Do you remember Premiere Magazine? It’s been exactly 10 years since Premiere’s last issue. I loved Premiere. I don’t know if I can say I would still love Premiere if I could go back now and read the content but I remember loving the content. The articles about how the industry worked, the film reviews, and of course, the celebrity profiles. That used to be the magazine game – the celebrity profile. In Vanity Fair or Vogue or W etc, etc, etc.
But now? The best celebrity profiles show up in Vulture. Vulture is where Jenny Slate chose to “open up” last month about her career plans, her ambition, and her breakup with Chris Evans. This month, it’s Elisabeth Moss, currently promoting The Handmaid’s Tale, the show everyone is talking about, the show we’ll be talking a lot about here for the next two months.
Duana and I typically record the Show Your Work podcast on Fridays to post on Mondays. But as Duana mentioned yesterday, she and I are heading to New York for the weekend so next week’s episode will be posted a couple of days later, after we get through writing the MET Gala. If we were recording tonight though, I suspect Elisabeth Moss would have made the discussion list. Because there is SO MUCH WORK in this piece. Tons and tons of WORK.
Like the fact that she was offered the role of Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale first – and her reaction to it:
“I auditioned for Mad Men, I auditioned for Top of the Lake, I obviously auditioned for West Wing, so I still get excited when I get offered stuff. Like, a part of me thinks, They think I can do it! That’s awesome!” she says. “And that’s a part of me I have to squash, otherwise I would do everything just because people gave it to me.”
I can imagine Duana’s face right now, reading that quote. The YES at first about getting to the point where you top a wish list. But the true excitement in Elisabeth’s comments is in the “next”, what comes after you top the list. Because this is what success looks like. Success isn’t one-dimensional. Success isn’t an arrival, success means you keep going, with a new set of challenges: the minute you get what you want, you realise you have to learn a new skill – in Elisabeth Moss’s case, the skill is to begin learning how to say Yes, but selectively. Which means you have to learn how and when to say No.
The work talk continues when Elisabeth reveals that she waited “several months” before committing to playing The Handmaid’s Tale. And the reason she finally made the decision? COMPETITION.
But Moss wasn’t sure until Miller gave her an ultimatum: Unless she told them her decision soon (she’d been sitting on it for several months), they’d have to take the offer to someone else. “They even threw out a name specifically,” says Moss. “And they could have been lying to me, but I just was like, ‘Oh, hell no, hell no she ain’t gonna play this role. Mmm-mmm. Get all the credit for it?’ So I knew I had to say yes from my own reaction. I would’ve been so jealous. I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone else doing it.”
Was it manipulative, getting her to sign on by giving her the Sliding Doors scenario? Maybe. But it’s not like she didn’t know she was the first choice. And there is negotiating power in being first choice. Part of showing your work is not only recognising where your negotiating power is but knowing how to use it. And it’s not easy, especially not for women – in any business. Because to negotiate from a place of power is to acknowledge your power, to come in strong and opposed to coming in “grateful” and “accommodating”. In this case, Elisabeth insisted on producing, and not just as a token credit. The article goes on to describe her work as a producer – from casting to wardrobe choices to cinematography to post-production.
It’s a great read, written by Jada Yuan, so I don’t want to excerpt and spoil the whole thing. But let me just highlight one of my favourite parts, which happens to be Elisabeth’s favourite part in a profile – the outfit:
She looks thoroughly healthy, young, and modern today, though, in Rag & Bone jeans, a black bomber jacket made of embroidered Japanese silk, and one of her many Cubs shirts. (Her mom’s whole side of the family is from Chicago, and Cubs fandom is “in the blood.”) She tells me she picked her outfit just for this paragraph — her favorite part of any profile — when the writer describes what the subject is wearing. And who am I to deny her that? On her right hand is what looks like it could be an engagement ring, except, she says, “It’s on an appropriate finger for me seeing that I’m single.” She gifted it to herself after she won her Golden Globe.
Do you love this part as much as I do? Do you love it because most of the time, celebrities, they pretend like they didn’t put any thought into the outfit, like they just threw on whatever and came to meet the journalist because, you know, they’re so much more than their clothes, even though, like Elisabeth, they probably put some thought in the clothes because…why wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Elisabeth Moss chose her outfit to represent Chicago, and therefore her mother. She chose her ring so that she could talk about her independence and, also, her achievement – her Golden Globe Award. How about THAT, Blake Lively, for putting the power into fashion?
Click here to read the full – and excellent – Vulture profile on Elisabeth Moss by Jada Yuan. And note the title:
Elisabeth Moss Is The Queen Of Peak TV
Without writers, however, there would be no Peak TV. And Peak TV might be taking a break because the writers could be striking, beginning on Tuesday. For more on the possible writers’ strike, Vox posted a summary of the issues yesterday that’s worth your time, especially if binge-watching is part of your life, and is good background information for upcoming Show Your Work episodes.
Have a great weekend!
Yours in gossip,