As Peggy Olson, a female advertising copywriter trying to break the glass ceiling on the 1960s-set AMC series Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss has captured audiences with her combination of moxie and naiveté. This month at the Music Box Theatre, she takes the lead role in the late Wendy Wasserstein’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, which follows the title character from the 1960s to the 1980s as she searches for love, fulfillment and gender equality.
Although she now calls New York home, Moss, known as Lizzie to her friends, was born in Los Angeles to musician parents. Her first love was dancing, but she quickly moved to acting, scoring roles on Picket Fencesand then much-lauded The West Wing while still a teen. Her role on Mad Men has garnered her both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations over the course of the show’s seven seasons.
Previously appearing on Broadway in a revival of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, the in-demand actress also has no less than four movies in the can, including Truth with Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett.
Q: How does it feel to be taking the lead role inThe Heidi Chronicles?
A: It’s thrilling and scary! Wendy Wasserstein is such a presence in New York theater, so I feel honored to be taking on this play. When I see the poster with my name, I still can’t wrap my head around it.
Q: Why did you want to come back to Broadway after finishing Mad Men?
A: I started a film right after we wrapped the show, which enabled me to understand there were other things to do. It wasn’t my grand plan to come to Broadway, but you can’t pass it up when someone offers youThe Heidi Chronicles! Theater always strengthens you as an actor because it’s very disciplined and quite the marathon.
Q: Where do you see yourself going next?
A: There are filmmakers I admire, like Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers and Woody Allen, whose work I would love to be a part of. There are also plays I hope I get the chance to do that I’m just getting to the right age for, like Hedda Gabler and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. I’d also love to do a musical, something like Sunset Boulevard, that requires acting as well as singing.
Q: You first came to New York as a child to study ballet.
A: It was a magical experience. My first summer was at Joffrey Ballet School when I was 11, and then I did two summers at The School of American Ballet. It started my love affair with New York. I lived in the dorms at Lincoln Center: My view was of the Metropolitan Opera House. I had the best apartment in New York!
Q: What are your favorite New York restaurants, shops and neighborhoods?
A: I’ve been going to Cafe Fiorello, right across from Lincoln Center, for 20 years. I lived in the East Village for 12 years, and my favorite restaurant downtown is Gemma at the Bowery HoteI. It’s impossible to even know where to begin with the shopping, but I seem to have to live within a few blocks of a Rag & Bone store! I just moved to the Upper West Side. I have everything within a few blocks of me—the Metropolitan Opera House, incredible theaters, restaurants, shops, Central Park.
Q: Can you share a great “New York moment” you’ve had?
A: Last night, I decided to walk home from the Upper East Side. I stopped at The Strand bookstall and bought some books, and then I walked across Central Park past the skating rink. It was twilight, the lights were coming on in the buildings and people were out walking even though it was a little cold. It was so beautiful. I wasn’t doing anything special but it was just such a New York moment for me. That happens so often here—you don’t need a special occasion to have a really special moment in New York.