When we last saw Elisabeth Moss at the end of Mad Men’s fifth season, her character, Peggy Olsen, had left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for a new job at a rival advertising firm. The actress herself, though, is doing double duty, appearing in both Mad Men (which returns to AMC for a sixth season on April 7) and Jane Campion’s seven-part Sundance Channel mini-series, Top of the Lake (airing now), as a detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl in New Zealand.
Your role in Top of the Lake is so un-Peggy-like. You stab a guy with a broken beer bottle.
I fucking loved it. It was so fun. In life, you try not to glass people or scream and yell and fight. So it was cathartic to do that and then not hurt anybody.
You also speak with a Kiwi accent.
It was really hard, and I had to work on it every day. It’s really Jane’s accent, which is a mix of Australian, Kiwi, and a bit British. And it’s her daughter Alice’s accent as well. When Alice showed up on the set, she started talking, and I was like, “Where the fuck have you been? I need your accent!”
There was concern among fans that Peggy wouldn’t return for this season of Mad Men. Did Matthew Weiner make you sweat it for long?
No! When I found out that [Peggy was quitting], my first question was “Am I coming back?” And he was actually a little bit offended, like, “Of course you are. How could you ask me that?” You’d think that after being on a show for six years you’d start to have confidence in your job security, but no. It’s like we’re just starting out on season one.
In Mad Men’s season-six premiere, we meet Peggy the Boss. Do you think she’s reveling in getting to order men around?
I was reveling in it. I was like, “This is awesome! I get to pretend to be Don for a little bit.”
Is Peggy the new Don?
Her journey is about discovering her own style of leadership. If she can find that, she’ll be a better boss than Don—she’s a woman, and there’s just a sensitivity there that Don obviously doesn’t have—but we’re going to have to watch and see if she finds it.