Elisabeth Moss on the "striking" relevance of "The Handmaid's Tale"

Elisabeth Moss on new Hulu series
Elisabeth Moss on new Hulu series 05:55

Hulu's newest original series, "The Handmaid's Tale," based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name, has been getting plenty of buzz since its debut last week. Most recently, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton brought up the show's themes in a speech at Planned Parenthood, saying, "This show has prompted important conversations about women's rights and autonomy." 

Actress Elisabeth Moss CBS News

Star Elisabeth Moss agrees it couldn't be more timely. "When everyone signed on, it felt incredibly relevant. It was written in 1985 and its been relevant every decade since. I think it's just in this country, there's a relevance now that is striking everybody," Moss, who plays the main character and narrator Offred, said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

The show is set in a dystopian future in what used to be the United States of America. Offred is a handmaid, or a woman forced to bear children for elite men who are married to barren women. Aside from the obvious abuse by the men, the handmaids are also treated terribly by their wives. Throughout the series, Offred and the other handmaids start forming a resistance. 

Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred in "The Handmaid's Tale" Hulu

"It's an amazing thing that Margaret [Atwood] explored, how women can treat other women. When you alienate them and you ... pit them against each other, how that can go so terribly wrong as opposed to uniting." 

Moss is familiar with playing a character fighting to be heard in an oppressive environment run by men. She played the quietly rebellious Peggy Olson in AMC's "Mad Men." "They're both patriarchies," Moss said, "but I would say 'Handmaid's' is probably worse in some ways." 

Jon Hamm as Don Draper and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson on "Mad Men." Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Despite her past experience, she was a little apprehensive to take the part. "The book is so incredible. I wanted to do it, but I wanted to make sure that it was going to live up to this novel that everybody loves so much." 

When she ultimately did decide to sign on, she also agreed to help produce the show, something Moss said has been incredibly rewarding. "I said to them, don't want this to just be a vanity title, I don't want to just be a card in the credits ... I've learned so much in the past year about producing. From the casting to the post-production process, after 28 years in this business, I'm learning new things." 

But perhaps the most unexpected result of the whole experience for Moss? Befriending Margaret Atwood herself. "I've had the pleasure — I can kind of call her my friend now, which is pretty cool," she said.