Generally, it takes one breakout role for an actor to become a household name, but that wasn’t the case for Elisabeth Moss, who has had multiple breakout roles sprinkled throughout her three-decade-long career. Moss has already conquered TV on Mad Men and The Handmaid's Tale and is now tackling the silver screen with a slate of high-profile movies coming out in the next couple of years. Here are 40 easy-going facts about Elisabeth Moss.
1. Born Into It
Elisabeth Moss—or Lizzie, as her friends call her—was born on July 24, 1982, in sunny Los Angeles, California. She always knew she wanted to be a performer, which makes sense considering how she was born in the entertainment industry's hub. But Moss' penchant for performance wasn't just dependent on location—it was in her blood. Both of her parents were musicians. Her father was a jazz artist while her mother played blues harmonica.
2. The Big Three
It is safe to say that if the TV show Fear Factor was still around, Moss would not be an ideal contestant. She is afraid of heights, spiders, and deep water.
3. Taking It to the Stage
Moss branched out from the screen and moved to the stage in 2008. That was the year Moss made her Broadway debut, acting in the David Mamet play Speed-The-Plow. She would later go on to earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in the Pulitzer-prize-winning tragicomedy The Heidi Chronicles just seven years later in 2015.
4. Dynamic Duo
Elisabeth Moss has teamed up with director Alex Ross Perry three times in her career, acting in the films Listen Up Phillip (2014), Queen of Earth (2015) and Her Smell (2019). It's easy to see why Moss keeps working with Ross Perry: these movies also happen to be some of her best-reviewed films by critics, with ratings of 85%, 93%, and 84% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes.
5. Over Before It Began
Elisabeth Moss has been married once in her life, tying the knot with Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen after only a year of dating. They met on the set of SNL in 2008 when Moss’s Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm was hosting the sketch show. Moss accompanied Hamm and even joined in a sketch. The relationship between Moss and Armisen raised a few eyebrows due to their 16-year age gap. After only eight months of marriage, they were divorced.
6. It’s Not Work If It’s Fun
Growing up, some kids like to play board games or tag with their friends to have fun. Then there's Elisabeth Moss, whose favorite game as a kid was called "library". It consisted of her checking out books to her parents. To each their own.
7. Bun Head
Moss fell in love with acting at a young age but before she caught the acting bug, her first true calling and passion in life was dancing, specifically ballet. She even studied ballet at the School of American Ballet in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Moss credits dancing for taking the pressure off of auditioning because she always knew she had it to fall back on if she didn’t get a part.
8. Who Needs Four Years?
Due to her finding steady work in acting at a young age, Elisabeth Moss had to be home-schooled. She never dropped out, though, and even graduated two years early in 1999 at the age of 16.
9. Trophy Case
Moss is no stranger to award shows, particularly the Emmys, which honor achievements in television. She's been nominated for 11 Emmys for her roles in Mad Men, Top of the Lake, and The Handmaid’s Tale, with the latter earning Moss her first two wins for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
As though that wasn't enough, Moss' winning percentage is a tad better at the Golden Globes, where she’s earned four nominations and two wins, one for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries for Top of the Lake and the other for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series for The Handmaid’s Tale.
10. Best of Both Worlds
Moss was surprised to find out that she got the part in the 2015 movie High Rise. The director and majority of the cast were British which made Moss think, "There’s no way they’re going to give it to this American girl". That's when Moss remembered that her dad is British—from Birmingham—which makes her half-British, and she even has a United Kingdom citizenship to prove it.
11. It’s All Just Make Believe
Moss tends to lean towards dramatic roles and damaged characters. Though that's obvious to viewers, Moss didn’t notice the pattern until it was pointed out to her. She makes it clear though that she enjoys acting in darker fare, that doesn’t mean that she herself is dark. She can separate art from life and knows that at the end of the day, she is just acting and acting is her "happy place".
I think Moss and Happy Gilmore have two very different definitions of what a happy place is.
12. Cover the Kids Ears
After years of coming up short at the Emmys, no one can blame Moss for not holding back during her acceptance speech and expressing how she truly felt. People at home might have wondered why portion of the speech was bleeped, but it didn’t take long for the internet to decipher that Moss praised her mother by calling her "a (F-word)-ing bad--".
Apparently, that was the clean version of her speech too, as she had a first draft that would have been nothing but one long bleep for the people watching at home.
13. If She Can’t Have It No One Can
The Handmaid’s Tale has become a cultural phenomenon, but it almost wasn’t meant to be. Moss initially turned down the lead role of June/Offred. Her main reason at the time was that she just wrapped seven seasons on Mad Men and wanted to take a break from TV. However, jealousy at the thought of someone else playing the role, as well as producer Warren Littlefield signing onto the project, ultimately led Moss to accept the part. Good call!
14. To Each Their Own
Moss has been a member of the Church of Scientology since she was a kid. She credits the church’s teachings with helping her throughout her film career and guiding her into becoming the woman she is today. For a while, she defended the Church against the many accusations levied at it, but has decided to no longer talk about her religion in public.
15. Listen Closely
Moss isn’t particularly known for her voice acting work as she’s appeared in very few animated projects, but she has voiced small roles in two rather popular projects. She voiced the character Kimmy Ventrix in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series in 1993 and Gretchen in an episode of The Simpsons in 2013. They may not be groundbreaking parts, but they are great trivia knowledge.
16. Life As a Hermit
When it comes to going out at night versus staying home and binge-watching TV, Moss is not shy to admit that she prefers the latter. Even though she's not opposed to going to the flea market or hiking, the comfort of home is too enticing to give up, so much that Moss gets annoyed when people try to pull her away from some good old couch potato time.
However, balance is key and Moss has acknowledged the flaws in being a loner. At some point, she wants to explore more and meet new people, fall in love, and start a family.
17. Finding the Right Song
In order to get into the right headspace for a certain role, Moss listens to music to motivate her before filming. She doesn’t have one particular song or playlist though, as she requires different artists and genres depending on the part. For example, before filming scenes for Mad Men she would listen to Sigur Ros and Max Richter, whereas for Top of the Lake she found Eminem helped her get to where she needed to be emotionally.
18. Furry Friends
Moss is a self-proclaimed cat lady. She has two orange tabby cats—Ethel and Lucy—that she adopted as strays. They're now living in the lap of luxury, enjoying Moss's Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan.
19. It’s Not Fun Anymore!
To unwind on the set of Mad Men, Moss and her co-stars would play games, particularly Catch Phrase and Heads Up! Moss preferred to play Speed, and she even got into a heated game with Hamm that ultimately led to them not playing again for two years! Moss would more than likely want it to be noted that she actually won that particular game, too.
20. Sticking to Her Guns
Moss may be a beloved actress but she continually comes under fire from fans and critics for what many see as hypocritical behavior due to her being involved in the empowering TV Show The Handmaid’s Tale but still connected to the Church of Scientology, which has been linked to the mistreatment of women, among other things.
Moss defends her reasoning for staying with the Church by claiming that she believes in equality but she also believes in freedom of speech and allowing everyone to have their own opinion and beliefs, even if they differ from her own.
21. Being Thorough
Most actors hate auditioning for roles. Not Elisabeth Moss: she actually enjoys the process because landing the role helps reassure her that she is right for the part and can pull it off since other people believe so too. However, she rarely has to audition anymore, thanks to her stellar acting résumé. The price of success!
22. Stumbling Into It
Moss got her first taste of the business side of the film industry when she was given a producer credit on the movie Queen of Earth, a credit she claims was "accidental"—she was merely asked for her opinion on casting and locations—but exciting. It also piqued her curiosity and led her to get more involved with the creative process for The Handmaid’s Tale, where Moss is now a producer.
23. Root for the Home Team
Moss is a fourth-generation Chicago Cubs fan on her mom’s side. She has quite the relationship with the Cubs, too. She had The Handmaid’s Tale costume department make her a Cubs bonnet and she had an awkward encounter with the Cub’s first baseman Anthony Rizzo at Wrigley Field (according to Moss, she clammed up and couldn't think of anything to say).
Even so, it looks like the love is mutual: the Cub’s manager Joe Maddon is a big fan of Moss and The Handmaid’s Tale in particular.
24. Runs in the Family
Moss has always considered her younger brother Derek—who is only 18 months younger—her best friend and even said so during her Emmy acceptance speech. He's in the film industry as well, but works as a filmmaker rather than an actor.
25. She’s an Imposter
People who only know Moss from her BBC show Top of the Lake may think that the actress is from New Zealand, as she adopts an extremely convincing accent for the role. Award shows seem to have agreed: Moss has been nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for her performance as the dogged detective Robin Griffin.
26. You Had Me at Auditing
If the age difference between Moss and Armisen raised a few eyebrows, they would have lifted straight off people’s faces if she had dated Tom Cruise, which is a rumor that circulated at one point. In the end, though, the whispers were chalked up to Moss’s affiliation with Scientology, as nearly every female celebrity who is part of the Church has been rumored to be dating Cruise at some point.
27. The Sky Is the Limit
Ballet was an important part of Moss’s life growing up in more ways than one. Her passion for dance was actually responsible for her getting into acting in the first place. When Moss was six years old, an agent saw her in a ballet and suggested that she audition for commercials. She took his advice, sort of, as she aimed a bit higher and booked a role in the Sandra Bullock TV miniseries Lucky Chances. She continued acting steadily from there and as of 2019 has been in the industry for 30 years!
28. Like a Light Switch
It's an understatement to say that Moss has taken on some tough characters throughout her career (the traumatized detective in Top of the Lake, the miserable suburban mom in the horror flick Us, and many more) but she has always made sure that she leaves her work at work and doesn't take any emotional baggage back home.
In fact, Moss is such a great actor that she doesn’t even let her roles affect her between takes. People who have acted with her are quick to point out that she will laugh and joke around on set until the director tells "ACTION". Then Moss will flip a switch until she hears "CUT" and then it’s back to goofing around. This led to her being labeled the class clown by her cast-mates in Mad Men.
29. To a T
To get through long days of filming, Moss has developed a pitch-perfect power nap routine. She starts by getting some food into her belly, then listens to a white noise app with headphones on to help her doze off, then immediately consumes caffeine after waking up and avoids talking to anyone for 30 minutes. According to her, "after that, I’m a new person!"
30. She’s a Simple Woman
When Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, was asked about working with Moss, he said, "Elisabeth never gives a bad take and she is a rubbish drinker". As for Top of the Lake creator Jane Campion, she claimed that Moss loves Japanese food and even took her and the entire production team out for sushi after the Emmys one year. Basically, Moss is known for two things—acting and food.
31. Hitting a Home Run Every Time
She was labeled the Queen of Peak TV by Vulture due to her track record of being in three of the most popular and influential TV shows of all time: The West Wing, Mad Men, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
32. The Little Things in Life
Moss and her mother have a brass plaque with their names on it on the wall of Café Fiorello. This may not sound that impressive to most people but to Moss, it is one of her greatest achievements of all time. Not only does she share that honor with celebrities like Katie Couric and Paul Shaffer but it is also her favorite place, as her mother and her have been going there for over 20 years.
33. Life Goals
Elisabeth Moss is actually a regular at Disneyland and goes once a year with her friend Susan Goldberg, a TV executive at Annapurna Pictures, who worked with Moss on Mad Men. The gal pals even have a routine when it comes to rides and food, making sure to hit all the best spots and make the most of their time at the park.
Moss' ultimate goal is to become a member of Club 33, a secret restaurant at Disneyland (and apparently, the only place you can drink booze).
34. World’s Colliding
Moss partnered up with Hulu as an executive producer on the documentary Ballet Now, which follows Ballet Prima Ballerina, and friend of Moss, Tiler Peck. This is Moss' first producer credit on a project in which she does not perform. It's extra special to Moss because it melds her two passions together—dance and film.
35. Here Comes the Money
As of 2019, Moss has accumulated an estimated net worth of $14 million. She reportedly earned between $75,000 and $175,000 per episode on Mad Men during its seven-year run, and $200,000 per episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
36. A Little Bit of Everything
Moss currently has 86 acting credits to her name, which consists of film and television but also shorts, TV movies, miniseries and voice acting roles. She also has six movies that have yet to be released but will arrive either later this year or in 2020, most notably The Invisible Man remake.
37. Faith Over Friends
Those familiar with Scientology know that it is a rumored custom for members to shun anyone who leaves the Church, regardless of whether they're a friend or family member. This is supposedly one of the reasons why Moss is no longer friends with actress Leah Remini, who very publicly left the Church a few years back. There was even a report that both Moss and Remini attended an awards ceremony in 2017 and Moss ended up leaving the room after Remini went on stage to accept an award.
38. Lost in the Moment
Moss’s breakout role came in the movie Girl, Interrupted where she played such a convincing burn victim that several actors in the film—including Whoopi Goldberg—thought she was an actual burn victim brought in for the part. At times, even Moss would forget about the prosthetics on her face and scare herself when she looked in the mirror.
39. Cons of Marrying a Comedian
Moss did not mince words when discussing her split from Armisen, hinting that he may not be as fun as he appears on SNL. In one interview, Moss revealed that she found the marriage "extremely traumatic". In an interview with Howard Stern, Moss said of her ex: "One of the greatest things I heard someone say about him is, 'He's so great at doing impersonations. But the greatest impersonation he does is that of a normal person.’"
40. Moving On (Up North)
After her whirlwind marriage and subsequent bitter divorce from SNL star Fred Armisen, Elisabeth Moss learned a few lessons about love. Recently, Moss has confessed that she hopes to keep her romantic life private in the future—although she has been spotted around Toronto, where The Handmaid’s Tale films, with a "special someone," but has said that she won't be sharing his name.