There was a time, not too long ago, when it wasn’t totally clear exactly what Mandy Moore wanted to be when she grew up. First she was going to be a pop star (she released six studio albums between 1999 and 2009). Then she did movies (including the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries, and the hilarious Saved!, about a Christian high schooler who gets pregnant), along with a few guest spots on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. But her career never quite took off in the way that you might have expected for a 15-year-old who opened for ‘N Sync in the summer of 1999.
When I talk to Moore, now 36, over Zoom on a recent afternoon, both of us logging in from our homes in Los Angeles, it’s abundantly clear who Mandy Moore wants to be. She has never seemed more secure in who she is, or more confident in her path. Since 2016, Moore has played Rebecca Pearson, the matriarch of the hit show This Is Us, a role that has not only made her one of network television’s leading actresses but also allowed her to showcase her singing once again. Last March, right before lockdown, she released her long-awaited seventh album, Silver Landings, which has earned her comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt. Moore wrote and produced the album with the help of her current husband, Taylor Goldsmith, the lead singer of the folk rock band Dawes, whom she married in 2018. And, of course, there’s possibly the most life-changing (and life-affirming?) news of all: She and Goldsmith are going to be the parents of a baby boy sometime in the next few weeks.
“The little things kind of get me,” Moore says. “Like, I was online buying pacifiers yesterday and I just turned to my husband and I was like, It’s real. There’s going to be a little human that needs a pacifier.”
“It was nice to have a plan and to know, OK, well, this is why I haven’t been pregnant yet.”
Moore found out she was pregnant over the summer, after trying for a while. “We did ovulation tests, all that stuff," she says. Finally, she decided to visit a fertility specialist, who informed her that there was an issue with her uterus and that she might have endometriosis.
“I was fully prepared to go have surgery and fix my uterus and hopefully get rid of the endometriosis, if it was there,” she says. “It was nice to have a plan and to know, OK, well, this is why I haven’t been pregnant yet.”
Right before Moore was set to have the surgery, she had an appointment with the fertility specialist, who casually mentioned that Moore was ovulating but that there was a very slim chance of her getting pregnant because of the issues with her uterus. “So I was like, all right, whatever,” she says. “And lo and behold…”
The process of getting pregnant opened her eyes to just how little she knew about her own anatomy. “I guess I understand why doctors tell you, like, ‘Oh, just try for a year, and then if nothing happens, you can start sort of investigating.’ But I was like, man, I wish I had known before. It would have been a game changer had I had that information.”
"I was like, It’s real. There’s going to be a little human."
Like many women who don’t conceive as soon as they’d like, Moore was careful with her expectations for the pregnancy. “Because of this issue with my uterus, I was very hesitant to believe it and put any stock in it. I sort of was holding my breath until 12 weeks,” she says.
Now, in the last few weeks of her third trimester, she believes it. She’s in that period where you’re waking up at 3 a.m. for no good reason other than that you’re pregnant. Meanwhile, Goldsmith is preparing in his own way. Moore says she can see the ways his personality will translate into fatherhood.
“I think he’s been suited to be a father pretty much his whole life,” she says. “He’s been gearing up for this. Like in the morning, it’s funny, I’ll reach for my phone and he’ll reach right for whatever baby book he’s reading.”
Being pregnant during the pandemic came with its own challenges, but one unexpected benefit has been having Goldsmith there the whole time. “Normally, he’d be on the road,” Moore says. “We wouldn’t have spent this gestation period together — he would have been touring. And it would have been fine, but having this experience together makes me feel even more solid and even more excited to be a parent with him.”
Even though she had long publicly supported Democratic politicians and causes, Moore had a political and social awakening of sorts last summer, right around the time she learned she was pregnant. “Embarrassingly, it was something that really crystallized for me with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, and then Breonna Taylor,” she says frankly. “I don’t have the answers, but I feel like it switched something in my brain where it’s a constant in the way that I make decisions and how I see the world now — not to pat myself on the back, because it was way too long overdue.”
What will that look like, I wonder, when she gives birth to a boy — a white male? “These are conversations I have with my husband a lot, just in general, about men and him being a white man,” Moore says. “I want to raise an intelligent, feminist, loving, compassionate young man, who respects women, and who understands boundaries.”
It’s the kind of response that I could see coming from her This Is Us character. On the show, Moore plays Rebecca Pearson, who is the mother of a Black child and two white children, and, like Moore, kind and empathetic and generous. “Mandy walks with such grace and care in everything she does,” says Chrissy Metz, who plays Moore’s daughter, Kate, on the show. “I’m so grateful to have almost instantly called Mandy a friend, especially since we continue to tackle such emotionally driven subject matter together.”
Another friend and longtime collaborator, the musician and producer Mike Viola, describes Moore simply in an email: “She’s an old soul. From the day I met her, she just seemed wise.” And, he adds, “She’s so generous. If you ask her to listen to something, she’ll take the time. If you’re inviting her over for dinner, she’s always so open-hearted and warm. And she’s really honest with her opinions. As a friend, I’m always curious what she thinks about politics and the state of the world.”
"I want to raise an intelligent, feminist, loving, compassionate young man."
After years as a singer and an actor, Moore started her own production company in 2018, landing a deal with 20th Century Fox to produce woman-focused stories and projects with a musical bent. Now, she says, she has expanded her own mandate to focus especially on stories from people of color — in particular, Black writers and creators.
It’s been a paradigm shift for Moore, to have a say in the industry in a way she never truly had before. “It’s having a seat at the table, really,” she says. “To me, having been in this business now for over 20 years, control starts to happen when you’re a producer — when you’re the one that’s able to identify new voices or identify work that you’re really passionate about, and then you’re able to see it through the process of hopefully coming to fruition.”
Even with her career-changing turn on This Is Us, music still seems to be Moore’s true passion, the main source of her creative drive. She’s been working on new music with Viola that she hopes to release in the next year. In the meantime, she’s also been singing to her baby boy in the womb, sometimes solo, sometimes with Goldsmith.
“Singing feels so different right now, with this dude in my belly,” she says. “Anytime we would have to record something — I’m a perfectionist and making sure my voice is totally warmed up, and I really had my whole little routine.” But recently, she says, when she, Goldsmith, and Viola produced a two-track holiday single, she felt the perfectionism dissipating. “I was just like, ‘It’s all good.’ I don’t find myself feeling stressed out about how my voice sounds, or am I hitting the right notes? It feels good to just open my mouth and sing right now, which is weird, but I like it.”
Unlike the insomnia, this pregnancy “symptom” is one she doesn’t want to end. “I hope I can bottle this feeling, and once the baby’s born, I can continue to approach any performance with the same laissez-faire attitude.” She thinks about this for a second, then adds, laughing: “But probably not.”
In addition to everything else she has going on professionally and personally, Moore also has evolved into your most tasteful mom-to-be friend. On Instagram, Moore posts beautifully styled pregnancy photos interspersed with This Is Us and album promo, encouragement to vote, and the occasional ad for very practical brands like Kleenex and ChapStick, like she could possibly be setting the stage for an additional role as a mom influencer. She’s gorgeous but in a way that feels accessible and unassuming. If you glimpsed her at the Goop store in the Brentwood Country Mart, you might do a double take — is that someone famous, or was she in my childbirth class? Or both?
If you glimpsed her at the Goop store in the Brentwood Country Mart, you might do a double take — is that someone famous, or was she in my childbirth class? Or both?
The day we chat, Moore has her hair pulled back with a black fabric headband, and while I can’t say for sure whether she has “Touch Up My Appearance” toggled on Zoom, her skin is, quite literally, glowing. She says she’s “never been somebody that had, like, a 50-step beauty routine,” but she did switch to natural products for pregnancy, and because her skin has felt “super dry” along the way, she went for the extra hydrating stuff. Osea is a favorite brand. “I’ve been really obsessed with oil,” she says.
These eight-plus months may have been hard on her skin, but her nails are another story. “[They’ve] been growing like they’ve never grown before, and my hair, the same thing,” she says. “I have pretty fine, boring hair, and my hair just feels like I’m in a hair commercial or something now. I’m like, ‘This is lovely,’ but I know it won’t last, and it’s all going to fall out, and it is what it is. So, I’m enjoying it now.”
Her whole look is a far cry from the crop tops, fake tan, and bleached hair she sported as a teen pop sensation. (Then again, who among us did not make completely tragic fashion choices in the ’90s?) There’s a world in which the 15-year-old singer of such lyrics as “I'm cravin' for you, I'm missin' you like candy” would have faded quietly into bubblegum pop obscurity. Much has been made of how Moore, despite a promising start as a contemporary of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson, never had their kind of stardom.
Viola faults the music industry for trying to turn Moore into a Britney or a Christina or a Jessica instead of recognizing what she had to offer. “Everyone around her was trying to get her to dance,” says Viola, who summarizes Moore’s response, “‘That’s not what I do.’”
“Little did they know that she was a fierce songwriter and an expressive artist — underneath the teen star she was she had all this great talent,” he says. “She was a star, but she wasn’t a star for being Mandy Moore.”
Those experiences seem like they’re fully consigned to her past, and also like they’ll never completely leave her psyche. On “Fifteen,” a track off of Silver Landings, Moore sings about a 15-year-old singer who’s thrust into fame:
Operate for the radio station
So they'll play her biggest hits
Missed prom, missed graduation
No college end of fall
On the road with the boy bands singin' for the people in the mall
The song is languid and wistful, a tale of a childhood that ended prematurely. But in it Moore also sings:
With a few exceptions
Every wrong turn
Was the right direction
Learnin' to love
All the imperfections
Still a part of me.
“It’s all part of my story,” Moore says, when I ask her about these lyrics. “It’s all part of my story, and it all led me here.”
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Top image credit: Emilia Wickstead dress, Sarah Hendler ring
Photographer: Emman Montalvan
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