Elisabeth Moss gives rare interview about Scientology: 'It's a complicated thing'
Elisabeth Moss is giving a rare glimpse into her beliefs as a Scientologist.
The Emmy-winning actress notoriously prefers not to discuss her controversial religion in interviews, but she can't help but acknowledge it given its parallel themes to her hit show, The Handmaid’s Tale. When speaking with The Daily Beast, the Mad Men alum was asked about criticism she's received for playing fiercely feminist characters whose beliefs seem at odds with Scientology.
"Listen, it’s a complicated thing because the things that I believe in, I can only speak to my personal experience and my personal beliefs," she replied. "One of the things I believe in is freedom of speech. I believe we as humans should be able to critique things. I believe in freedom of the press. I believe in people being able to speak their own opinions. I don’t ever want to take that away from anybody, because that actually is very important to me."
Moss continued, "At the same time, I should hope that people educate themselves for themselves and form their own opinion, as I have. The things that I believe in personally, for me, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the ability to do something that is artistically fulfilling but is also personally fulfilling, I’ve never had that. The Handmaid’s Tale lines up so perfectly parallel with my own beliefs in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the things that this country was actually built on."
The 36-year-old actress was pressed about specific criticisms of Scientology by journalist Marlow Stern, like "'disconnection' to the sums of money some adherents have been forced to fork over to it."
"Is the argument, then, that what it’s doing is not worse than, say, what the Catholic Church has done with its systematic abuse of children? I’m curious where you stand," Stern asked.
"Right. It’s funny, there’s two things you’re never supposed to talk about at a dinner — politics or religion — and of course I’m doing The Handmaid’s Tale, which is politics and religion, so it’s a strange situation where you’re going to be asked about these topics," Moss replied. "I choose to express myself in my work and my art. I don’t choose to express myself about it in interviews."
She added, "I don’t choose to talk about not just religion, but my personal life — who I’m dating and that kind of thing. So for me, it’s so hard to unpack in a sound bite or an interview, but I will say that the things that I truly believe in are the things that I’ve mentioned, and I think that they’re very important."
Moss stated that "people should be allowed to talk about what they want to talk about and believe what they want to believe."
"You can’t take that away — and when you start to take that away, when you start to say 'you can’t think that,' 'you can’t believe that,' 'you can’t say that,' then you get into trouble," she said. "Then you get into Gilead. So whatever happens, I’m never going to take away your right to talk about something or believe something, and you can’t take away mine."
While the actress seemed hesitant to dive into the exact beliefs that resonate with her, she was quite clear on one issue: LGBTQ rights. The Church of Scientology is widely viewed as anti-LGBTQ given founder L. Ron Hubbard's writings, and Moss was quick to clarify that "is not where I stand."
"It’s like, it’s a lot to get into and unpack that I can’t do," she continued. "But that is not my bag. I am obviously a huge feminist and huge supporter of the LGBTQ community and believe so strongly — I can’t even tell you — in people being able to do what they want to do, to love who they want to love, to be the person that they want to be — whoever that is.
"To me, it’s a huge reason why I love doing the show," she explained. "That’s all I can say. I can’t speak to what other people believe, I can’t speak to what other people’s experiences have been. That’s where I stand and the only place I can speak from is my own."
As for the other taboo topic of politics, Moss said "we're losing" the values our country was founded on with President Trump’s administration.
"The principles that this country was built on are important and we’re losing them — and perhaps we’ve already lost them," she said. "You feel a sense of responsibility and you feel honored telling this story at this time."
The Handmaid's Tale recently filmed in Washington, D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial, which was a surreal moment for the actress.
"When you’re kneeling on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial, you’re looking at where MLK gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, you’re in the outfit of complete lack of freedom, and your president is a few blocks away arguing about putting up a wall, you can’t help but feel that you have the responsibility to tell this story, and I feel honored to be able to express what I think, what I feel, and what a lot of other people feel through what I love doing," she said. "For me, it’s an unfortunate thing. I wish this was crazy, and I wish Handmaid’s Tale was insane Game of Thrones s*** and pure fantasy. I wish that were true. But it’s not."
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