Elisabeth Moss (born July 24, 1982) is an American actor and producer.
Elisabeth Moss began acting in the early 1990s and first gained recognition for playing Zoey Bartlet, the youngest daughter of President Josiah Bartlet, in the NBC political drama series The West Wing (1999–2006). Wider recognition came for playing Peggy Olson, a secretary-turned-copywriter, in the AMC period drama series Mad Men (2007–2015).
She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film for portraying Detective Robin Griffin in the BBC miniseries Top of the Lake (2013), and she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series for producing and starring as June Osborne in the Hulu dystopian drama series The Handmaid’s Tale (2017–present).
In film, Elisabeth Moss had supporting roles in Girl, Interrupted (1999), Get Him to the Greek (2010), and Us (2019); and starring roles in The One I Love (2014), The Square (2017), and The Invisible Man (2020). She has also starred in three films by Alex Ross Perry, including Her Smell (2018). In theater, Elisabeth Moss had roles in the Broadway productions of David Mamet‘s Speed the Plow and Wendy Wasserstein‘s The Heidi Chronicles. For the latter, she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She has also appeared in the West End production of Lillian Hellman‘s The Children’s Hour.
Elisabeth Moss was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Ron and Linda Moss, both of whom were musicians; her mother plays jazz and blues harmonica professionally. Elisabeth Moss has one younger brother. She was raised a Scientologist. Her father is English. Her mother is of part Swedish descent.
Initially, Elisabeth Moss had aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. In her adolescence, she traveled to New York City to study ballet at the School of American Ballet, after which she studied with Suzanne Farrell at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Moss continued to study dance throughout her teenage years, but began obtaining acting roles as well. In order to manage her education and career, she began homeschooling, and graduated in 1999.
Elisabeth Moss first screen role was in 1990, when she appeared in the NBC miniseries Lucky/Chances. From 1992 until 1995, Moss appeared as Cynthia Parks in seven episodes of the TV series Picket Fences. She provided the voice of Holly DeCarlo, a main character in the TV special Frosty Returns (1992) and of Michelle in the animated film Once Upon a Forest (1993). She appeared in the television remake of the 1993 film Gypsy and played Harvey Keitel‘s younger daughter in the film Imaginary Crimes (1994).
The following year, she appeared in the remake of the Walt Disney Pictures film Escape to Witch Mountain (1995) and played a young Ashley Judd in the TV-movie biopic Love Can Build a Bridge (1995). She also had a supporting role in the drama Separate Lives (1995) opposite Jim Belushi and Linda Hamilton, and a minor part in the black comedy The Last Supper (1995). Moss also again provided voice work, for the animated series Freakazoid! and the television film It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown! (1996).
Beginning in 1999, Elisabeth Moss portrayed the recurring role of Zoey Bartlet in the White House television drama The West Wing, playing the daughter of President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and First Lady Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing); she portrayed the character until the series finale in 2006.
Elisabeth Moss‘ character became integral to the fourth season of the show; in a retrospective on the series The Atlantic noted: “Aaron Sorkin made [Moss] the centerpiece of the explosive fourth-season finale where he basically engineered the most insane cliffhanger possible. It required Zoey to be a bit of a pain with her fancy French boyfriend, but Moss always made her relatable, even when the plot required otherwise.”
In 1999, she had a supporting role as a patient in a mental institution in James Mangold‘s Girl, Interrupted, opposite Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, and a minor part in the drama Anywhere but Here. The same year, she had a small role in the movie Mumford (1999), playing the daughter of a woman with a shopping addiction.
In 2002, Elisabeth Moss appeared in a commercial for Excedrin in which she directly addressed the audience about the medication’s benefits for people who suffer from migraines. The spot proved enduringly popular and ran for several years, providing Moss with residual income as she struggled to make it as an actress.
Elisabeth Moss appeared in Heart of America and three other films in 2004. That year, she made the movie Virgin, for which she was nominated for a 2004 Independent Spirit Award. Moss also had a supporting part in Ron Howard‘s Western thriller The Missing (2003).Moss at the 12th Satellite Awards in December 2007
Elisabeth Moss had a supporting role in the 2005–2006 horror series Invasion, and appeared in television again on a 2007 episode of Grey’s Anatomy entitled “My Favorite Mistake”, and on the series Medium opposite Patricia Arquette. She also appeared in Mary Lambert‘s 2007 horror film The Attic, and the independent drama Day Zero (2007).
In 2006, she was cast as Peggy Olson, secretary-turned-copywriter in the AMC dramatic series Mad Men. Between 2009 and the series’ final season in 2015, Moss was nominated for five Emmy awards for the role for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
In 2010, she was nominated for the Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy. Reflecting on her casting in the series, Moss recalled: “I auditioned [for the role]. There were scripts for two pilots that everyone was talking about at the time that were really good, and Mad Men was one of them.”
While a series regular on Mad Men, Moss made her Broadway debut in October 2008, playing the role of Karen in the 20th Anniversary revival of Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet. She then briefly appeared in the comedy film Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009), playing Sarah Jessica Parker‘s assistant, followed by a part in the comedy Get Him to the Greek (2010) opposite Jonah Hill.
In 2011, Moss made her West End debut as Martha Dobie in Lillian Hellman‘s play The Children’s Hour, opposite Keira Knightley. The play opened at The Comedy Theatre, London on January 22, 2011. In 2012, she was cast as Galatea Dunkel in the independent drama On the Road, based on Jack Kerouac‘s novel of the same name.
Moss played detective Robin Griffin in the 2013 Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake, a co-production by the Sundance Channel, the UK’s BBC Two and Australia’s UKTV, written and directed by Oscar-winner Jane Campion. For her role, Moss received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.
In 2014, Moss starred in the independent film Listen Up Philip (2014), her first collaboration with writer-director Alex Ross Perry. She also starred in Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love (2014) with Mark Duplass.Moss at PaleyFest in 2014
In September 2014, it was announced that Moss would star on Broadway as Heidi Holland in The Heidi Chronicles. The play opened on March 19, 2015 at The Music Box Theatre. Though the play received some positive reviews, it closed on May 3, 2015 due to low ticket sales.
Moss was nominated for a Tony Award for her role. After production on Mad Men had wrapped, Moss collaborated again with Alex Ross Perry, starring in Queen of Earth (2015), a psychological thriller opposite Katherine Waterston and Patrick Fugit, in which she plays a mentally unstable woman who unravels at a vacation home in the company of her close friends. She was cast in a supporting part in the British dystopian drama High-Rise (2015), opposite Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller.
Moss appeared in the Chuck Wepner biopic Chuck (2016), opposite Liev Schreiber. In 2017, she appeared in Mad to Be Normal, a biopic of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing, and co-starred in the film adaptation of Anton Chekhov‘s play The Seagull alongside Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, and Corey Stoll.
The second season of Top of the Lake, consisting of six episodes, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017 which is set in Sydney, Australia. That same year, Moss began playing Offred in the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale, for which she has received critical acclaim and a Primetime Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
In 2018, Moss reunited with Alex Ross Perry for Her Smell, portraying the role of a fictional rock star whose band breaks up over her self-destructive behavior, and appeared in The Old Man & the Gun, directed by David Lowery. Both films received positive reviews from critics.
In 2019, Moss co-starred in Jordan Peele‘s psychological horror film Us alongside Lupita Nyong’o. The film is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Later that year, she starred in The Kitchen, alongside Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish, which follows three housewives who, after their mobster husbands are sent to prison, continue to operate their business.
In 2020, Elisabeth Moss starred in Shirley, opposite Michael Stuhlbarg and directed by Josephine Decker, portraying the role of author Shirley Jackson, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She also had the starring role in the horror-thriller film The Invisible Man, alongside Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Storm Reid, which was released on February 28, 2020 to critical acclaim. Moss will appear in The French Dispatch, directed by Wes Anderson, and Next Goal Wins, directed by Taika Waititi.
She met Fred Armisen in October 2008, and they became engaged in January 2009, marrying on October 25, 2009, in Long Island City, New York. They separated in June 2010, and in September 2010, Elisabeth Moss filed for divorce, which was finalized on May 13, 2011.
Moss practices Scientology and identifies as a feminist. After a fan questioned whether her role in the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale made her think about her involvement with the Church of Scientology, Moss defended her beliefs on Instagram, writing that the idea that Gilead in the series and Scientology “both believe that all outside sources are wrong or evil,” as the fan had described, is “actually not true at all”.
She continued, “Religious freedom and tolerance and understanding the truth and equal rights for every race, religion and creed are extremely important to me.”