Elisabeth Moss Speaks Out on Scientology, From ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Criticism to Profane Emmys Speech

Variety/April 29, 2022

By Zack Sharf

Elisabeth Moss addressed her religious ties to the Church of Scientology in more detail than usual during an interview with The New Yorker. The “Mad Men” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” actor has been a Scientologist since before she was a teenager but has rarely spoken about her relationship to the group in press interviews.

“I don’t want to come off as being cagey,” Moss said when the topic of Scientology was first brought up. “If you and I met, just hanging out as friends, I’m, like, an open book about it. [But] I don’t want people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me. I want them to be seeing the character. I feel like, when actors reveal too much of their lives, I’m sometimes watching something and I’m going, ‘Oh, I know that she just broke up with that person,’ or, ‘I know that she loves to do hot yoga,’ or whatever it is.”

Moss’ fans have long had to reconcile her award-winning gifts as an actor with her involvement in Scientology, especially because “The Handmaid’s Tale” casts her as a feminist warrior fighting back against an oppressive and cultish government. The clash between “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Scientology has led to criticism against Moss. When The New Yorker writer Michael Schulman brought up that some fans are “distracted” by her Scientology ties, she responded, “People can obviously hold in their mind whatever they want to, and I can’t control that. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else.”

“It’s not really a closed-off religion,” Moss said of Scientology. “It’s a place that is very open to, like, welcoming in somebody who wants to learn more about it. I think that’s the thing that is probably the most misunderstood.”

Moss credited Scientology for making her a skilled communicator growing up and encouraged people “to find out for themselves” if they have questions about the group. The actor added, “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel. And obviously something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”

Moss also addressed two incidents in which her Scientology faith and Hollywood collided. The first was at the 2017 Television Critics Association Awards. Moss was in attendance as a nominee for “The Handmaid’s Tale” when Scientology defector Leah Remini won an award for her anti-Scientology documentary series. Reports surfaced that Moss left the room during Remini’s speech, but the actor said, “I went to the bathroom. I wish it was more exciting than that.”

“I have never received any request to talk to her,” Moss added about Remini’s claim that the group encourages Moss not to speak with her. “So there hasn’t been an opportunity for her to say that. I don’t know her that well, so it’s not like we were friends.”

The second incident was when Moss won her Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” During her acceptance speech, Moss thanked her mother for teaching her “that you can be kind and a fucking badass.” A former Scientologist told The Hollywood Reporter afterwards that cursing is one way members communicate “down the tone scale” to average people.

“That pissed me off,” Moss said about the THR report. “That was a really, really big moment for me, and it was a big moment for my mom and me. My mom, who has supported me through the years and been such an incredible mother to both me and my brother. And to tell a lie like that, about that — I didn’t deserve that, and it was wrong.”

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