Elisabeth Moss previews her new “metaphysical thriller,” about a reporter hunting down a time-travelling serial killer

Elisabeth Moss knows how to keep herself busy, and happy, during her off-seasons from The Handmaid’s Tale.

Also a director and an executive producer here, she stars in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Lauren Beukes’ 2013 bestseller The Shining Girls. Moss plays Chicago-based Kirby, a would-be journalist whose recovery from an assault involves digging into a similar attack that ended fatally, perpetrated by a time-travelling serial killer. Narcos breakout Wagner Moura plays a professional reporter who faces his own demons in helping Kirby. Shining GirlsApple TV+

Beukes and Leonardo DiCaprio are also among the exec producers of Shining Girls, with Phillipa Soo (Hamilton), Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers) and Jamie Bell (TURN: Washington’s Spies) in the cast as well. 

“What I felt like I wanted to find was a human and real and honest approach to the circumstances that she was in,” Moss says of her newest alter ego. “A lot of the conversations that I and a lot of the people involved in the show had in the very beginning were about making things real, not a lot of things that felt tricky. We wanted things to be from Kirby’s point-of-view. We wanted to feel like it would feel as if it was happening to you.” 

“I think that Kirby’s trauma has a lot to do with the fact that she can never know exactly who it was that was a part of her attack, and that drives her crazy,” adds Moss. “It’s the fact that she just cannot ever know who it was, and he got away and she lived, and who is this person? So if there was a person who attacked you who was still out walking around, what I was trying to do was put myself in that headspace of how that would drive you crazy.” 

Shining GirlsApple TV+Also an alum of Mad Men and Top of the Lake, Moss believes Shining Girls is particularly appropriate for the current times, dealing as it does with what she terms “a giant shift in your life that turns everything upside-down. There’s been a pandemic, so everybody’s familiar with the concept of everyone’s lives changing and being not what they thought they were. I think the analogy for that was so beautifully done [in the story], the challenge was just making sure that we honoured that throughout the season.” 

In the two-time Emmy winner’s case, she also made her mark by calling many shots on Shining Girls quite literally. “The thing that I’ve found that I really enjoy about directing something that I’m acting in,” she reflects, “is that I have an intimate knowledge of the character and the scripts that I just wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

Shining Girls debuts Friday, April 29th on Apple TV+