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Elisabeth Moss Has a Reputation for Darkness. ‘Her Smell’ Is No Exception.

[“Her Smell” is a Times Critic’s Pick. Read our review.]

With looping tracking shots that capture the sweaty backstage claustrophobia of a rock club, as well as the drain-swirl of addiction, the film was inspired by a diverse group of artists, including Guns N’ Roses, Jawbreaker, Nirvana, Bikini Kill and L7, Perry said. Moss’s list of references added Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe and more. And then there’s Courtney Love, whose look, style and antics as the lead singer of Hole most closely mirror the chaos of Becky and her band, Something She.

Moss, who learned guitar and piano for the part, spoke by phone recently about missing out on punk, her penchant for dark roles and where Love fits into the “Her Smell” universe. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What do you remember about riot grrrl and grunge as it was happening?

I was a ballet dancer since I was like 5 years old, and around that time I would’ve been 11 or 12. I was just not on that train. I remember hearing the most popular ones — Nirvana and stuff like that — on the radio. But it seemed like something for older people and definitely cooler people. And I don’t think I really understood it. I was a pretty happy kid. So when I approached this, I was really honest with Alex, like, “This is a whole world that I don’t necessarily understand.”

I know there was a syllabus, as well as an email chain of reference points. Was there anything in particular that grabbed you?

I think for me, watching a lot of old backstage, behind-the-scenes documentaries, just trying to get a feeling for that time. I was looking for something that I could emotionally connect to and feel that anger and that passion. [Agyness Deyn, who co-stars as Moss’s bandmate] was really instrumental in Gayle [Rankin, who rounds out the trio] and I’s journey into the music. She’s so in that scene and knowledgeable, and we were like, I don’t know, “Blink-182, is that a thing?” I would listen to L7 and Bikini Kill, but Elastica was the one that really bridged the divide for me between the most popular and the most authentic.

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