Just when you thought the concept of a "good girl" had gone the way of bobby-soxers and two-way pagers, we give you Elisabeth Moss. She may be the only 26-year-old actor and Los Angeles native who can't be made to talk smack about anyone, even fictional characters—we know, we tried. She stars in two productions that are about as retro as her model behavior: stylish '60s TV drama Mad Men and a Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow. In the latter, a tale of craven '80s Tinseltown, Moss holds her own as a guileless secretary opposite Jeremy Piven's smarm-bucket of a producer. In real life, it's a relief to discover that underneath, she's a little more worldly than her naive characters. For one thing, this bicoastal Kmart junkie almost made a career out of ballet, so she knows from pain: "Dancing on pointe hurts more than memorizing lines," Moss says. Grit and graciousness? Maybe mean girls should watch their backs.
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Time Out New York: All your characters are earnest girls, good girls. Are you?
Elisabeth Moss: Karen [in Speed-the-Plow] definitely is. She's very honest and truthful and has that rare quality of not spinning things. I guess I might be like that.
TONY: You're not cynical?
Elisabeth Moss: No, I'm definitely an optimist. I just don't think you have to be cynical to be smart.
TONY: So nice girls can come out on top.
Elisabeth Moss: Yeah. Just because you're not a bitch doesn't mean you don't know what's going on!
TONY: Did you get political from being on The West Wing?
Elisabeth Moss: Well, I didn't actually live in the White House, but I follow politics about as much as a person should.
TONY: Would you vote for President Bartlet?
Elisabeth Moss: Of course. Who wouldn't? I would vote for Martin Sheen, actually.
TONY: Barack Obama kind of reminds me of Bartlet. They both sneak cigarettes.
Elisabeth Moss: Yeah, for sure. Maybe Aaron Sorkin has influenced Obama a little bit.
TONY: Okay, here's a fight: Jeremy Piven's character from Speed-the-Plow versus Don Draper of Mad Men, cage match. Who walks out alive?
Elisabeth Moss: Ooooh, that's a dangerous question. But, um, I would say it would be a really, really good fight. I could never answer that question for fear of losing some friends. But it would definitely be something you could sell tickets to.
TONY: Wow, you really don't like to offend people, do you?
Elisabeth Moss: No, I prefer not to burn bridges! I don't tend to say bad things about people.
TONY: Then what are your faults?
Elisabeth Moss: Oh my God, I can definitely be lazy, I like to sleep a lot. But then again, I actually do perform eight shows a week. I guess it's all relative.
TONY: It is. Example: I spent an entire day this weekend on my couch.
Elisabeth Moss: See, I slept till 1 o'clock today, but it was my only day off in the week!
TONY: You live in an apartment in the Village, right?
Elisabeth Moss: Yep, the East Village.
TONY: Are you a hipster?
Elisabeth Moss: If I said yes, I'd be implicating myself, and if I said no, I'd be implicating another way. It's like calling yourself a feminist or not a feminist.
TONY: Uh-oh, are we going to get "second wave" and "third wave" hipsterism now?
Elisabeth Moss: [Laughs] Maybe! I don't know how much of a hipster I am, but I do have a membership to Kim's, and I enjoy going to movie revival houses, so...
TONY: You get enough vintage fashion at Mad Men, that's hipstery.
Elisabeth Moss: For sure, for sure. I'm very simple the rest of the time. I'm a huge fan of T-shirts and plain old tank tops from Hanes that you buy in the package at Kmart.
TONY: Isn't the point of making it in Hollywood that you don't have to shop at Kmart?
Elisabeth Moss: Actually...maybe it is. But I still enjoy the low prices. And the convenience! [Laughs]
TONY: Well, if you're looking for a spokesperson gig, Kmart would probably sign you up.
Elisabeth Moss: Exactly. Maybe I'll get a coupon.