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Elisabeth Moss cannot stop talking about this one pair of bejeweled gold Manolo Blahniks. “You’d think they were the only shoes I own,” says Moss, slightly embarrassed, after the third mention during an hour-long interview. “I do have other shoes!” But apparently none more meaningful to the Mad Men actress—Moss plays secretary-cum-copywriter Peggy Olson on the AMC series—who wore the heels in question for her October wedding to Saturday Night Live star (and Barack Obama impersonator) Fred Armisen. “They’re so comfortable,” she says emphatically. “I mean, I wore those shoes for 12 hours and I was fine.”
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Her other “prized possession”? A pair of black-and-gold sequined Dolce & Gabbana pumps that she wore to the Mad Men season three premiere last summer. “They’re so beautiful,” Moss contends, “I want to hang them on my Christmas tree.”
Moss knows what she likes and what looks good when it comes to her style (“I like to look like as much of a fairy princess as I can,” the actress jokes). However, all that girliness—replete with dewy skin and shiny hair—disappears on television, where she has spent the last several years wowing critics and audiences alike as a frumpy-but-winning underling at a high-octane advertising agency. Indeed, Moss’ Peggy is an island of bad hair, unbecoming clothes and sketchy predicaments (see season one’s unplanned pregnancy, or season three’s sleeping-with-a-rival-agency’s-executive plotline) in the ultrastylish sea that is Matthew Weiner’s cultish show about Madison Avenue’s Sixties advertising heyday.
And for the most part, that’s fine by Moss. Not that she doesn’t sometimes wish Peggy had better taste. “It’s a little hard, being such a girly girl, when I see what Christina [Hendricks, who plays the agency’s curvy office manager, Joan Holloway] and January [Jones, as housewife/babe Betty Draper] get to wear,” she says, “but at the same time, I love my character so much that if they put me in a paper bag and I got to play her, I would be fine with that.”
HAIR BY FERNANDO TORRENT AT L’ATELIER NYC USING LEONOR GREYL; MAKEUP BY MAXINE LEONARD AT TIM HOWARD USING LANCOME; MANICURE BY RICA ROMAIN AT SEE MANAGEMENT FOR BROADWAY NAILS; FASHION ASSISTANT: TAMAR LEVINE. MOSS’ WEDDING RING, WORN THROUGHOUT, BY LOS ANGELES JEWELER JONNY RITZ.
Top: Ralph Lauren Collection Crystallized-Swarovski Elements clutch, $4,995, at select Ralph Lauren boutiques (212.606.2100) and ralphlauren.com; Deviated by Justin Giunta glass rhinestone crystals, glass bugle crystals and pearl necklace, $400, at Haven, Franklin, Tenn. (615.790.7954), Upstairs on 7th, Washington (301.351.8308), and Blinc, Plano, Tex. (972.378.9600). Michael Kors viscose jersey dress, $1,395, at select Michael Kors boutiques (866.709.KORS).
Center: Alicia Kelley Lapp for 3.1 Phillip Lim 10-karat gold-plated nickel and copper necklace on grosgrain ribbon with beads, $1,500, at 3.1 Phillip Lim, New York (212.334.1160) and West Hollywood (310.358.1988); Kara by Kara Ross 14-karat gold-plated and lizard bracelet, $370, at Bergdorf Goodman, New York (212.753.7300), and bergdorfgoodman.com; Judith Leiber Austrian crystal minaudière, $3,395, at Judith Leiber, New York (212.223.2999), and judithleiber.com. Derek Lam silk blouse, $1,090, and elastane skirt, $990, at Derek Lam, New York (212.966.9616).
Bottom: Janis by Janis Savitt brass rhodium-plated necklace, $725, at Bergdorf Goodman, New York (212.753.7300); Iosselliani sterling silver and Crystallized-Swarovski Elements necklace, $635, at Barneys New York, New York (212.826.8900); Pamela Love sterling silver and obsidian bracelet, $1,475, at Jeffrey (212.206.1272), New York, and Opening Ceremony, Los Angeles (310.652.1120); Kristen Farrell 18-karat white gold ring with diamonds and marquise aquamarine, $24,600, at Hirshleifers, Manhasset, N.Y. (516.627.3566), and Kristen Farrell Boutique, New York (212.319.0533); Marc Jacobs woven python and leather bag, $1,595, at Marc Jacobs nationwide at marcjacobs.com; Be & D calfskin bag with lambskin and nickel-plated metal trim, $565, at Bloomingdale’s, New York (212.705.2000), and Shopbop.com; Alexander Wang cotton, elastic and lambskin shoe, $635, at alexanderwang.com. Theory Modal dress, $245, at Bloomingdale’s nationwide (800.777.0000) and Neiman Marcus nationwide (888.888.4757).
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Moss has been acting since the age of six and working in series television more or less consistently since 1999, when she started appearing as presidential daughter Zoey Bartlett on The West Wing. Her extensive experience, including playing disfigured psychiatric patient Polly “Torch” Clark in the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted, has served her well. Over Mad Men’s three seasons, she has molded the character of Peggy into a quietly enrapturing female force, equal parts naïveté, smarts and determination—on a show ostensibly about men.
Not limited to the small screen, in 2008, Moss revealed substantial theatrical chops, going tête-à-tête with Jeremy Piven and Raúl Esparza in the revival of David Mamet’s
Speed-the-Plow on Broadway. As for her fishy castmate Piven, who left midrun claiming sushi-derived mercury poisoning, Moss refuses to see anything but the bright side of his departure. “You definitely want to work with people that want to be there.…And I got to work with [Piven’s three replacements] Norbert [Leo Butz], Jordan [Lage] and William H. Macy—like, when am I going to get to do a Mamet play on Broadway with William H. Macy?”
The past several awards seasons have also been good to Moss and her growing profile. This year, she won both Golden Globe and SAG awards in the television drama ensemble categories with her Mad Men co-stars. (The series is an award magnet, winning three consecutive Globes, two SAG awards and two Emmys since making its debut in 2007.) And last year, Moss was singled out. She was nominated for a SAG award, as well as a lead-actress Emmy, which pit her against the likes of Holly Hunter, Sally Field and Glenn Close, who took home the statue. “For me, to be recognized with the women I was with, who all have these huge careers, for me to be with them, I was like, Good, I’m done. I’m fine,” she says.
But her ambition has clearly not diminished in the least. Take her next project, the Judd Apatow–produced Get Him to the Greek, out June 11, which marks her first foray into bro-tastic comedy. Loosely based on Russell Brand’s outrageous character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the film focuses on a record label gopher (Jonah Hill) and his attempt to deliver an unruly rock star (Brand’s Aldous Snow) to Los Angeles’ Greek Theater for a gig. Moss plays Hill’s medical-resident girlfriend, Daphne. And if Apatowian women have been historically maligned—recall Knocked Up star Katherine Heigl’s reported complaints of the film’s shrewlike, humorless women—Moss sought to create the kind of relatable, strong female voice she did with Peggy. “It was very important to me to make sure that [Daphne] had a real place in the film and wasn’t just the girlfriend,” she says, “because I’m not interested in playing that. To me, that’s boring.”
Top: Miriam Salat white resin earrings, $169, at select Neiman Marcus stores (888.888.4757); Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi antiqued-brass necklace with crystal and African glass beads, $2,500, at Bergdorf Goodman, New York (212.753.7300); Camillajames braided shell, semiprecious stone, vintage chain and rhinestone necklace with grosgrain ribbon, $398, at Looc, Boston (617.357.5333), Albertine, New York (212.924.8515). 3.1 Phillip Lim silk, linen and acrylic dress, $1,100, at 3.1 Phillip Lim, West Hollywood (310.358.1988).
Bottom: Yves Saint Laurent metal necklace, $650, at select Yves Saint Laurent boutiques (212.980.2970); Fendi brass and Plexiglas cuff, $340, at Fendi, New York (212.759.4646), Beverly Hills (310.276.8888) and Houston (713.961.1111); Donna Karan New York leather clutch with Crystallized-Swarovski Elements, $1,495, at select Donna Karan New York boutiques (866.240.4700); Valentino silk satin and Swarovski crystal clutch (inside basket, on right), $1,595, at Valentino, New York (212.772.6969); Chanel metal, cotton cord and tissue basket, $12,500, at select Chanel boutiques (800.550.0005); Stella McCartney copper, brass, silver and plastic pearl necklace, $1,985, at Stella McCartney, New York (212.255.1556), and stellamccartney.com. Donna Karan New York viscose, elastane and spandex jersey dress, $2,595, at Neiman Marcus nationwide (888.888.4757).
Luckily, Moss had a compatriot in the movie’s director, Nicholas Stoller. “Elisabeth has a very strong screen presence and she’s just, in reality, a strong woman,” he says, adding that he had no reservations about casting Moss in his improv-heavy, balls-to-the-wall comedy. “I loved her from Mad Men and from The West Wing,” he says. “But you don’t really know until someone comes into the audition. And she was really funny. She didn’t just keep up with [Hill], who is a crazy-funny actor, but she kept him on his game.”
Moss is on top of her own game, too, but she still manages to achieve the elusive work/life balance—all thanks, she says, to her husband. Being with Armisen, “allows me to remain really grounded about my work,” she explains, “and to not get too caught up in award shows and movies and things like that. It allows me to be really happy without all that stuff. No matter what happens, I will have a home base of happiness.” With regard to having children, Moss says she’s definitely warming to the idea, but not right now. (Despite numerous Internet rumors, Moss’ publicist denies the actress is already expecting.) “You get older and you do feel like something starts to kick in a little bit, as a woman,” she says. “And then when you meet the love of your life, of course you want to have a family.” At the moment, though, “we just want to be newlyweds and enjoy each other.”
Top: Adriana Castro python belt, $305, at Ultimo, Chicago (312.787.1171), and Stanley Korshak, Dallas (800.972.5959); Leon Megé platinum, 18-karat yellow gold, silver, diamond, ruby, orange diamond and yellow diamond ring (left), $35,000, at Leon Megé Inc., New York (212.768.3868); Cathy Waterman coral, platinum and diamond ring (right), $8,350, at select Barneys New York, New York (888.8.BARNEY); Proenza Schouler silk jacquard bag with metal chain, $1,135, at Alchemist, Miami (305.531.4653); Oscar de la Renta leather shoe, $685, at Sassanova, Washington (202.471.4400), and Capitol, Charlotte, N.C. (704.366.0388). Chris Benz silk chiffon dress, $770, at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York (212.940.4650), and Chalk Boutique, Evanston, Ill. (847.424.0011).
Bottom: Vera Wang rhinestone and sequin choker, $350, at Vera Wang, New York (212.382.2184); Bochic white Bakelite, pink tourmaline and diamond cuff, $11,000, at select Neiman Marcus stores (888.888.4757); Kate Spade New York straw bag, $225, at Kate Spade New York nationwide (800.519.3778); Alejandro Ingelmo patent leather shoes, $450, at Intermix, Prince Street, New York (212.966.5303). Peter Som cotton and silk top, $770, at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores (877.551.SAKS) and Theory Modal skirt, $225, at Neiman Marcus nationwide (888.888.4757).