Moore, Moore, Moore
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL SCHWARTZ WORDS BY ELIZABETH WALLACE
Celebrating Her First Emmy Nomination for the Runaway Hit This Is Us, and Releasing Her First New Music in a Decade, Multihyphenate Mandy Moore Is Here For It
“I was super ambitious as a kid,” says Mandy Moore, now a singer, actor, and producer. And she doesn’t mean in 1999, when she was 15 and had her first hit single, “Candy.” Moore is talking about when she was growing up as a “dorky theater kid” who passed her time listening to original Broadway cast recordings of Ethel Merman in Gypsy. “I wanted to be Bette Midler. I wanted to be on Broadway and make records.”
That childhood ambition is coming full circle: 2019 is Mandy Moore’s year. It’s been 20 years since she came onto the scene as a pop princess, alongside Britney and Christina, and far from flaming out, Moore’s seen her star remain quietly illuminated, brightening progressively since she was cast as mom Rebecca Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us three years ago. Is she more famous now than in 2016? Undoubtedly. Yet Moore seems as modest, low-key, and gracious as a first-timer on the red carpet. “I’ve been in the business for 20 years, in the limelight since I was 15, so it’s a position I’ve grown comfortable with for two decades,” she says. “You can make a choice to be under the radar, and I’m happy to have made that choice”.
“I wanted to be Bette Midler. I wanted to be on Broadway and make records.”
Which isn’t to say she isn’t enjoying the professional validation of the last year. This spring Moore received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was nominated for her first Emmy, following several years of the show and her castmates being recognized before her. She speaks with the perspective of someone with experience: “I am incredibly grateful, and trying to be present in the ebb and flow of this crazy ride. I appreciate that these moments don’t last forever, and I am trying to make the most of it.” She also sees Rebecca’s story arc in season three as a validation of the invisible labor of moms everywhere. “I am really glad that people have rallied behind Rebecca and that people recognize that she is the glue of the television family. “Moms are often the unsung heroes, and Rebecca is what undeniably kept that family together.”
“I am really glad that people have rallied behind Rebecca and that people recognize that she is the glue.”
The work of inhabiting Rebecca, who ages from 25 to her 80s throughout the series, has helped Moore personally evolve, too. “This show has exponentially changed every aspect of my life,” Moore says. “It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity and experience, and it has reinvigorated me creatively and professionally, and opened up the ability for me to do music again. I don’t know if there would be any interest in me doing music if the show hadn’t come along.”
“This show has exponentially changed every aspect of my life.”
Earlier this month, Moore dropped her first single in 10 years, “When I Wasn’t Watching.” She’s been recording music over the past year with husband Taylor Goldsmith, the lead singer of the indie folk band Dawes, and her friend Mike Viola is producing the album, which they expect to release in the spring. It’s what we at Story + Rain like to call magic in the mix. “We are collaborating on all aspects of recording and writing. I am the captain of the ship and we are all finding the vocal together. It really feels like this living organism.” A bonus is that Moore will get to take her husband – she and Goldsmith married in a private ceremony last November – on tour with her. “To have that limitless support and understanding and belief and encouragement from your partner, is unfathomable to me.”
It’s not a coincidence that Moore hadn’t released any new music since 2009, the year she married musician Ryan Adams. They divorced in 2016, and Moore shared to the New York Times this February that he was emotionally abusive and controlled her music career, and that music the pair worked on together was shelved. The new album she’s recording (she has 10 songs in the can thus far) “has been in in my heart and my mind for some time.”
“There is no substitute for the wisdom and clarity that comes with age.”
Her new single “When I Wasn’t Watching” is catchy and breathy, with hook lyrics that examine identity and evolution, describing “what I became, when I wasn’t watching.” Influenced by ‘70s singer songwriters, Moore says she wants “to make a really live, California-sounding, fresh pop record in 2019.” Definitely a maturation from her teenage bubblegum pop hits, but then, this is an artist who did a covers album in 2003 featuring songs by Elton John and Joan Armatrading and Carole King – seminal artists she came to on her own. “I didn’t grow up listening to [‘70s music]. Music wasn’t a priority for my parents. I don’t remember anyone putting on a record or a tape and us having a family moment like in a romantic comedy. I discovered [‘70s music] like anybody who discovers stuff they weren’t weaned on. Joni [Mitchell] led me to Carly Simon, that led me to Carole King, that led me to Wings, and so on.” For Moore, who up until that time had only primarily been obsessed with songs from Broadway musicals, it was a moment. “I had no idea people wrote songs like this! I had an education in my late teens and early 20s, like, ‘This Elton record, do you know this one?’ It was an epiphany for me".
“I want to make a really live, California-sounding, fresh pop record in 2019.”
Another striking realization for Moore over this past year was the part she’s played in the #MeToo movement. “Every woman has some semblance of a story. We are still in the middle of this reckoning,” she says, noting that she’s reading Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey’s book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, wanting to stay informed and be a part of continued dialogue. After she shared her story with The Times, Moore said, the outpouring from women of both support – and the revealing of their own stories of abusive marriages – was staggering. “I am heartbroken by the number of women who reached out who found themselves in similar positions. You could open up my DMs [on Instagram] and you would be shocked. Women are so hungry to have these conversations about emotional and psychological abuse. I had no idea what my speaking out would signify for people.”
“You could open up my DMs [on Instagram] and you would be shocked. I had no idea what my speaking out [about emotional abuse] would signify for people.”
That childhood ambition Moore reflected on is ramping up now. She still would like to be Bette Midler (who wouldn’t?!), she still would like to star on Broadway, but says being onstage in that way is not in the cards for her right now. She’s juggling a three-year commitment to This Is Us, plans to tour her album in 2020 during the show’s hiatus, her film work (she costars in Midway, a WWII movie with Woody Harrelson and Nick Jonas, due out the end of this year), and the TV production company she started. Now in her mid-30s, it appears, she’s getting after in with a new ferocity. “My ambition has shifted, even in the last few years. There is no substitute for the wisdom and clarity that comes with age. Knowing I have this opportunity with the show, now is the time to start producing, now is the time to start directing, [to be thinking] ‘What do you want to be doing post-This Is Us?’ I don’t think until I got to this age and was really comfortable in my skin and knew what I wanted to be doing, that I could do it. I am using my platform in a more realistic sense than I ever have before. Maybe that’s how my ambition has changed. I am like, bring it on! More!.” Moore, indeed.
OCTOBER 2019 COVER
ASSISTANTS PHOTO: FRED MITCHELL, AMANDA YANEZ, DOMINIQUE POWERS. FASHION: EMILY DRAKE, NIKKI WEHBE