Mandy Moore Is Always Prepared for Takeoff

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Mandy Moore has been onscreen since her teen years, and throughout her career, she has managed to carve out a unique path for herself, mostly because she’s always eagerly moving in new directions, whether that be a god-fearing HBIC in Saved!, a Disney princess in Tangled, or an elderly mom of three on This Is Us. If the adage “Variety is the spice of life” were a human, it would be Moore. That’s what attracted her to her latest role, as Benita Alexander on season two of Dr. Death, Peacock’s anthology series about severe cases of medical malpractice, based on the popular podcast of the same name. “I’d never done something like this before, and to be a part of something so totally different from a show like This Is Us, which I had just finished, felt like a fun step in an entirely different direction,” Moore tells the Cut. “I couldn’t say no.”

The season revolves around the true story of charming “miracle man” surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, whose insufficiently studied artificial tracheas resulted in the deaths of nearly every patient he implanted them into. Moore’s character, Benita, is a journalist covering Macchiarini’s purported miracles with a healthy dose of skepticism — until she’s taken in by his charm and falls in love with him. It wasn’t hard for Moore to get into character; she’s “always had an incredible amount of respect for the work it takes to be a journalist,” pretending to fall in love with Édgar Ramírez was easy, and she was already a fan of the podcast. But filming the show, according to Moore, gave her “a more profound respect for just how much legwork it takes to have a story like that come to life.”

What attracted you to this show?

The opportunity came about very last minute. I had a 6-week-old baby, and I remember getting the scripts and seeing that it was in New York and shooting immediately. I was like, Okay, all of that’s really exciting. I mean, sounds crazy to uproot my whole family and move cross country; it’s probably not going to be the project. Then I read the first two scripts and I was like, Dang it. Yeah, I really want to do it.

What’s a rule you’d tell Benita to follow or a rule you’d tell her to break?

Adhere to your journalistic ethics! Maybe don’t cross the line between professional and personal. I feel like this is something that she’s clearly well aware of, but she just cannot help herself for a myriad of reasons. Paolo was just so seductive, and she was willing to put it all out there. She knew what she was doing. This is a woman who is so smart, so capable, at the top of her field, had been around impressive, handsome, charming people. But for some reason, this was just a particularly vulnerable moment in her life, where I think the possibility of being with him in the fairy tale was just too much to ignore. And that’s how she found herself in this particular situation. But yeah, girl, there is a code of ethics for a reason.

Has portraying a journalist affected how you talk to journalists?

I’ve always had an incredible amount of respect for the work it takes to be a journalist, and especially in this particular realm of investigative journalism — trying to get a lead on a story, what would be interesting, what would be a crowd-pleaser, and what would you take to your superiors and what would they find interesting? I loved that aspect of the real-world consequences that putting out a news story like this would have — and did have. This elevated Paolo’s profile in a really profound way in real life. I think there was a lot of guilt in terms of the role that Benita played in helping further his career and his trajectory as this world-renowned surgeon. I find all of that really interesting.

Motherhood is so important to Benita, and motherhood is a part of your real life too. What’s your best rule for raising a child?

Gosh, I’m terrible. I feel like I’m still navigating these waters. I’m just really being as careful as possible to model the behavior that you’d want your kids to emulate. My oldest is going to be 3 in February, and I’m just starting to get to that phase where I hear things parroted back to me that I’ve said. I really have to be careful now about what I’m saying and what I’m doing because it all is coming back.

Has working on Dr. Death affected your perspective on or approach to your own health care? Are there any rules you follow as a patient to help ensure that you’re working with a trustworthy doctor?

I think doing the internal gut check across the board — professionally, and when it comes to your medical care — is very much top of mind now. We all have to advocate for ourselves, and the world out there is wild and we are our own best advocate. That’s something that I definitely took away from this experience, even though my story line doesn’t really touch the medical side of things.

The show mostly takes place in New York. What’s your No. 1 rule while walking on the street here?

Look up from your phone. Don’t just be absorbed in your own world, because there is a very chaotic scene happening around you at any given time. That was what saved me in New York. My phone is for when I’m sitting down when I can actually look at it, not traversing the streets of New York.

You’ve been on mood boards since the aughts. What’s your No. 1 fashion rule?

I’m not the wildest dresser by any means, but I don’t want to be hemmed in by any particular style or trend or anything like that. You gotta go where the wind takes you.

I recently rewatched Chasing Liberty while I was traveling through Europe. It made me wonder if you have any etiquette rules you follow when traveling?

I am a germaphobe, so I was definitely wearing a mask even before COVID. I will take my shoes off on an international flight or a long flight or something. But I am always putting my shoes back on to go to the bathroom, none of these shenanigans with people just going to the bathroom in their socks. Nothing horrifies me more than people fully taking off shoes and socks on the plane. That is just the biggest no-no in my book.

If you’re sick, wear a mask — and if not, cover your mouth! The way people travel now is so loosey-goosey. It’s pretty crazy to me. I’m the daughter of an airline captain, so anytime we traveled as kids, we had to be dressed up a little bit. There was some sort of decorum to fly. Now it’s just anything goes. It’s the Wild West out there.

In Dr. Death, there’s an awkward dinner where Dr. Macchiarini first meets Benita’s daughter. What’s your No. 1 rule for a successful dinner party? 

I would say not letting conversation veer into current events or anything that could be dicey territory, keeping things light. Maybe having some fun conversation starters. And probably making sure there are enough adult beverages to go around.

What’s your No. 1 rule for meeting other famous people?

Be genuine. I always appreciate, regardless of whoever anybody is, if they’re present and engaged. We all get nervous, and I definitely have had my share of being starstruck, but just trying to keep it as casual and conversational as possible is always appreciated. Everyone’s just a human being.

What’s your No. 1 rule for sending a gift?

I need to be on this because I have not started shopping for the holidays. The rule is too not be tardy. Be early. And always include a thoughtful, personal gift message. There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a really beautiful gift and then not knowing who it’s from. Make sure you’re always clear about that and make sure it’s personal, not just a generic “Happy Holidays.”

Do you gossip? 
Yeah, lightheartedly. When things get nasty, it’s not great, but sure. A little lighthearted, fun gossip makes the world go round. You don’t want to veer into territory that’s hurtful or really private or personal — things that could hurt somebody.

Mandy Moore Is Always Prepared for Takeoff