Sundance Channel's 'Top of the Lake' Highlights Grittier Side to Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss Holly Hunter Top of the Lake Winter TCA 2013 - H

For Elisabeth Moss, Sundance Channel's Top of the Lake is a far cry from Mad Men's Peggy.

The seven-part miniseries from Oscar winner Jane Campion (The Piano) follows the mysterious disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who is five months pregnant in a quiet New Zealand town. Moss plays investigative detective Robin Griffin; if the footage shown to reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour Saturday is any indication, Top of the Lake goes to some very dark places.

One scene in particular showed Moss' Robin glassing a guy in the bar following an encounter before she is pulled away screaming and shouting. It's an act her Mad Men character would never do. "It was very hard technically," Moss recalled. "I was bleeding, bruises the next day, my voice was gone."

For Holly Hunter, who reunites with Campion after 20 years (they worked on The Piano together), Top of the Lake was a project that was high on her list. "The situations are fantastic because they're fantasy situations," she said.

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New Zealand is primarily known for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films but it was important for the people behind Top of the Lake to show a different side to the region.

"It's the most comprehensive documentation of modern New Zealand that's ever been done at such a large scale," Moss said. "We show a very different, much more modern, much grittier, much more raw side of it. By the end of production, we couldn't pass a place we didn't shoot in."

Filming took roughly five to six months, primarily in Queenstown and a town about 40 minutes outside of it. Moss, who left for New Zealand days after finishing season five of Mad Men, reminisced about the off-the-cuff rehearsals in a shed with no heating ("it was cold") and production having one satellite phone so they call into town.

For Hunter, who -- at first -- was hesitant to take the job after reading the script, praised Campion's take on the haunting story, saying it had an "incredible maturity" to it.

Top of the Lake premieres Monday, March 18 at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel.

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