Elisabeth Moss from Top of the Lake gets candid in a tete-a-tete.
Every binge watcher has her on their list of must-watches, and Elisabeth Singleton Moss, who is better known as Zoey Bartlet, the youngest daughter of President Josiah Bartlet, on The West Wing, and as Peggy Olson, secretary-turned-copywriter, on Mad Men speaks about her role in Top of the Lake. The actress won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film for the BBC miniseries Top of the Lake... and shares the inside track...
What are the qualities in Robin that made you want to play her again?
What I love most about Robin, from an actor’s perspective are her flaws, vulnerability. And her ability to be strong when she needs to be and to fight for justice and fight for the truth. So the juxtaposition of that with the complete chaos in her personal life and her inability to get that under control; this season, she’s so much more messed up. It’s been a challenge to play, but it’s also been really fun.
How did Jane Campion approach you about doing Top of the Lake: China Girl?
It came up in conversation over sushi in Queenstown, “What if there was a season two?” And we all were like, “Oh, that’s kind of exciting.” Then over a year later, I was actually at the Emmys in LA and Jane and I met for lunch and she said, “So, if we did a season two, would you do it? I can’t really do it without Robin.” I said yes, I would love to, but it needs to be more challenging. I said. “I just want her to be challenged.”
Were you surprised by how well-received the series was?
Yeah. I don’t want to say I was surprised as that sounds like we weren’t expecting it. And it was so dark and so weird and the tone of Jane Campion is so strange. So you really throw your hands up and go, “I don’t know if anyone’s going to get this.” It’s always amazing when you put your heart into something and you get all these cherries on top of people really liking it and wanting to give you honours. It’s a wonderfully gratifying thing.
What was it like working with Jane Campion the second time?
There’s nobody like Jane. I’ve worked with many different directors and many wonderful directors. I’ve had the privilege of working with some very talented amazing people, and there’s something about the way that she speaks to you and about the way that she guides you on set that isn’t like anyone else. She has this very in-tune way of guiding you. When you feel like a director trusts you that just gives you so much freedom and confidence.
How did you feel about a new second director, Ariel Kleiman, being on board?
Jane does have an incredible gift for finding new talent and I trust her one thousand percent in that regard. She did it with Garth and I believe that she’s done it again with Ari. He’s kind of this magical creature — very enthusiastic and youthful. We’re at a brothel, we’re at a morgue, we’re at a beach, there’s a dead body. It’s very dark. And he’s just laughing and so excited. This enthusiasm is so infectious. Going to work with him is an absolute joy.
Did you and Gwendoline Christie get close through working so closely together?
I don’t even know where to begin. She’s the love of my life! I thought I would like her, you know, and I’m a fan of hers as an actor, but it’s been this really wonderful deep friendship that has happened. Sometimes you meet people and you know that you’re going to be friends with them for the rest of your life. Season one I didn’t really have that buddy, Robin didn’t have that friend. It’s been really amazing in season two to have this female relationship.
How important is Sydney as the location for Season 2?
Well, New Zealand was so much about the wilderness outside, and this season, season two, is about the wilderness within, and that is very much represented by the story but also very much represented by Sydney. Obviously it’s a much more urban landscape. It is much more modern in a lot of ways. But at the same time we have this coastline that we’re dealing with and shooting at a lot. And so we’ve gone from this very still, freezing cold still lake, to this ocean and this coastline and these beaches that are temperamental and change all the time and look different. To me the ocean is the other character as much as Sydney.
— Watch Top Of The Lake S2 on the recently launched BBC First weeknights at 10 pm exclusively on Zee Cafe.