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Elisabeth Moss trades 'Handmaids' for time travel in Apple's twisty thriller 'Shining Girls'

Elisabeth Moss on going from The Handmaid's Tale into new upcoming AppleTV+ genre series, Shining Girls.

By Tara Bennett
Shiining Girls 101 PRESS

For the last five years, actress Elisabeth Moss has been fighting the post-apocalyptic, dystopian patriarchy as June Osborne for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale. The series based on Margaret Atwood's seminal, award-winning novel of the same name has afforded the actress a long-term canvas to explore subjugation and trauma. As it turns out, Moss' next project is also genre and based on a novel, author Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls, which has been adapted into an AppleTV+ series Shining Girls by executive producer/writer Silka Luisa.

During today's Television Critics Association virtual panel for Shining Girls, Moss and Luisa spoke to reporters about the time travel/thriller that also stars Wagner Moura, Jamie Bell, and Amy Brenneman. Set in the early 1990s, the series features Moss as assault victim Kirby Mazrachi, a Chicago Sun-Time archivist who connects with a journalist (Moura) to uncover other assaults that could be connected to her anonymous attacker, and the subsequent time-bending repercussions that come to light through their discoveries. 

In keeping with Moss' recent projects that have been rather intense, Shining Girls is a twisty thriller that fuses together a crime mystery with a time travel horror story. Not a light watch, but the actress said that she actually finds dramatic roles more fun to do instead of rom coms, which she calls her favorite genre. And through Kirby, she wanted to find a "human and realistic approach" to playing a woman who survived a brutal assault and now has to process her world changing, literally, in small and large scale, as she navigates her day-to-day. 

The first trailer for Shining Girls was also released today:

Moss said she understood the character's perspective because of her own multi-hyphenate existence as an actress, executive producer, and director on The Handmaid's Tale and for Shining Girls. "I not only have different hats to wear but different characters to play," the actress said of her career. "Kirby is used to experiencing an ever-changing reality and [being] present too."

Asked about how closely the series will adhere to Beukes' narrative in the book, showrunner Luisa said she first read the book as a fan and loved how the novel blended genres so well. She said that carries through into the series and added that "we've anchored the series much more in Kirby's point of view. It's Kirby who is mainly navigating this maze and it's only at the end of the season that we get more of an aerial view of what's going on. The mythology has shifted but the story fundamentals have stayed true."

Asked if the series will pay off the revelations in concrete ways to give closure to Kirby, Moss only teased that what Luisa did with the narrative was "challenging but beautifully done."

"I felt like the analogy of trauma was honest," Moss continued. "She didn’t wrap it all up in a tiny bow. Kirby has never been able to move on from these experiences, which is the analogy of the show. And this is for anyone who has experienced a trauma, be it an attack or losing a loved one, or any giant shift that turns everything upside down. It's beautifully done."

Shining Girls premieres globally Friday, April 29 on Apple TV+.