Raised in Los Angeles by her parents, acclaimed playwright David Mamet and actor Lindsay Crouse, Zosia Mamet knew success from an early age. Although she first appeared in a made-for-television movie at the age of 6, her acting career took off in her twenties, with supporting roles in The Kids Are All Right, Greenberg, and Showtime’s United States of Tara before being cast on AMC’s Mad Men as the sardonic Joyce Ramsay, a magazine photo editor who initiates Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) into the world of ’60s rebellion and (near) lesbianism. Mamet currently stars alongside Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, and Jemima Kirke in the Judd Apatow-produced HBO series Girls.
Growing up in L.A., were you automatically exposed to the seedier sides of adolescence?
Yeah, it’s kind of like growing up in a steel town, except the steel factory is the entertainment industry. And that in itself is already so wild and brings out so many crazy people. Being in the city surrounded by that innately is going to open your eyes to things most kids wouldn’t experience ever. My high school was a really wild place, and I didn’t really become aware of it until I did a summer trip when I was 16, and I remember we had kids from a small town in the middle of the country and suddenly I would say things that I thought were perfectly normal and they’d be like ‘what?’ and I was like ‘oh, I guess my life’s been a little bit wilder than most people’. But it’s because that’s what was available to us.
When we first meet her, your character Shoshanna is virgin, which is strange for a show that has so much sex in it.
Absolutely, and I think it was great for the show that, amongst all of the insane sex, there is a very real individual who has all of these confusing ideas about sex and instead of expressing them in like, just having a lot of it, she hasn’t had any of it. Which I think is a totally real experience for many girls. It can become such a big thing. Virginity especially—I think the longer you have it, it just gets bigger and bigger and more important, and I think it can be a very debilitating thing for certain people. And I really like that Lena allowed that aspect of shame that some people feel sometimes to be shown—especially with a girl in college being so embarrassed by that fact, when that does not have to be something embarrassing at all.
Upside of Eternal Damnation, Part I: Casual pyromania. “I love fire. I’ve always been fascinated by it, ever since I was a child. A bonfire to me is such a magical thing. If I were damned to hell, I’d just stoke the coals and dance naked around the bonfire.”
Upside of Eternal Damnation, Part II:
Unpunished gluttony. “I have one of the largest appetites known to man. I could eat only chocolate cake for the rest of my life, and I’d be into it. I don’t actually know why that would be bad at all: ‘Pancakes forever? That’s hell? Dante, here I come!’”
Photography by Grant Thomas