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Elisabeth Moss on Discussing Scientology: “I Don’t Want People to Be Distracted”


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Elisabeth Moss is opening up about her relationship to Scientology in a new profile for the New Yorker, in which she explains why she doesn’t talk at length about it publicly.

“I don’t want to come off as being cagey,” Moss, who grew up in the church, told profile writer Michael Schulman. “If you and I met, just hanging out as friends, I’m, like, an open book about it.”

But, she added, she wants to keep distance from her personal life with her performances and her work. “I don’t want people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me. I want them to be seeing the character,” she said. “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.”

When Shulman noted that “people are already distracted by it,” the Shining Girls star said audiences can “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,” she continued. “It’s not really a closed-off religion. 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.”

Within the wide-ranging profile, Moss responds to a number of other things around her membership in the church, including her involvement with it alongside her portrayal of June Osborne, the lead of Hulu’s Emmy-winning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which takes place in the fictional totalitarian regime of Gilead. In the piece, Schulman wrote the “abuses perpetrated by Scientology — mind control, making family members cut ties with apostates (a policy known as Disconnection), assigning troublesome members to hard labor — echo the authoritarian tactics of Gilead. (The Church calls these allegations ‘false and mischaracterized.’)” — and noted that he had “asked how a viewer of The Handmaid’s Tale might reconcile these two things.”

Moss responded that “obviously, something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”

“I would just encourage people to find out for themselves,” she added. “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel.”

At another point in the piece, the actress addresses a 2017 story from The Hollywood Reporter about her swearing during that year’s Emmys acceptance speech when the Mad Men star won best actress in a drama series. The piece quotes Tiziano Lugli, Moss’ former friend who left the church, about language and, more specifically, profanity’s use within  Scientology. A rep for Moss at the time declined to comment for the story.

Moss says the story “pissed me off.”

“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.”

The Shining Girls star also spoke about a moment during the 2017 Television Critics Association Awards when she left the room as Leah Remini, one of the most high-profile and outspoken former members of Scientology, accepted her win in the outstanding achievement in reality programming category for the A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Moss says it wasn’t a direct response to Remini and that she “went to the bathroom. I wish it was more exciting than that.”

In a 2017 THR profile, Remini said she had not crossed paths with Moss because the actress “believes that she can’t talk to me” and said there is “a thing in Scientology called ‘acceptable truth.’ It means you only say what’s acceptable to the public. But she believes that I’m an antisocial personality — because I’ve spoken out against Scientology. So she isn’t allowed to talk to me. And me knowing that, I wouldn’t put her in the awkward position.”

In response to Shulman noting Remini “claimed the group encourages Moss not to speak with her,” Moss said: “I have never received any request to talk to 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.”

THR has reached out to reps for Moss and Remini.

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