Top of the Lake return “had to be really f****d up!”

In-demand actor Elisabeth Moss only had one request of director Jane Campion if she was to return to hit miniseries.

According to in-demand actor Detective Elisabeth Moss, Robin Griffin “had to be really f****d up” in order for her to return to Top of the Lake.

It was her one demand of director Jane Campion in reprising her acclaimed role from the BBC First miniseries which aired in 2013. If a second season was to work, it had to offer her even more as a performer.

“When she asked me if I wanted to do this season I said yes, but it has to be more challenging than the first, otherwise why do it and why watch it?,” Moss explains.

“‘Go deeper, go darker.’ There were a couple of minor things I [might want] more of, but nothing really. The scripts are beautifully formed by Jane and Gerard (Lee, co-writer) from the get-go.”

‘This season is so much more challenging for Robin and for me”

Top of the Lake: China Girl relocates from Queenstown, NZ, to Sydney, beginning with the body of an Asian girl washing up on Bondi Beach. Robin looks to the investigation to restore herself, but haunted by a daughter given up at birth, she dreads revealing the truth of her conception.

“You would think there would be a certain ease to returning to a character you have played before. In a way, I suppose, it was slightly less scary than the first season, but this season is so much more challenging for Robin and for me material-wise, and emotionally,” she explains.

“I didn’t necessarily feel like I was coming in and it would be ‘fine.’ I definitely had to rise to the occasion again. Which is what I wanted and what I asked for quite specifically from Jane.

“But it’s been a dream as well. I’ve been waiting to do this for 3 years since Jane and I first talked about doing it again.”

Joining her in Season 2 is Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie as policewoman Miranda Hilmarson and Nicole Kidman. But Moss remains tight-lipped on Kidman’s role as teacher Julia Edwards.

“I can’t really say what exactly we were doing together, but I definitely had one of those moments on set when I had to remind myself to be professional and not to think ‘Oh my God it’s Nicole Kidman I am acting with!'” she admits.

“She came in really passionate and wanting to do a great job. When you get a big movie star who wants to challenge themselves you’re very grateful for that.”

“Is that because she’s a woman? I don’t know. It’s because she’s a great director.”

With such strong female creatives helming the production, does Moss believe that working with Jane Campion brings a feminine sensibility to the project? Not necessarily.

“I actually feel like I have had a lot of ‘feminine energy’ from male directors and vice versa. I think [Jane] has her own unique perspective and I’m not sure if it’s because she’s a woman or not. She’s an incredibly unique, individual person and that’s why she’s created these worlds that are so unusual,” she continues.

“I suppose she is very in tune to people’s emotions and feelings, and to what is going on in the scene, and with you as an actor. But is that because she’s a woman? I don’t know. It’s because she’s a great director.

“You can fight back with her, you can argue. She actually…respects you more for it. And if you don’t it’s not as fun!

“What’s been great for Season 2 is the trust that’s been established from Season 1. So we challenge each other, but we are more on the same page.”

“I still have to work really hard on it”

Moss, currently wowing audiences the world over in The Handmaid’s Tale, also had to muster her best Australian accent once more, which for any North American performer is a constant challenge.

“I don’t want to say it was easier this time, but it less terrifying. I still have to work really hard on it, but I am also a bit of a perfectionist as well.

“I have been lucky enough to have my Dialect Coach here a lot more than I had her on season one, because we’re in Sydney as opposed to NZ. So she has been with me so much and that’s obviously been a huge help.”

Season One of Top of the Lake won Golden Globes (including for Moss’ performance), AACTA Awards, Critics Choice Awards and a Creative Emmy. Season Two, which also features David Dencik, Alice Englert & Ewen Leslie, is themes around motherhood and parenthood. It will take Robin into the city’s darkest recesses and closer than she could have imagined to the secrets of her own heart.

Moss says Robin’s history and her previous choices will come to the fore in China Girl.

“It forms who she is as a person, and it mostly forms the negative parts. But it also gives her this this part of what she loves, a dedication to justice and the truth.

“So in Season 2 to be able to meet this person who has formed Robin as a character -how does that change her? That’s a meal and a half for an actor. It’s a gift to be able to do that!

“The show has a tone and a mood that is unlike anything else.”

“[Top of the Lake is] a classic example of expecting the audience to be intelligent and not dumbing something down for them, and allowing something to have its own tone. The show has a tone and a mood that is unlike anything else.

“That was fully allowed to bloom in the first season and the audience loved it.”

Top of the Lake: China Girl premieres 8:30pm Sunday on BBC First.

10 Responses

  1. What an amazing actress. I remember being shown the original Handmaids Tale at an all girls Catholic School in the early 90s and discussing the themes. Most of us could not speak. I have seen this new version and it gave me chills. I really thought Top of the Lake was brilliant in parts and bewildering in others. One thing is for sure Elisabeth is an incredible actress. Cannot wait to watch China Girl. Cannot wait to see what she does with her career.

  2. After watching The Handmaid’s Tale I finally watched TOTL S1. Yes the storyline had shortcomings, but I really enjoyed this series. Elizabeth Moss and Peter Mullan were outstanding.
    I was disappointed to find the 7 episodes were edited to 6 which clearly left storyline and character development somewhat deficient.

  3. I know I am in the (very small) miniority, but I thought the first series was average.

    The series was edited down before general release (reducing the episodes by one), but could have had more editing.

    Too many extraneous characters (mainly friends of Jane Campion’s) that added nothing to the story and just clogged the plot up.

    Plus too many instances where belief was expected to be suspended. I won’t give away spoilers for those who haven’t it but the conclusion for the young girl in what she was able to do was unbelievable.

    1. I tend to agree with you regarding the superfluous characters (pretty much the entire Paradise women’s camp) and the lack of credibility (mostly regarding Tui’s actions and what she was capable of in the second half), but I still enjoyed it despite those deficiencies.

      Hopefully it’ll be a little tighter second time around. I’ll be checking it out.

      1. Yes, did get a bit unbelievable in the end, especially regarding Tui, but the overall scenic beauty and atmosphere of TOTL more than compensated for this.
        Peter Mullan was exceptional as the disturbed and menacing Matt Mitcham.
        His performance still resonates with me today.

    2. I thought well below average and the ABC did well bailing. The plotting was slow and terrible and the ending poorly done. Moss’s accent was not up to scratch and migrated all around the Pacific
      in a scene. It was beautiful and atmospheric though, which works for an art house film but it was struggle to stay will it through a whole season of TV. I’m interested to see what Campion does in S2. Rectify was slow moving and atmospheric, but worked as a TV drama so it can be done.

  4. I hadn’t heard of top of the lake until I saw a promo for it on the fetch box last night. It caught my attention because Elizabeth Moss was the lead and she did a good job of her role on the handmaids tale. BBC first is doing a top of the lake marathon of season 1 on sunday for those that haven’t seen it and want to give it a go or those that want a refresher. Jane Campion also did an interview this morning which is available on the RN breakfast separate stories podcast.

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