INTERVIEW: Elisabeth Moss as Detective Robin Griffin in BBC’s Top of the Lake

5 April 2018

INTERVIEW: Elisabeth Moss as Detective Robin Griffin in BBC’s Top of the Lake

Update: Top of the Lake is no longer on Showmax. Find your next binge in the full series catalogue here.

Before Elisabeth Moss took home a Best Actress Golden Globe this year as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, she won her first Golden Globe as Detective Robin Griffin in Top of The Lake in 2014.

Now she’s reprising that role in Top of the Lake: China Girl, a 2018 Golden Globe nominee for Best Limited Series that has just started streaming on Showmax.

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Top of the Lake: China Girl is on Showmax

Image: BBC

“From an actor’s perspective, what I love most about Robin is not necessarily her best quality. It’s her flaws, her vulnerability,” says Elisabeth. “She’s able to be strong when she needs to be and to fight for justice and fight for the truth in her work. So I love the juxtaposition of that with the complete chaos in her personal life and her inability to get that under control.”

In the second season, the formidable detective has just returned to Sydney and is trying to rebuild her life. When the body of an Asian girl washes up on Bondi Beach, there appears little hope of finding the killer, until Robin realises “China Girl” didn’t die alone.

Robin looks to the investigation to restore herself, but her problems are personal. Haunted by a daughter given up at birth, Robin desperately wants to find her, yet dreads revealing the truth of her conception. But her search to discover “China Girl’s” identity will take her into the city’s darkest recesses and closer than she could have imagined to the secrets of her own heart.

Elizabeth Moss as Detective Robin Griffin in Top Of The Lake S2 on Showmax

Image: BBC

Created by Oscar winner Jane Campion (The Piano), the six episode series co-stars three-time Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies) as Julia Edwards, the mother who adopted Robin’s daughter, Mary, and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones) as Robin’s novice partner, Miranda Hilmarson.

It’s very rare that you see a female relationship like that explored in film or TV. They are both strong, intelligent and flawed women. They’re both on the margins, and they’re thrown together. – Elisabeth Moss

“The themes of season one very much are about children, whereas I feel like season two is about parenthood, and specifically motherhood,” says Elisabeth. “The different kinds of motherhood, the different ways that people become a mother, how motherhood doesn’t always have to do with being a biological mother. Robin having had a child and giving birth to a child but then not raising it. Nicole’s character having not given birth to the child, but having raised her. And then these surrogates, these women who are objectified and put into a position that is not only illegal but incredibly heartbreaking. And then the parents who want these children that the surrogates are carrying and these parents who have tried IVF twelve times, where having a baby and becoming a mother has become all-consuming.”

As Robin gets to know her daughter and grapples with the push and pull of this new relationship, her fears grow about the danger Mary may be in, but her hopes also rise about the possibility of a new kind of love.

“One thing Jane and I discussed really early on was what is that relationship? You’ve given birth to this person, but you haven’t spent any time with her. So is she your daughter? Just because you gave birth to her doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel like you’re her mother. Because motherhood isn’t just that, as anyone who is not a biological mother would understand. We really wanted to explore the idea that when she meets Mary she has no idea what she’s doing, and she doesn’t feel like a mum, and then this incredible arc that was built of her getting to know her daughter and getting to know herself as a mother.”

Elisabeth Moss as Robin Griffin in Top Of The Lake S2 on Showmax

Image: BBC

But Elisabeth’s favourite part of the season was Robin’s complicated friendship with Miranda. “It’s very rare that you see a female relationship like that explored in film or TV. They are both strong, intelligent and flawed women. They’re both on the margins, and they’re thrown together. I haven’t played that before, and it was thrilling to do.”

[Season 1] was so dark and so weird and the tone of Jane Campion is so strange. – Elisabeth Moss

The first season, which also won a Cinematography Emmy and Best Miniseries at Monte Carlo, among other accolades, is also available on Showmax. Elisabeth admits the success of the first season was unexpected. “I don’t want to say I was surprised because that sounds like we weren’t expecting it. It’s just you think it’s good, but you just never know if an audience is going to agree with you. And it was so dark and so weird and the tone of Jane Campion is so strange. So you really throw your hands up and go, ‘I don’t know if anyone’s going to get this.’ So the fact that it went over so well, it’s a testament to audiences’ intelligence.”

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