Elisabeth Moss, a Scientologist, wins Emmy for depicting cult

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Elisabeth Moss on Sunday took home a top Emmy for depicting a victim of a cult, although in real life she is a member of the controversial Church of Scientology.

The 35-year-old, earlier known for roles in "The West Wing" and "Mad Men," won her first Emmy for a role in "The Handmaid's Tale" in the category of best actress in a drama series.

The series by on-demand service Hulu -- which also won best drama in the television awards -- tells of a misogynistic authoritarian regime that establishes control in New England in response to a fertility crisis.

Her role has repeatedly drawn attention to her affiliation with Scientology, the faith she shares with Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Cruise.

When an internet user took to Instagram last month and politely asked her if Scientology reminded her of Gilead, the controling tyrant in "The Handmaid's Tale," Moss rejected the comparison.

"Religious freedom and tolerance and understanding the truth and equal rights for every race, religion and creed are extremely important to me. The most important things to me probably," she wrote.

Actress Leah Remini drew new attention to Scientology with a documentary on the church, which she describes as persistently seeking money and control out of its members and ruthlessly going after critics.

"Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath" also won an Emmy on Sunday, for best informational series or special. The church has rejected the documentary, aired by the A&E network.

- Breakthrough as child -

Raised by Scientologist musician parents in Los Angeles, Moss said in a 2015 interview for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation that her entire family consisted of artists and she never imagined a different career path.

She was discovered as a young girl when she was playing in a local production of "The Sound of Music."

She started landing television roles at age 7 -- first in family programming but eventually being cast in "Picket Fences," a quirky police drama about odd happenings in a small town in Wisconsin.

Moss became known to a wider public by playing Zoey Bartlet, the president's eldest daughter, on White House drama "The West Wing."

A student at Georgetown University, Zoey Bartlet became the center of several episodes. Her relationship with an African American man set off a white supremacist attack, while separately her French boyfriend drugs her, causing a crisis.

Moss began to take more ambitious roles as an adult. At age 24 she started to play Peggy Olson in "Mad Men" -- a cerebral secretary who tries to work her way up but keeps fighting to get ahead in a macho, male-dominated advertising agency.

She has also acted in New York and London and become a frequent presence in cinema, playing in films ranging from the journalism drama "Truth" to the thriller "Queen of Earth."

Even before leaving "Mad Men," Moss took a new direction by joining New Zealand director Jane Campion's series "Top of the Lake," portraying a detective who searches for a missing pregnant 12-year-old.

Moss won a Golden Glove and credited Campion with giving her a fresh outlook on the range of roles she could play.