With the second season of the hit dystopian drama series The Handmaid's Tale already well underway, the world is once again being treated to the superb acting skills of Elisabeth Moss. The role of Offred - the titular handmaid whose rebellious streak gets her into trouble - is by no means the first high-profile part Moss has taken on. She's also well-known for portraying secretary-turned-copy-chief Peggy Olson in Mad Men and received critical acclaim for her role in the mystery-drama series Top of The Lake. However, The Handmaid's Tale has sent Moss' career to new heights.
Despite being one of the best-known actresses in the world right now, Moss rarely makes any public appearances. She's infamously private, barely gives any interviews, and generally doesn't like to share many details about her personal life. However, the little tidbits of information we do know about her are interesting, to say the least! Moss is a woman with many talents, some unconventional habits, and an often divisive public presence. She's not what you'd expect from a Hollywood actress - although that's not necessarily a bad thing! Here are some odd facts about Elisabeth Moss that give a little bit of an insight into her weird and wonderful life.
16 Moss Was Home-Schooled - And Graduated High School Early
As well as being a talented actress, it's clear that Moss is gifted academically too. While she told The Guardian that "the arts had more value than traditional education" in her household, this didn't stop her from soaring through her high-school years. According to The Telegraph, Moss was home-schooled: this allowed her to focus much of her time on her burgeoning career in performance.
Digital Spy once reported that as a child, Moss studied at a prestigious Washington D.C. ballet school while simultaneously taking on numerous TV and film roles. She had a busy schedule, even in her youngest years!
However, Moss didn't neglect her schooling by any means. While she told the Radio Times that she "wasn't that interested in school", this sounds more like modesty than the truth! Digital Spy notes that Moss graduated from high school when she was just 16 and was an incredibly hard worker. She even liked to play a game called "Library" as a child, in which she would stack books and loan them out to her parents. Academia and the pursuit of knowledge may not have been at the forefront of Moss' mind, but it sounds like she excelled at them regardless!
15 She's A Member Of The Church Of Scientology
While Moss has managed to avoid controversy for most of her time in the public eye, there's one aspect of her life that has received considerable scrutiny from both her fans and the press. Moss is a well-known member of the infamous Church of Scientology and has been since childhood. According to Cosmopolitan, she's one of the few celebrity members of the Church who was raised according to its belief system rather than joining later in life.
Moss has remained mostly quiet about her association with Scientology, presumably due to the bad press that the Church has garnered over the years. However, she has offered up occasional pieces of public praise of the organization, telling the Telegraph that Scientology helps to develop a "better you" rather than "necessarily changing who you are." According to Elle, she's also stated that Scientology "helped her become who she is today."
Although we'd all love Moss to share a bit more information about her life as a Scientologist, it doesn't look like that'll happen any time soon. According to Bravo TV, she's begun to refuse to talk about the Church in interviews, stating that while she's "always happy to have a personal conversation with somebody" about her faith, she no longer wishes to do so in public. She has made a couple of exceptions in recent times, though...
14 She Once Defended Said Church Via Social Media Comment
One of Moss' rare public comments about the Church of Scientology came in the comments section of a social media photo she posted back in 2017. According to The Guardian, the picture in question was a seemingly innocuous snap in which the actress expressed excitement to work on The Handmaid's Tale season two. One comment from a fan, however, quickly gained a lot of attention - and not for reasons that Moss would like.
The comment in question asked the actress whether she'd ever considered the parallels between the Church of Scientology and Gilead, the oppressive state featured in 'The Handmaid's Tale'.
According to this online user, both Scientology and Gilead "believe that all outside insiders (aka news) are wrong and evil."
Obviously, being portrayed as similar to Gilead in any way isn't great for Scientology, considering all of the awful things that this fictional state does on the show. Because of this, Moss chose to make a rare statement about the Church to defend it from this criticism. She replied to the comment claiming "that's not at all true about Scientology," and stated that freedom and tolerance are both very important to her. Moss also thanked the fan for an "interesting question." While this response may not have changed many people's minds about the Church of Scientology - it's still viewed with extreme suspicion - it did surprise Moss' fans that the generally tight-lipped actress even posted it in the first place.
13 She Used To Be Besties With Now Ex-Scientologist Leah Remini
One of the most outspoken ex-Scientologists in the public right now is the actress and activist Leah Remini. According to ABC News, Remini broke with the Church in 2013 after being a member for almost three decades. The actress told ABC that she fell out of favor with the Church after questioning the whereabouts of its leader David Miscavage's wife, Shelley, who has not been seen in public in over a decade. Since then, Remini has been an outspoken critic of Scientology and its methods, writing a book and producing a TV series about her experiences.
According to Remini, once a person leaves the Church of Scientology, any friends - and even family members - that remain a part of the organization are instructed to shun them. This seems to have been the case with Remini and Elisabeth Moss who, according to The Independent, were once firm friends. However, since Remini left Scientology, Moss has allegedly been prevented from speaking to her former pal. In fact, InTouch Weekly reported in 2017 that Moss left the room when Remini gave an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony both actresses were attending! If this is true, it seems like a pretty extreme case of a friendship turning sour...
12 She Became Famous After Playing A Fictional First Daughter
But enough about Scientology - for now, at least! Let's focus on happier topics, like Elisabeth Moss' incredibly successful career so far. While she's now perhaps best known for her roles in The Handmaid's Tale and Mad Men, Moss actually got her big TV break on another hugely successful show: The West Wing. According to The Guardian, Moss got the part of Zooey Bartlett - the daughter of the show's fictional President Jeb Bartlett - when she was just 17 years old. It became a long-term gig for Moss, who ended up making appearances in the show right up until its conclusion in 2006.
In general, Moss has only positive things to say about the show that really kick-started her career.
She praised The West Wing's writing - calling it "smart and spot-on" - and stated that she was "formed more by the intelligence of it than by the politics."
Moss seems to have enjoyed working on the show so much that she's been linked to a rumored reboot! According to Entertainment Tonight, Moss is "of course" keen to work on the show again if it is resurrected, saying "they've just gotta call me!" The West Wing fans shouldn't get too excited, though: a reboot is in no way confirmed, mainly because showrunner Aaron Sorkin can't decide whether he wants to do it or not. NBC is up for it, the actors are up for it... We just need Sorkin to make his mind up already!
11 She Thinks Her Job Is "Strange", But Does It Anyway
For almost three decades now, Elisabeth Moss has had an undeniably successful acting career. Even when she was just a child actress doing commercials, she had a bright future ahead of her! However, while she seems to enjoy her job - why would she continue to act if she hated it? - she has had some choice words to say about her profession in the past. In one interview with Vulture back in 2014, she surprised everyone by calling her career "strange"!
In fact, Moss went a little bit further than that in her half-joking criticism of the acting business. While she began by calling it "not stupid, but... a very strange profession, honestly", she went on to compare acting to stripping! She told New York Magazine that her job is to "pretend that I'm someone else", a practice that apparently only "[dancers] and actors" engage in. Well, that's pretty deep - and quite unexpected! Is this just self-deprecating humor, or a serious comment about Moss' chosen life path? We're not sure, to be honest! Either way, Moss has clearly made peace with the "strangeness" of her job - she doesn't seem to be slowing down her career any time soon!
10 Whoopi Goldberg Mistook Her For A Burn Victim
One of Elisabeth Moss' earliest high-profile roles was in the psychological drama movie Girl... Interrupted. As Wonderland Magazine notes, Moss was difficult to recognize in the movie due to her character's extensive scarring. Polly "Torch" Clark was a schizophrenic burn victim who befriended Winona Ryder's Susanna. The role of Polly was, alongside her stint in The West Wing, one of Moss' breakout roles that helped to redefine her as more than just a child actress.
Moss' performance in 'Girl, Interrupted' was apparently so convincing that one of her co-stars believed that she was a real-life burn victim.
According to Biography.com, Whoopi Goldberg was shocked to find out that the scarring was fake, and that Moss really was just that good of an actress! Golberg and Moss seem to have struck up a friendship following their time making Girl, Interrupted - in fact, Goldberg was actually the person who broke the news of Moss' wedding in 2009! According to E! News, the actress told the world about Moss' nuptials on an episode of The View, before Moss' representative had the chance to send out an official statement. Luckily, Moss didn't seem to mind! If only the marriage had gone as smoothly as the wedding apparently did - but more on that later...
9 She Initially Wanted To Be A Ballerina
While it may seem like Elisabeth Moss was born to be an actress, this wasn't always her chosen career path. She always wanted to be a performer, but at first, she was more geared towards becoming a ballerina than an acclaimed actress! According to the specialist ballet magazine Pointe, Moss trained at the School of American Ballet in New York and even attended crash-course summer camps with expert Susanne Farrell in Washington, DC. She apparently was very focused on taking up dance, until she realized that a career in acting would most probably last longer than one in ballet. Moss rather pragmatically quit ballet when she was 15 to concentrate all of her efforts on making it big in Hollywood.
Even though Moss is no longer performing ballet herself, she still showcases her interest in the dance. According to Broadway World, Moss is slated to produce an upcoming documentary about Tiler Peck, the prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. It's been described as a "passion project" of Moss', which makes sense considering her background! Deadline has claimed that she and Peck wish to put ballet dancing "back into the mainstream." They'll hopefully be releasing the documentary to the streaming service Hulu sometime this year!
8 Her Marriage To Fred Armisen Ended Pretty Acrimoniously
Back in 2008, Elisabeth Moss met Saturday Night Live comedian Fred Armisen after her Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm hosted an episode of the show. According to the Daily Mail, what followed was an incredibly swift whirlwind marriage: Moss and Armisen wed in October 2009, after barely a year of dating. The two made a somewhat unlikely couple, especially considering their large age gap - Armisen is 15 years older than Moss. However, the seemed to be very happy together - for a while, at least.
As People reported back in 2010, Armisen and Moss' romance fizzled out as quickly as it began. They separated that year after just eight months of marriage and were officially divorced in 2011.
Moss spoke extensively about her relationship with Armisen in the immediate aftermath of its breakdown, and what she had to say was pretty harsh. Speaking to Vulture, she called the marriage "extremely traumatic and awful and horrible", and stated that "I'm glad I didn't have kids" with Armisen. Wow! Those are some pretty strong words. As for Armisen, according to The Huffington Post, he freely admitted that he'd been a pretty bad husband... And fiancée... And boyfriend. He even stated that he gets bored really quickly in relationships, a fact he maybe should have revealed to Moss before he married her! At least he was honest about it eventually...
7 She Never Actually Won An Emmy For Portraying Peggy On Mad Men
You know the saying "always the bridesmaid, never the bride?" Well, Elisabeth Moss had a similar experience when it came to Emmy nominations for Mad Men! Moss received critical acclaim and praise from fans for her portrayal of innocent-secretary-turned-empowered-copy-chief Peggy Olsen throughout the show's seven seasons. As the Chicago Tribune noted, although Don Draper was ostensibly Mad Men's lead character, Peggy's character and her journey were an integral part of the show too. The role was another stepping-stone upwards in Moss' constantly ascending career.
However, as The Hollywood Reporter notes, Moss never actually won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Peggy. She was nominated plenty of times - six, to be exact - but never managed to take home the top prize. It wasn't until Moss nailed the lead role in The Handmaid's Tale that she finally got that Oustanding Lead Actress award. Adorably, her former Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm made a big deal of celebrating with Moss when she finally did get her win. He told The Hollywood Reporter that he firstly shot Moss a congratulatory text, before joining her at Hulu's Emmys afterparty. Hamm described Moss' win as "a lovely thing" and that he was "incredibly pleased when it happened for her." Good to see Don has Peggy's back!
6 She's A Self-Confessed "Hermit"
In numerous interviews, Moss has made it clear that she's a pretty quiet and reserved person when the cameras stop rolling. In fact, Business Insider once described her as "a bit of a hermit"! In her interview with Vulture, Moss revealed that she's been accustomed to spending time by herself ever since she was a child, largely due to her exploits as a ballerina. She claims that she grew up in a kind of ballet-based bubble and that as a child performer, "you don't know a lot about normal everyday life... I feel like that carried on into my adult life."
Rather than getting out there and exploring "normal everyday life" a little bit more, Moss seems to have decided that being a bit of a loner is the better option for her.
She told Vulture that when she's not working, she relishes time by herself, and doesn't give herself much of an opportunity to meet new people. Moss ruled out "hiking", "classes", and "flea markets" as possible ways to get out there a bit more, and instead confessed that she loves to stay in and binge-watch TV shows like the rest of us. The actress admits that this approach to her social life has its flaws - she confessed to Female First that she's become "too good" at being alone, a habit she wants to break eventually so that she can fall in love and settle down. Moss is a hopeless romantic at heart!
5 At The 2017 Emmy Awards, Her Behavior Raised Eyebrows
Remember how we mentioned that Moss finally won an Emmy last year for her role in The Handmaid's Tale? Well, this obviously happy occasion for the actress was slightly marred by the baffled and often negative reaction in the press to her acceptance speech. As The Independent reported, Moss used a couple of curse words which had to be bleeped out in the telecasts of the ceremony. This may not seem like much of an affront, but the Emmys - and other awards shows - like to keep winners' speeches totally clean in order to meet TV broadcasting guidelines. The fact that Moss cursed at all was considered a shock.
Apparently, things could have been a lot worse: Moss told The Hollywood Reporter that she'd given the "clean" version of her speech and that if she'd had her way, a lot more of it would have had to be censored.
She also implied that she'd simply got a bit excited in the heat of the moment, slightly contradicting the whole "I'd planned to swear even more" explanation. The Hollywood Reporter had its own theory as to why Moss chose to break convention and throw some curse words into her speech - apparently, it was all to do with her Scientologist beliefs. Tiziano Lugli, a former Scientologist and ex-friend of Moss, told the publication that members of the Church are advised to swear a lot in public in order to successfully communicate with "average people". Interesting...
4 She Also Caused Controversy At This Year's Golden Globes Awards
The 2017 Emmys weren't the only award show at which Moss has caused a bit of a public stir. This year, her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes raised quite a few eyebrows and led to the actress facing a lot of public criticism. As The Verge reported, Moss won the award for Best Actress in a TV Drama at the ceremony for her role as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale. She used her acceptance to make a statement about the #MeToo movement, reading out a quote from Margaret Atwood - the original author of The Handmaid's Tale - that compared the show to the ongoing scandal regarding gender discrimination and violence in Hollywood.
While Moss' speech certainly had good intentions, some observers felt that it was all a bit rich coming from a member of the Church of Scientology. As the Washington Times reported, the actress labeled as a hypocrite by some social media users for supporting feminist causes while remaining a Scientologist. The Church has been involved in a number of high-profile scandals regarding its treatment of its female members. Moss hasn't publically commented on these allegations and has instead continued to support both the feminist movement and her Church. While many of her fans feel that this apparent contradiction should be addressed by Moss, it doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon.
3 Between Filming Takes, She Likes To Ignore The World And Listen To Music
Considering Moss' upbringing in a very musical household, it's perhaps unsurprising that she herself is a huge fan of this artistic medium. In an interview with The Guardian, she revealed that from an early age she was a fan of jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald, mainly due to her father's career in this musical genre. However, her tastes have diversified somewhat since these early years. Moss now tends to use music as a way to get into the "zone" on-set, telling The Guardian that she's listened to particular artists while filming particular shows.
In the case of 'Mad Men', Sigur Rós and Max Richter were her musicians of choice. For the darker show 'Top of the Lake', Eminem could be heard blasting through her headphones as she prepared for difficult scenes.
As for her musical tastes when she's not getting into a role, Moss told PopSugar that she's got a lot of firm favorites at the moment. She's a huge fan of the indie band Bleachers, and, like many of us, she can't get enough of Beyoncé's Lemonade. In fact, Beyoncé is in many ways her biggest motivator! Moss revealed that if she "ever needs to get up the will to... not stay in bed, it's Beyoncé." I think a lot of people can probably relate to that.
2 She Doesn't Think That The Handmaid's Tale Is A Feminist Show
Over the years, both Margaret Atwood's novel and the TV adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale have been widely considered as feminist works. The Guardian once described the show as being "widely held as a rallying cry for the feminist resistance", while The New Yorker has stated that "Moss and her co-stars have made a feminist show and a great one at that". A story about handmaids - women who have been reduced to nothing more than baby-making machines - finding ways to rebel against their oppressive patriarchal rulers does seem like it's inherently feminist at heart.
However, Moss herself has given conflicting statements in the past regarding whether she herself believes The Handmaid's Tale to be a feminist tale or not. As The New Yorker notes, at a panel session at the Tribeca Film Festival, Moss - and many of her co-stars - all denied that the show was feminist for a range of reasons. In Moss' case, she stated that she believes that the story chronicles generic human oppression rather than simply female oppression, meaning it's not inherently feminist. This confused many fans who were quick to point out that while some men in the show do suffer, it's women who have their freedoms curbed the most. Moss later seemed to acknowledge this fact - she told The Huffington Post that she does see The Handmaid's Tale as feminist after all. Was this a genuine about-turn, or one just to please her fans? We like to think the former!
1 Moss' Mother Is A Professional Harmonica Player
In an interview with The Guardian back in 2017, Elisabeth Moss revealed that the art of performance is in her blood - although not in the way you might expect! Moss was born on July 24th, 1982 to parents Ron and Linda. Both her British father and her American mother worked in the music industry, with Ron being a jazz musician. Her mother inhabited a much more niche corner of the business: she was a professional harmonica player! Linda mostly performed with blues bands, and the family frequently traveled due to both parents' careers.
Moss admitted that many of her childhood memories are of being "backstage at different theatres and music clubs," stating that she and her brother Derek "grew up with musicians coming over jamming.
We had tons of instruments." Given this background, you'd think that Moss would have ended up working in a more musical occupation herself! Not that we're complaining, of course: we're super glad that the world has been treated to her acting talents. Moss herself claimed that acting was the "easier option" compared to music, for which you have to "practice for hours every day." To be fair, acting doesn't look like a walk in the park either!
References: The Guardian; The Telegraph; Digital Spy; Radio Times; Cosmopolitan; Elle; The Telegraph; Bravo TV; The Guardian; ABC News; The Independent; InTouch Weekly; The Guardian; Entertainment Tonight; Vulture; Wonderland Magazine; E! Online; Biography.com; Pointe; Broadway World; Deadline; The Daily Mail; The Huffington Post; People; The Hollywood Reporter; The Chicago Tribune; Female First; The Hollywood Reporter; The Independent; The Hollywood Reporter; The Verge; The Washington Times; The Guardian; PopSugar; The Huffington Post; The Guardian; The New Yorker