Elisabeth Moss is killing it right now, and as we detailed in our interview with the actress last week about her new Apple TV+ series “Shining Girls,” she is becoming a major triple threat, evolving from an actor who is instrumental in calling the shot, producing and directing nearly everything she appears in. Just like Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” of which Moss is the lead and now a producer and one of the directors, on “Shining Girls”—an ambitious series about an assault victim, a time-traveling serial killer, and a journalistic procedural to catch the killer—she took on a similar role on a (read our review here).
And while directing and producing on top of acting can seem like a bit much to put on top of a thespian, Moss loves it and actually says counter-intuitively it makes her entire job more straightforward. “Directing, acting, and producing—how does that not make it absolutely impossible? And it’s the opposite,” she explained. “It’s actually made my job easier because I know it all so well. It’s just kind of one of those, ‘I’ll just do it myself’ [things].”
Our conversation went long and outside the scope of just “Shining Girls,” so I wanted to preserve this second half of the conversation. In it, Moss said she is plotting a feature film directorial debut, clearly looking at scripts and looking for the right project. She also revealed she directed the pilot, the second episode, and the finale of the upcoming fifth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale”—usually something reserved for the heavy-hitting A-list TV filmmakers, which she is quickly becoming.
Additionally, Moss talked about working with Jane Campion again (she almost did on “The Power of The Dog,”), said she would absolutely do more “Top of The Lake” if Campion called on her to do so, and talked about loving her experience working alongside Taika Waititi and Michael Fassbender in Waititi’s long-delayed soccer movie, “Next Goal Wins.”
What’s interesting is that juggling that all—directing, producing, acting—while it seems extra confusing, it might just mean you understand it all that much better.
Yeah, it was a lot, but it was kind of fantastic. One of the reasons why it worked and why we thought it would be a good idea in the first place—and we proved to be right— is because I’m in so much. There’s an element of being the director and actor, and I know exactly what we did in episodes one, two, three, and four before we get to episode five because I was there! I’ve seen the two other directors, Michelle MacLaren and Dana Reid, work; we’ve discussed it a lot. I’ve seen the scenes as a producer.
It just kind of became this logical thing—guess who’s going be here and know everything, all the stories, and know where all the bodies are buried? [laughs]. So it just became natural to direct these sort of leftover episodes of five and seven. Everyone supported it, and it ended up proving to be kind of great for that reason, which is it actually made it easier. That’s what’s for people to understand. Directing, acting, and producing—how does that not make it absolutely impossible? And it’s the opposite; it’s actually made my job easier because I know it all so well. It’s just kind of one of those “I’ll just do it myself” [things].
That makes sense. Steven Soderbergh, who is always his own cinematographer, in many cases, camera operator, always describes it as one less filter of communication to get through because he’s doing it all himself. Pretty soon, you’re going to be shooting these things too.
Exactly [laughs]. I understand that I’m not there yet; I don’t have all those same talents yet. I did take the First Assistant Director’s walkie the other day, and I ran the floor for a little bit, so maybe I can dabble in being a first AD [laughs].
Nice. So, what I’m hearing here, reading between the lines a little bit, is it sounds like you’re going to direct a feature eventually.
Yep. I definitely want to, and I have a couple of things that I’m cooking up. But it’s all about that script, though, right? There’s so much pressure on your first feature, especially if you’re an actor. So, I want to make sure I have the absolute kind of best script possible. And you have to find that story that only you feel like you can tell. So, I definitely want to, I think I will, but I’m not rushing it.
Well, you’ve certainly worked with some great directors to learn from. I particularly loved “Top Of The Lake” with the genius of Jane Campion; that was incredible. Have you guys ever considered doing more? You were almost in “Power of The Dog,” too.
Oh, thank you. That’s the thing. All Jane has to do is just show up and tell me where to go, and I will be there. For season two [of ‘Top Of The Lake’], I was one of the people who was like, “Come on, come on! What are we doing? When are we doing it? We gotta do it, we gotta do it!” And she needed time to figure out what it was and everything, and I respected that. But I was like, nearly pestering [laughs]. She’s coming off of an incredible run with” The Power of The Dog,” so I’m not going to bother her too much right now, but I would do more ‘Top Of The Lake” or anything with Jane in a heartbeat. I love that character and God, I love working with Jane Campion. She’s the greatest, truly is the greatest. So, in a millisecond, all she’d have to do is tell me where to go. What country are we shooting in? I’m there.
OK, let’s put that out there into the world and make it happen. So, “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 5, do you know when that’s coming out?
Well, I know when it’s going to air, but it’s not announced yet [laughs; editor’s note: it was literally announced later that day]. We are shooting the end of season five right now. I directed the first two episodes, and I’m directing the finale.
Oh wow, you’re in the big game now. The pilot episodes, the first two, and the finale. They usually save those for the big guns, so that’s clearly you now.
Thanks. I sometimes can’t get over it, like I’m prepping the finale right now. I still pinch myself. I’m just like, I can’t believe doing the finale of ‘Handmaid’s Tale,” this is crazy! I’m truly honored to be in this position. I feel like it’s a nice new challenge. I did three episodes in season four, then I did two episodes on “Shining Girls,” and now I’m attacking the first two and the finale on this. So, it’s a nice progression of challenges.
So, you were talking about Taika Waititi earlier, and you’re in “Next Goal Wins,” can you tell me about that experience?
Yeah. I would say it’s a relatively small role—though I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not sure. Maybe he’s cut me out! I don’t know how much I can say about it because I haven’t really seen people talking about it. I don’t want to get in trouble!
Well, I’m presuming it was fun to work on, at least?
Oh my God, so fun! Taika Waititi is the most fun director actually to work with. He’s just such a ball of fun, imagination, creativity, and generosity. He’s so nice and funny, but he’s also this a genius. Sometimes you can have like a really fun director, but maybe the movie’s not so good. Or the project’s not so good, but the director is a genius. He manages to do it all. I got to work with Michael Fassbender, who’s obviously a f*cking icon and, also so nice, kind, lovely, and also so funny! He’s incredible at improv. I don’t know if this is something everybody knows, but I didn’t realize it. He’s a genius improv artist.
So I’m envisioning this new dream where you direct a movie and Michael Fassbender and Taika Waititi star in it; maybe Jane Campion helps you out in some capacity.
I like this dream! [laughs]. I like this dream a lot. Let’s put that out in the world [laughs]
“Shining Girls” is available now on Apple TV+. The fifth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” premieres on September 14 on Hulu.