Mindshare@Cannes: Elisabeth Moss

Equality is one of the major themes at Cannes Lions this year with 43 percent of the jurors now female, a record for the Festival. And, many discussions on stage at the Palais and offstage at places like Girl’s Lounge. It’s timely, relevant and refreshing.

It’s in this backdrop that POPSUGAR hosted Mindshare for an intimate dinner with award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss.

Best known for her work in “The West Wing,” “Mad Men,” and “Top of the Lake,” Moss is the lead character and one of the producers of “Handmaid’s Tale” streaming on Hulu. The story,  based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, is about a dystopian present that oppresses women.

While Peggy Olson would’ve never been invited to a business dinner at Cannes, Elisabeth’s humor and insights added to the greater conversation of women’s roles in creativity and the important role of film in social conversation.

Key Takeaways

Choose what you put your full self into: For Elisabeth, it always starts with great writing – and that a singular focus helps fuel the passion and determination required to be successful.

Selecting your role: What drew Elisabeth to “Handmaid’s Tale” in the first place was the reward of being both the producer and the leading actress. As she recently commented

“I do think that it’s always, always important to keep pushing, keep making sure that our industry understands that we can put women not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera…Because for me, I love working with men. I love working with women. But the statistics on it are shocking. Four out of our five directors on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ were women. So for me it’s something that’s really important.” – ABC News, “Popcorn with Peter Travers,”

A major part of “Handmaid’s Tale” is in it’s power to show a plausible dystopia and how it is already unfolding in parts of the world. To have the audience realize that it can happen anywhere if people give up the rights often take for granted. In this case, the gender equality themes in “Handmaid’s Tale” (which was filmed prior to the election) are resonating culturally and the images provide a strong, recognizable statement.

This taps into a trend we identified last year called “Accelerated Empathy.” There is an evolved a sense of empathy that has spread beyond the family, to the nation, and on to other races, both sexes, and more recently to groups like the LGBQT community. In the words of the Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker, over time, “the circle of empathy has expanded.”

Brands can take a page from this book—creative work emotionally connects to people in a way that is strong and enduring. And, in tapping into cultural trends that are right for the DNA of the brand, marketers can become a part of conversations with a purpose.

Speaking of “Handmaid’s Tale” to Variety this month, Elisabeth said:

“A line in the show and from the book: “You can mean more than one, you can mean thousands.” I wanted that line added to the show. Because I felt like it really summed up — not only things that were happening in the show, but things that were happening in the world, and in my life.”

This is Accelerated Empathy at its finest.