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Elisabeth Moss talks about the season finale of her action thriller show 'The Veil'

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

How well do we ever really know each other? Say you were to spend hours, days, in a car with someone, drive all the way across a continent together, reach your destination and - do you know what's on their mind, whether you can trust them, what they may be capable of? Are you sure? Well, the new FX TV show "The Veil" takes on these questions through its two main characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VEIL")

ELISABETH MOSS: (As Imogen Salter) Oh, come on. I saved your life. You owe me.

YUMNA MARWAN: (As Adilah El Idrissi) OK, we talk.

KELLY: Two women, one of whom may or may not be an ISIS commander - a terrorist. The other works for British intelligence, MI6. Elisabeth Moss plays the British spy, and she joins me now as the season finale is upon us. Elisabeth Moss, welcome.

MOSS: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

KELLY: It's a little jarring, I have to say, hearing you use your American accent, 'cause I've been...

MOSS: (Laughter).

KELLY: ...Riveted to this show, in which you have a very plummy British accent. Introduce us to the character you're playing, Imogen Salter.

MOSS: Yes, yes. I play Imogen Salter, who is an MI6 spy - an intelligence agent - and, yes, comes along with a - quite a posh British accent (laughter). Yeah. She is a shapeshifter. She is very good at playing many different kinds of people if she has to.

KELLY: Yeah. That idea of her being a shapeshifter - I want to play and hear you react to the moment - this is pretty early in the series, but this is the moment where Imogen first meets Adilah El Idrissi, who, as I said, may or may not be an ISIS assassin. The scene is we're in a U.N. refugee camp. We're on the Turkish-Syrian border. Adilah is in danger, and she asks you...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VEIL")

MARWAN: (As Adilah El Idrissi) Why would you want to keep me alive?

MOSS: (As Imogen Salter) I speak French.

MARWAN: (As Adilah El Idrissi) Yes, well, your accent is very bad.

MOSS: (As Imogen Salter) Is it? Right. We have a pledge to keep people alive, like doctors.

MARWAN: (As Adilah El Idrissi) You're not a doctor.

MOSS: (As Imogen Salter) No.

MARWAN: (As Adilah El Idrissi) What are you?

KELLY: What are you? Elisabeth Moss, that seemed to me to sum up the central question of this whole show. How did you approach trying to give people watching just enough about your character that they care but still enough to keep us guessing?

MOSS: Yeah, that was the most fun part of it. What Steve Knight did - our writer extraordinaire - is present somebody who is already, right off the bat, at the beginning, playing someone else. So here you are, obviously, in this very sort of meta situation where you are an actor playing somebody who's playing somebody.

KELLY: Yes.

MOSS: And...

KELLY: Her name isn't Imogen, for starters. We learn that in the very first scene.

MOSS: Exactly, exactly. So she's taking on different personas. She's taking on different characters. And I said, oh, so she's an actor. So in answer to your question, I think that's kind of what I try to do with any character is give you enough to understand them, but not everything.

KELLY: OK. Let's talk about the relationship between these two women, who are both fascinating. I have seen reviewers talk about this as kind of "Thelma And Louise" meets James Bond - these two women on a road trip. And then our NPR reviewer said, it's more like Thelma versus Louise. Like, they might be trying to kill each other. Explain the dynamic that's playing out.

MOSS: Yeah, that's exactly right and well put. It is a little bit "Thelma And Louise," a little bit Thelma versus Louise. They start out as one thing, and they both know that they're lying to each other. And then they're not sure what they're lying to each other about. And then they might actually be telling the truth and be being brutally honest, but, you know - but are they - question mark? And they just keep changing throughout the journey.

KELLY: How did y'all think through the Adilah character, played by Yumna Marwan? Because that seems like a tricky needle to thread - this person we think might be an ISIS terrorist who's also kind of likable and this loving mom.

MOSS: Mmm. Very tricky needle to thread and luckily wasn't my job to start threading it - I think Steve did an incredible job in the scripts really making her an individual, her own person. And then Yumna came in and added her own perspective and really lent her own voice to that character and was very generous in talking about her own experiences. And we were very fortunate to have an actress who was willing to be that open and generous with her own path.

KELLY: One of the things that your character and the Adilah character on the show talk about a fair bit on your travels, on this road trip, is motherhood. And I know, in real life, this year, you became a mom. If I may ask, how has that been? How has it changed your work? How has it factored into your own real life?

MOSS: Oh, thank you. Well, you know, I think anything that obviously happens you take into your work. Of course, a big life change like that is going to affect your entire life - in this particular case in a wonderful and beautiful way, and everyone's doing really well.

KELLY: Good.

MOSS: But, you know, for me, I've played moms my whole career, strangely, since I was a teenager. "Mad Men," different independent films I've done, I mean - and, of course, "Handmaid's," "Top Of The Lake." So it doesn't feel necessarily like it's an incredibly new thing that I'm experiencing. I've been exploring it for a while. Now I'm just exploring it for real...

(LAUGHTER)

MOSS: ...Which is a little different.

KELLY: Yeah. We talked about one of the challenges of - specific to this role, which was nailing the accent. I also read you fractured your spine - fractured a vertebra in your spine while you were filming in Istanbul. What happened?

MOSS: I did. That was fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOSS: I was doing the fight scene on the roof that happens in the second episode, and I fractured my vertebrae hitting a wall - sort of one of those things that was no one's fault. And it took me about six weeks to recover. We kept filming. We luckily had a little break that was already built into the schedule and then pick up filming again two weeks later and was able to return to the rooftop in Istanbul and do that fight scene again.

KELLY: Oh, my gosh. You did it again. Wow.

MOSS: Yes, I was - it was very important to me to be able to go back and do it again.

KELLY: Can I just say it's such a cool thing - I hope it feels like such a cool, sexy thing to be able to say, oh, yeah, this fight scene I was doing on the roof of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul - and I broke my back, but it's all fine (laughter).

MOSS: You know what? I got to be honest with you. It is kind of a really cool story.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: It's, like, one you'll tell the grandkids.

MOSS: Exactly. It's that - it's better than I stubbed my toe in the kitchen.

KELLY: (Laughter).

MOSS: You know, it's kind of like, well, kind of a cool thing to say - that you broke your back on a rooftop in Istanbul (laughter).

KELLY: Definitely better than stubbing your toe.

MOSS: Exactly. Both of which I've done, so...

KELLY: Well, congratulations on the series, on a phenomenal role. This has been a lot of fun.

MOSS: Thank you so much, and thank you for taking some time to talk. I'm a fan of the show, so I appreciate it.

KELLY: Oh, we love to hear it. Thank you.

That's Elisabeth Moss. She plays an MI6 spy in the new six-part FX series "The Veil." The final episode drops today on Hulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Karen Zamora
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.