Before Elisabeth Moss returns to Manhattan, she’s making a pit stop in Springfield: The actress who stars as Peggy Olson on Mad Men is lending her voice to Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons (Fox, Nov. 17, 8 p.m.). Moss will play a pregnant woman named Gretchen whose baby Homer winds up delivering in an elevator. (Spoiler: It’s not Pete’s.) But when she names the baby Homer Jr. to recognize his good deed, Homer gets a little too attached to the little tyke. EW asked this unabashed Simpsons fan all about her big guest spot — and tossed in few Mad Men questions as well.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is this your animated debut?
ELISABETH MOSS: I have done a few things, but when I was really young. There was a Batman show. And I did a Hanna-Barbera film called Once Upon a Forest.
Was this something that you’d been hoping they’d ask you to do for awhile? How would you assess your level of Simpsons fandom?
I’m 31. It’s been on for 25 years. It’s been on for most of my life. It’s so a part of my world that I don’t remember a time when The Simpsons wasn’t on television. For my generation, it’s a huge part of our upbringing. It’s just a staple. [Being asked to guest-star] is not even something I would necessarily even dream of. Obviously that’s something you’d love to do but you think, “Oh, that’s really cool and important. Nobody’s ever going to ask you to do it.” I couldn’t have been more excited. You would have thought I had won an award or something. It really was such a honor, honestly, and it was one of those moments in your career, like being on Saturday Night Live and those things that aren’t technically a part of your day job that are such a stamp of approval, you know? It’s just one of those legendary things that I’ll be able to show to my kids.
So you would trade away your awards and nominations for this?
Well, let’s not get crazy. Let’s put them on an equal plane. It’s such a legendary thing to be a part of.
You name the baby Homer Jr. So, does your character wind up serving as an oppositional force for Homer and Marge and driving them apart?
It’s more about the awkwardness of the fact that we had this life-changing important moment together — the birth of a child — and it’s a bonding experience. In my character’s point of view, I’m very grateful, and I honor that by naming him Homer Jr., but I have a baby-daddy and [Homer] is not the father of the child. So I have to work out a way that we can all exist in a happy way together. When [the producers] told me the bare-bones of the storyline — that Homer delivers my baby in an elevator — I laughed out loud. I was like, ‘Oh, that is amazing.’ Because Homer obviously is known as such a bad father, the idea that he would become attached to this child is funny…. The humor comes in the conflict of Homer falling in love with this baby and developing this attachment and thinking we’re going to raise this child together now. He’s trying to be a part of this baby’s life and she has to let him down gently. He’s being very sweet about it, but it’s not exactly in her life plans to have her baby raised by Homer… Of course I get on The Simpsons, which is a comedy, and I end up having a baby. (Laughs) I’ve had so many babies in film and television, but never delivered by Homer Simpson, so it’s a new one.
How was the recording process different than you thought?
These guys are such pros, and they’re so good at knowing what sounds funny. Obviously this is not what I usually do. I’m not used to necessarily communicating or acting with just my voice. But they would have these little brilliant ways of making it sound funnier. So you would do a line and it would be great, and then I’d get a note from the director and he’d be like, “Do it this way,” and it would be totally funnier somehow. I knew it was going to be fast but it was really fast. You do one scene and it’s like, “Okay, great, got it!” and I was sort of standing there going like “Oh my god, I hope I’m not totally disappointing them.” You’re just totally out of your element. I went from being somebody who’s fairly confident about my abilities — I do pretty hard material sometimes — to being such a fish out of water. Totally insecure. It was like, “Is that okay? Did I do okay?”
How did you feel about the decision to split Mad Men‘s final season into two halves of seven episodes to air in 2014 and 2015, similar to the Breaking Bad model?
I loved when Breaking Bad did it. I’m a huge fan of that and I thought they did it beautifully. I never want a show to end. I didn’t want Breaking Bad to end, so for me as a viewer and as a fan of the show I think it’s great — we get to see more of it. We get to extend it. We get to have a little bit of a longer life. After six seasons it’s nice to take a little breather and allow people to absorb the first half and then absorb the second half and have a moment to really enjoy it. Why not? I’d be perfectly happy if it went on for more than the seventh season. I think it’s a good decision and Breaking Bad has set a good example of how to do it well.
What has the energy on the set been like as you start filming the final season? Can you feel that the end is near?
It goes back and forth a little bit. There are definitely moments when we go, “Oh my god, this is the last first read-through.” “This is the last first episode.” “This is the last time I will drive to set for the first time.” Which sounds silly, but it’s been eight years of my life, so everything is meaningful. After a couple days you’re in the groove and you’re doing what you always do, making it the best you can. You can’t think about it like that all the time. There’s a commitment to making it the best, and to making it end in a way that we are all happy with. There’s definitely an energy about the set that’s really fun and interesting and exciting, but after a 16-hour day, it’s just another day.
Last time we saw Peggy, she seemed to be settling into Don’s chair. What can you say about where we find her at the beginning of this season?
You know I can’t say anything! I’m not even necessarily supposed to tell you I’m on the show. (Laughs) For me — definitely everything is where it should be. And it is so early. It is still the beginning at this point so I barely know anything anyway. But I’m very happy with where it is. I can say that.