Elisabeth Moss on Sisterhood and Her Return to Broadway in 'The Heidi Chronicles'
Jason Biggs, Bryce Pinkham and Tracee Chimo also discuss their roles in the revival of Wendy Wasserstein's celebrated play, directed by Pam MacKinnon.
Elisabeth Moss is going over the similarities between the character to whom she's saying goodbye, Peggy Olson on Mad Men, and the one she's getting to know on Broadway, Heidi Holland in The Heidi Chronicles. Both are trailblazers in women's rights, from Peggy's pioneering career at a male-dominated ad agency in the 1960s to Heidi's ascent in the art world over three decades.
"They're definitely sisters," Moss says in the rehearsal room for Heidi, which opens at the Music Box Theatre on March 19. "Or maybe Peggy's like the aunt because she's older. Heidi's story is kind of a progression from Peggy's story. A lot of the stuff that Peggy was fighting for in the '60s Heidi takes up the mantle and keeps fighting for it. It wasn't really intentional to do another story like that, but I don't know, I guess I must find it interesting."
With the final season of Mad Men premiering on April 5, Moss decided to come back to Broadway, where she had previously starred in Speed-the-Plow in 2008. However, this time around feels different.
"It's definitely the biggest part I've done on Broadway. It's the biggest production really," Moss says, citing the 13 scenes and multiple set changes. "I start out the play onstage talking to the audience, and I do that twice more, just me onstage talking to the audience. I've never done that before. It's almost the biggest part I've ever done besides maybe Top of the Lake."
The Heidi Chronicles originally opened on Broadway in 1989, after a successful run off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons the year before. Playwright Wendy Wasserstein earned the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
This production marks the first Broadway revival, and the play is one of just two penned by women in the current Broadway season — the other is Lisa D'Amour's Airline Highway. Pam MacKinnon, a Tony Award winner for her work on the 2012 revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directs the production after staging A Delicate Balance earlier this season.
"She is not just an immense talent and is the perfect director because of her skills. I think there's something wonderful about bringing in a woman director to this project," says Jason Biggs, who stars as Scoop Rosenbaum. "It's just great that there are these strong woman characters written by a strong woman. I feel lucky to be a part of it."
"That's unfortunately not the norm," adds Bryce Pinkham, who plays Heidi's gay best friend, Peter Patrone, of the female-centric production. "It's really important to have Wendy's voice but also a distinctly female perspective in the landscape. Hopefully the revival will remind us how important that is and lead the way for other female playwrights who deserve to be on Broadway who are not yet."
Read more 'Mad Men': THR's Full Coverage
Tracee Chimo, who also appears with Biggs on Orange Is the New Black, plays four different characters in the show — a track she also performed in a reading of the play directed by Anna D. Shapiro a few years back. At one point during rehearsals, she asked a question and apologized for herself, and Shapiro "totally nailed" her on it.
"You have to work a little harder to be bold versus men who can just be bold, and it's OK," says Chimo. "I feel like I have to kick and scream in the corner to even be heard. It's really infuriating. I don't think women and men play on the same level at all. I think women have a long way to go, but I think we've come a long way since the '60s."
"The questions that women face are the same," she says, adding that Wasserstein was "ahead of her time." She adds, "You're expected to have a great job, be a great mother, be a great wife or partner. You're now expected to do it all because that's what we fought for. And I think that there's a backlash and a pressure that women feel from that of 'OK, well then does that mean I have to do it all? And what does that all mean?' There are these questions that are being asked in the play and maybe not necessarily being answered but questions that we ask today as women."