Over the last three and a half seasons of Mad Men, everyone’s favorite secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson has come a long way. Her progression seems the most relatable to viewers. (Unless of course you typically find yourself coming out of a “lost weekend” like Don Draper. If so, then carry on.) Elisabeth Moss, who brings Peggy to life on a weekly basis, recently spoke to EW about her character’s trajectory over the course of the series, the thought of a potential Peggy-Don romance, and her comedic turn in this summer’s Get Him to the Greek (on DVD this Tuesday).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Most people know you from Mad Men, but this summer you were in Get Him to the Greek, definitely a departure from the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. What was it like to work on a comedy with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand?
ELISABETH MOSS: It was super fun, it was obviously really different from what I usually do. One is extremely scripted [and] you don’t change a word, and [the other] the script doesn’t exist. It’s all improv. So that was the biggest difference.
Of course you’d never improvise on Mad Men, right?
What do you think? [Laughs] On Mad Men [creator] Matt [Weiner] has a famous line about ad-libbing which is: “You don’t think I already thought of that?” There’s absolutely no improv, you don’t change a word.
What was your favorite scene to film in Get Him to the Greek?
I loved filming the epilogue in the movie because it was the only concert scene I was ever involved in. All my other stuff was either in the hospital or in the apartment, so I loved shooting the epilogue because I got to be involved with the rock ‘n roll side of the film. That was the most fun to film. I saw how grand, elaborate, and cool it is.
Even though it takes place during the ’60s, Mad Men hints at historical moments and movements rather than builds episodes around them. Is there anything specific you hope gets written into future episodes?
Not really. I think that one of the great things about our show is that it’s very true to life in that, for most people, historical and political events are things that sort of happen around you. Not everybody is a part of them every single day. We look at actual people and people’s real lives. Sometimes people are affected by huge historical [or] political events — obviously something like Vietnam would be a huge effect and already has been addressed on the show — [and] at the same time, often you read about something in the newspaper and that’s all you ever hear about it, if you manage to read it in the newspaper. I’m much more interested in seeing where the characters go personally.
Are you a history buff?
No, not at all. I still don’t know anything about the ’60s, only what [Peggy] has experienced and what I’ve seen on the show. But I think as far as having to explore a character who has lived in the ’60s, I think I know more about that time than someone who has read a bunch of books.
Peggy has had an interesting trajectory over the show’s four seasons. She’s a lot more confident and sassy these days. Do you like the path she’s taken?
Yeah, very much so. I think that she’s come a long way over the last six years, and I love where she’s going and I think it makes sense, and I think that she’s starting to learn to become the woman that she will be.
What’s your favorite Mad Men episode to date?
I would have to say “The Suitcase” for sure.
Everyone seemed to love that episode.
I felt very flattered and honored to be given that episode. [I’m] flattered that Matt wrote it, and, for me, it was a joy. It was just a sort of wonderful bubble of an episode. I relished it and I’m super proud of how it came out.
It carried a lot of emotional weight. Was any of that difficult to film?
Jon and I work really well together and we’ve worked together for five years now. The difficult things are often little technical moments, not necessarily the acting or big dialogue. The fight [between Don and Duck] took a long time to film, but the scenes [of] just me and him sitting and talking, that’s sort of the most natural thing in the world to us.
What do you think about Don Draper’s progression this season?
I think it’s all there. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. He is bottoming out, reaching new lows, and is falling apart a little bit. But he’s Don Draper, he has a way of hiding [it], so…
I loved that after the rough night he had, he was instantly immaculate again. His hair was slicked back, his suit was impeccable…
Exactly, that’s what I’m talking about. He just hits rock bottom and all the sudden has a remarkable ability to pull himself together, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
What do you say to those who are fearful (or hopeful) for a Peggy-Don romance? Some may have thought that episode hinted at something.
I love that people speculate about the show — I think it’s awesome that anyone cares what’s going to happen. It’s everyone’s right to try to guess what’s going to happen. One of the virtues of their relationship is that it has never gone there, and I think that’s far more interesting to be the one who he hasn’t slept with than one of the 65 that he has. I guess it’s sort of natural for people to go there and think [that], but I think that their relationship is far more special.
Do people approach you about being a positive role model for women? Specifically women who went through what Peggy goes through in a male-dominated industry?
A lot of people. I get all kinds of people saying that [Peggy] was their mom or an older woman saying that was her. I [also] get a lot of young women saying that that’s them now. One of the cool things about Peggy is that it’s a very universal story for women. It is specific to that time period — feminism in the ’60s is a very big story — but at the same time, some of my sweetest fans are women my age who identify with Peggy. I love that. I love when girls in their 20s come up to me and say: “I love Peggy. I totally get her.” I love that.
What are your hopes for Peggy this season or in the long run?
I really want to see her find a good, happy, personal situation. Whether or not that means she’s with someone. I have never felt she’s found that balance between personal and professional life, and I don’t know whether she’ll find it — I think that most of us are still searching for it.