The Lenny Questionnaire: Elisabeth Moss

The Mad Men star talks goldfish funerals, the Bachelor in Paradise, and gets advice from Gayle King.

Most Popular
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Lizzie Moss is a national treasure. Some of you discovered her on Mad Men, on which she did a stunning seven seasons as the quietly ambitious Peggy Olson, who enters the advertising world as a mouse and emerges as a power player. Maybe you loved her even earlier, since The West Wing or even Girl, Interrupted. Maybe you saw The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway and melted into a puddle of bliss when she delivered a ten-minute monologue like it was as easy as a haiku. Maybe you just like that she's one of the few celebrities who look like they're genuinely smiling on a red carpet, emanating gratitude and good humor. Or maybe you've been lucky enough to cross her path and find out she's just as funny and warm as she is talented and driven.

Most Popular

We've felt all these things and more, as her longtime super-fans turned friends (yes, friends!). We admire her flair for choosing powerful, complex roles that make her impossible to pigeonhole. And we personally admire her ability to rock a jean short and put away more sushi than we thought was humanly possible. Her answers to our Lenny questionnaire have us falling in love all over again. Lizzie Moss and Lenny, still crazy after all these years.

Lenny: What's your first memory of your mother?

Elisabeth Moss: Probably out in the yard at our first house in the valley in L.A. She used to let me water the grass. Which really was just me standing in one place watering the dirt. But I had a very active imagination when I was little, guess I still do, and she was always so supportive, even then. Whatever I wanted to make-believe, she went right along with me. If I wanted to pretend I had a horse, fantastic. If I wanted to plant an imaginary garden in the yard, then so be it. Once, one of our goldfish died (they all did and quite quickly), and she let my brother and me have a funeral in the backyard and bury it. I believe I even wrote a poem to read at the ceremony. It was all taken with the utmost seriousness.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

L: Which of your body parts do you feel the most affection for?

EM: I always feel like favorite-body-part questions make me sound egotistical, like, Oh, this part of my body is amazing. But in reality, it's really just that I'm picking the ones that I like amongst the many that I don't, ha-ha. So I would say my calves, 'cause they are the only muscles I have left over from my ballet days. For some blessed reason, they haven't gone away yet, even though everything else did like ten years ago.

And my eyes. They are a nice color, and they allow me to do what I love to do, which is act. OK, have to stop, because those two answers alone made me hate myself.

L: When did you overcome the patriarchy this week?

EM: I went to the Glamour Women of the Year Awards recently. It's my third time going, and it is always an incredibly inspiring event. It's awesome to see people getting awards for actually accomplishing something meaningful instead of just acting on a TV show. I love and respect what I do, but it's important to value and reward people doing what I consider to be bigger work. So that event was moment after moment of women overcoming patriarchy in their various fields.

Actually, one of the most inspiring speeches was from Reese Witherspoon, who received an award. She talked about just going after what you want as a woman instead of waiting for someone to hand it to you. I obviously related to it, but even more because of something that happened to me recently. I'm producing a project that has a woman as its lead, and one of the places we took it to (that shall remain nameless) actually said that they couldn't do it because it was too "female." I was completely shocked and incensed, though perhaps naïvely so. When so many of our top-grossing films (Hunger Games, anyone??) and our most popular and critically acclaimed TV shows are led by women, the stupidity of that remark was just shocking to me. I remember thinking, Is that actually legal? Can you actually say that? 

L: What music was playing during your first kiss?

EM: Probably classical music from a piano, because I was at a ballet studio. I like to keep it classy.

L: What snack can return you to sanity?

EM: Does coffee count as a snack?

L: What is your power outfit? (What you need to wear when you want to feel "fucking rad/like a business bitch.")

EM: Entirely Rag & Bone. Black Rag & Bone tuxedo pants, white T-shirt, blazer or leather jacket, and motorcycle boots. Rag & Bone always makes me feel tough. So do very, very high heels.

L: What book have you reread the most?

EM: All of Salinger's work. Maybe Franny and Zooey, but I think my favorite is Nine Stories. But it changes depending on where I am in my life. Sometimes it's the novella Seymour, an Introduction. Every time I read them, I feel like I've never read them before. They break my heart and make me laugh simultaneously, which is my favorite kind of art.

L: What was the worst choice you made before turning 21?

EM: Becoming way too caught up with friends, and going out and drinking, et cetera. I mean, I still drink and have friends, but wasting time with drama that never ended up mattering. I'm much better at not doing that now.

L: What was the worst choice you made after turning 21?

EM: Okay, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I just don't really believe in mistakes and worst choices. Everything I have done and not done has made me who I am. I could say a couple things that maybe would have made my life easier and saved some heartbreak, but … I learned so much and now won't make those mistakes/choices again. Although I do remember talking to Gayle King once about a horrible breakup and repeating that line: "But I guess I learned a lot." And she said, "Honey, sometimes we don't need to learn THAT much." I will never forget that. She was so right and hilarious.

L: What's the most embarrassing item in your search history?

EM: A whiskey advent calendar. Yes, it's a real thing, and yes, I'm considering buying one, thank you very much.

L: When was the last time you cried?

EM: Most likely watching the conclusion of Bachelor in Paradise. Marriage proposals get me every time. I don't even have to know the people at all; in fact, it's actually better when I don't. In serious situations that should make me cry, I get really tough and calm and even, but a commercial or dumb TV show … waterworks.

L: What's your favorite curse word?

EM: "Holy shit balls." Can be used in a positive or negative way. It's what actually comes to my mind when I'm shocked or surprised or something.

L: What superstition do you believe in?

EM: Weirdly, I always knock on wood. But I have substituted knocking on my head if wood isn't available. Because apparently I believe in this superstition but also am brazen enough to think I can change the rules of it.

Read Next: