September 30, 2008

‘Mad Men’ Actress in Broadway Debut



Previews begin Friday; opens Oct. 23.

Ethel Barrymore Theatre

Years don't get much better than the one Elisabeth Moss is having.

She plays a major character on "Mad Men," which, in its second season, has become one of TV's hottest drama series. (It recently won an Emmy for best dramatic series, becoming the first basic cable series to do so.) And she'll be making her Broadway debut, in a revival of David Mamet's Hollywood satire "Speed-the-Plow."

"It's just incredible," said the 26-year-old actress.

Although she's young, Moss is a show-business veteran.

"I was never a famous child actor," she said, "so the transition wasn't difficult. I just went through it, and I started getting roles when I was 17 or 18."

She played a burn victim in the film "Girl, Interrupted" and a pregnant teenager in "Virgin." She also had an intermittent role as the president's daughter in TV's "West Wing."

"It's really different, though, being a series regular," she said. "I really feel a part of 'Mad Men.' It's 25 times the experience of being on 'West Wing.' "

Although "Mad Men" began creating a buzz in its first season, Moss said its big breakthrough came this past January when it won a Golden Globe Award as TV's best drama series.

"That was a huge moment for us. A lot of people caught up with the [first season], and things started to snowball."

Her character, Peggy Olson, plays a key role on the show.

Starting as a soft-spoken, apparently shy secretary in an early- 1960s ad agency where sexism, seduction and smoking are rampant, Peggy's moved up to copywriter, becoming the only woman in a gang of men.

There are striking similarities between Peggy and Karen, the character Moss portrays in "Speed-the-Plow," which debuted on Broadway 20 years ago.

Karen (a role originally played, with some difficulty, by Madonna) also enters a totally male world when she's hired to do temporary secretarial work for a film producer (Jeremy Piven) who's torn between art and schlock. (The play's third character is a less- conflicted producer, portrayed by Raul Esparza.)

Before long, Karen is pitching her own movie concept.

"She has the same sort of openness and honesty as Peggy," said Moss. "I think she's the kind of person Peggy would have been 30 years later."

Moss said the older actors on "Mad Men" talk about being in other series and looking to the stage for an artistic challenge when their TV shows are on hiatus.

Her working vacation, though, is a little different, she said.

"'Mad Men' is not like the usual TV show. It's something that's very satisfying artistically in itself.

"But I think that the theater gives you something as an actor that nothing else can," added Moss, who has appeared off-Broadway.

"Broadway will be a new and challenging experience; it's exciting."


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