1995 TV movie version of this play with Jamie Lee Curtis?No, I’m not a big fan of watching stuff that other people did, in general.
Did you bring anything of Peggy Olson with you to inform this role?There’s so much of me in her that it’s very hard for me to say what is her and what’s me at this point. I put a lot of myself in any character, because what else can you use? So, yes, there is because it is about a woman who is struggling to find her place in the world, and who is struggling to define herself as a woman.
How do you think Peggy and Heidi are related, if at all?Heidi is one generation after Peggy. She would have been Peggy’s younger sister. She’s part of a more confident, more forward generation. And it’s a play, so obviously, the character is very funny and witty. So it is different in that sense, but in the sense of being a story about a woman trying to figure out what it means to be a woman, I’m always interested in playing those characters, because I’m a girl.
Speaking of that, Peggy’s a boss on Mad Men. Did it feel a little bit trailblazing for you to play a woman in charge in the '60s?It was very cool to finally get to order people around, and finally say the things that have been said to me for so long. I feel like it was such a natural progression.
We thought her pantsuit in Season 6 was a monumental look. Did it feel like a "moment" in that scene?It felt like a huge moment, for sure. We all kind of knew it, and felt it, and [costume designer] Janie Bryant was there on set making sure it looked perfect. It did feel like a moment and it was sweet that we all took it so seriously. It was like the pantsuit was another character in the room. It’s such an interesting concept that wearing pants in an office can be something that is a huge storytelling point. It felt monumental.
Now that you’ve finished Mad Men, did you keep anything that was Peggy’s?I pillaged the place. There were a couple of things that we had to ask permission to have, but they were very generous in letting me get some of the things off of my walls and the purple chair. I also took a telephone and a typewriter, which now, of course, I have no idea what to do with them.
This interview was edited for length.