Elisabeth Moss is doing fine post-“Mad Men,” thank you very much. She’s done a bit of TV; she’s about to return as Detective Robin Griffin in the show “Top of the Lake.” But the actress has mostly been doing lots and lots of movies: “Listen Up Philip” and “Queen of Earth”; “Truth” and “High-Rise.” In the indie drama “The Free World,” she plays a woman who has just escaped her abusive husband and winds up bonding with an ex-con ("Narcos"' Boyd Holbrook). The role requires her to be more hysterical than she’s ever been on-screen before. But the Golden Globe-winner, 34, took such scenes in stride.
Your first scenes here are really intense: you scream, you cry, you throw fits. But I’ve read you’re not the type of actor who has to be the character to play the character.
I’m not a Method actor or anything. It’s all pretend for me. I don’t take it seriously. I’m a big believer in leaving it all behind.
How do you get to those intense places then?
For me, I need to get into a quiet headspace. It’s more about preserving my energy and not getting distracted. I listen to a lot of music and I have my headphones in a lot. That’s my way of getting away from the 50 or 100 people that are there, and making sure I’m in whatever place I need to be in — even if that just means not chit-chatting.
The character you escaped an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. It’s surprising there aren’t the usual monologues where you explain your past in detail.
It was a role that was almost in an older style, where you don’t necessarily explain everything the character has gone through. We really wanted to get away from that and make sure we didn’t have that long monologue about her husband and how he beat her. That can sometimes happen in narrative features, where we feel we have to explain everything to the audience. We wanted to do something that was more vague, and really let the character speak for itself. We wanted to not be super literal, honestly.
Sometimes we forget the power of close-ups and just watching actors. That can say more than any soliloquy.
Exactly. Jason wrote a beautiful script, and none of that bulls—t was in there. It was just showing someone in the aftermath of an abusive relationship, and showing that through film. That’s sort of an older idea, sometimes: You let the pictures speak for themselves.