Elisabeth Moss has a history of playing women who fight back against the male-dominated environments they find themselves in.
Fans of Mad Men will remember her as Peggy, the first female writer at the ad firm the series is set around, while millions also know her as June – the handmaid desperate to escape in the TV adaption of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
The actress’s latest role sees her playing another woman trying to make her way in a man’s world; the late horror author Shirley Jackson, known for writing The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery.
Moss tells Sky News she was inspired by the real-life writer, who was known for her quick wit and sharp tongue.
“Sometimes I feel like we as women are so afraid to be in a bad mood or not like something and be vocal about it,” she says. “And [playing Shirley] did make me a bit braver.
“I mean, I’ve always been that way, I’ve never had too much of a problem with that, but it did absolutely embolden me a bit.”
Moss says she was drawn to the character as soon as she read the script for the film.
“I didn’t know much about Shirley, but I loved this woman who was so smart and so complicated and so honest,” she says.
“And I felt like there was this big part of her that I felt was inside of me as well, and inside of all women as well.
“That part of you that says, ‘I want to say the really smart but kind of bitchy thing, but I’m not supposed to’ – and Shirley just says it, and I loved that so much.”
While the woman is real, the story the film tells is fictionalised – the author, suffering from writer’s block, and her husband invite a young couple to their home – but begin to drive them apart.
Despite Moss seemingly being drawn to the literary world, she says it is only coincidence that has led to her playing the author, as well as writer Peggy, and June, who works in publishing.
“I have never, ever made that connection,” she says. “It’s interesting because the one thing I feel like I can’t really do is write – I can give notes and I can rewrite, but I don’t think I could start from scratch.
“So maybe that’s it – maybe I just like to play something that I can’t do.”
While Shirley is getting a cinema release in the UK, in the US it went straight to on-demand due to the pandemic.
But despite the impact coronavirus is having on the the entertainment industry, Moss is optimistic about the future, and even curious to see what its effects will be on the art that comes out of it.
“I think the arts are very, very, very important, and I think we know that and I think we feel that,” she says.
“I’m always interested in what will come out of this in art – what films will be made, what music, what paintings – what will come out of the experience that we’ve had in 2020.”
“I’m also back at work, so I’m obviously feeling optimistic about there being things to watch and things to do.
“I think that art has a way of surviving, and I believe in it.”
Shirley is out in cinemas in the UK on 30 October