Skip to main content

Shining Girls’ Elisabeth Moss’ best TV roles

Few actors have had a better decade on TV than Elisabeth Moss. Starting with her work on Mad Men, Moss became a name that everyone knew, and she’s followed that project up by cementing her legacy as one of the great TV actresses of all time. Even before Mad Men, though, Moss was already a standout on several other acclaimed series.

Whenever you were first introduced to her, Moss certainly made an impression, and it’s one that she continues to reaffirm with each new project she’s involved in. Now, as we prepare for her starring role in Apple’s Shining Girls, let’s take a look back at the roles that have defined the actress’s career.

Cynthia Parks, Picket Fences

A young Elisabeth Moss is checked by a doctor in Picket Fences.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When she was just 10 years old, Moss had already landed a role in her first acclaimed drama series. She appeared in seven episodes of Picket Fences, a show that ran for four seasons beginning in the early 1990s. The show followed the inhabitants of the small town of Rome, Wisconsin, and Moss played a precocious preteen who proves to be wise beyond her years.

Moss’srole in the project was not enormous, but it set the stage for much of what she would eventually do on TV. She knows how to play smart people who do their jobs well, even as they deal with other baggage.

Zoey Bartlet, The West Wing

Elisabeth MOss and Martin Sheen in The West Wing.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Moss found an even more substantial role on The West Wing while she was still a teenager, playing Zoey Bartlet, the president’s daughter. Zoey wasn’t a regular on the show, but she did get several prominent story arcs over the course of the series, including one in which she was kidnapped.

It was on The West Wing that Moss first began to prove what she was capable of. She was still playing a very young adult, but she more than held her own with all the experienced actors on the show’s roster. She stood out even then.

Peggy Olson, Mad Men

Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men.

More than any other role, Moss’ Peggy is the one that defined her career, and ultimately launched her to stardom. Her character’s journey from secretary to veteran copywriter is at the heart of the show, and she quickly emerges as the show’s co-lead.

Moss is extraordinary in the role, aware of what it takes to succeed in a sexist workplace and capable of earning the respect of everyone she interacts with. Peggy is an iconic character, and it’s no insult to say that Moss may never see another role that good for the rest of her career.

Robin Griffin, Top of the Lake

Elisabeth Moss in Top of the Lake.

Taking on an extraordinarily convincing New Zealand accent is challenging enough, but it’s not the only difficult aspect of Moss’ role in Top of the Lake. Moss plays a detective who investigates two separates murders of young girls, and those investigations ultimately unearth a lot of trauma that she’s been attempting to keep buried.

Moss is terrific in the role in part because she’s so good at playing someone who is wounded, but totally unwilling to let other people see that she’s vulnerable.

June Osbourne, The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale.

Few actresses are capable of carrying a show the way that Moss carries The Handmaid’s Tale. Playing a woman who has been transformed into a sexual slave, Moss lets her characters’ torment and trauma bubble under the surface, with the exception of a few crucial moments when she lets it explode.

Although the show has not been uniformly excellent over the course of its run, it has remained worth watching for Moss’ performance. She’s the kind of TV star that comes around just once in a generation, capable of elevating anything she touches through her presence alone.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
NFL games today: schedule, channels, live streams for October 1
Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson run on the field for the Minnesota Vikings.

After three games, the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and the San Francisco 49ers are the only 3-0 teams in the league. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa shot to the front of the MVP race after completing 23 of 26 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns in a 70-20 victory over the Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys were expected to be undefeated heading into Week 4, but the Cardinals had other plans as Arizona pulled off the shocking 28-16 victory.

There are 14 NFL games on the schedule for Sunday, October 1. One of those games will be played in London as part of the NFL's International Series. Below, we have listed times, channels, and live-streaming information for Week 4 games. Football fans can watch every game with a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket through YouTube TV. For a limited time, new customers can sign up for a free trial of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars start time, channel, and live stream

Read more
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets live stream: Watch week 4 of the NFL season for free
Logo for NBC's Sunday Night Football.

After a long offseason, the 2023 NFL regular season is finally underway, which kicked off on September 7 with the Detroit Lions upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs.

Among the many games being played in week 4 is the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets. How can you watch it and when will it be played? And is a certain world-famous singer/songwriter (Taylor Swift) going to show up and support her rumored love interest Travis Kelce? Digital Trends has all the answers for you below.

Read more
What’s new on Peacock in October 2023
Three of the critters from Five Nights at Freddy's.

Peacock is one of the last major streamers to embrace day-and-date theatrical and streaming releases. That's why premium Peacock subscribers will be able to watch Five Night's At Freddy's on the same day it hits theaters, and that's just the beginning of what's new on Peacock in October. NBC's fall season has finally arrived, so new episodes of dramas like The Irrational and Quantum Leap are exclusively streaming on Peacock alongside the network's endless supply of Dateline episodes.

Chucky season 3 is also streaming this month, and there's even one more episode of The Continental: From the World of John Wick. And if you love sports, Peacock is packed with NFL Sunday Night games, the World Cup of Rugby, and more live events than you could watch in a lifetime. But nothing's stopping you from trying!

Read more