Until now, Elisabeth Moss was best known for playing Peggy Olson, the secretary from the hit series Mad Men who smashed the glass ceiling and became a successful copywriter.
However it is her latest role as “Offred” the protagonist in The Handmaid’s Tale that has brought Moss back into the public eye. Based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the mini-series offers a disturbing insight into a world where women are classified by their fertility and an ultra-conservative authoritarian regime is in power.
As well as the show’s protagonist, Moss is also a producer and says that they could not envisage the eerie similarities that would develop between the show’s fictional context, and the current socio-political situation that currently exists in the United States. “There are themes that we thought were going to be relevant, like genital mutilation, human trafficking, child trafficking, rising rates of infertility, global warming. But then in my country, things got very, very relevant, much closer to home than we could have ever anticipated.”
When the show first premiered at the Tribeca film festival, Moss came under fire after being asked if she considered the piece to be a feminist work. “For me, it’s not a feminist story. It’s a human story because women’s rights are human rights,” she said. “I never expected to play Offred as a feminist.” At the time, she was heavily criticised for that response.
Today, she is keen to clarify. “What I meant to say was that, for me, feminism is equal rights for men and women,” she says. “Men and women are both humans, so for me that makes my characters and the work I do human stories.”
In the current political climate, Moss is encouraging all of us to pay more attention to what our governments are telling us and what they are actually doing. “People have to stay awake. And after you wake up, you should get out of bed and start doing things. There is no time later,” she says. “My worst fear is that people become complacent, and apathetic, again.”