Battle for control
House of Cards star Kate Mara enjoys her first television role, writes
TELEVISION shows like The West Wing give the impression Washington DC, the epicentre of American politics, is full of idealistic types who serve the greater good.
Allow the new 13-episode pay-TV drama House of Cards to present a different view.
An American remake of an acclaimed UK miniseries of the same name, it follows cunning congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as he uses any means at his disposal to rise through the political ranks. Swept up in his campaign is Zoe Barnes, an ambitious young journalist whose desire for power and recognition sees her enter into a complex, dangerous relationship with Underwood. The balance of power is not always as it appears. Playing Zoe is Kate Mara, best known for roles in Brokeback Mountain and American Horror Story. What attracted you to House of Cards?
When I picked up the script, I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. It’s a gripping story about power struggles between people. Did you identify with the character of Zoe?
I don’t necessarily relate to her morals. One of the main things I related to was her incredible ambition. Being driven is a huge part of who she is. As a kid, I used to think nothing could get in my way. The only thing I have ever wanted to be is an actress. I have been acting since I was nine; I got an agent when I was 14. As a child, I did a lot of bad community theatre because I was so keen to be involved. What do you think attracts Zoe to Kevin Spacey’s character Francis?
Zoe is attracted to powerful people because she wants to be powerful herself. She sees some of herself in him, and he sees some of his former self in her. She knows she is being manipulated by Francis, but she lets it happen because she knows she could use the information to her advantage.
We love watching a train wreck. It’s fun to watch people play out the things we don’t have the guts to do in real life. Kevin is good at being bad. It’s hard not to love him, no matter how evil he is. How did you find working alongside Spacey?
It was great. I always felt taken care of by Kevin. We had pages and pages of dialogue together and very intense scenes. To keep things interesting at 3am, he’d draw me funny pictures. He has this ridiculous sense of TV is a huge commitment. One reason I’ve never done a TV show before is I don’t like thinking, ‘‘For this many years, I will be playing the same character’’. But this didn’t feel like TV because of the people involved. It felt like making six movies in a row with people I want to make movies with. You had 13 hours to develop a character, yet it felt like a movie. It was the best of both worlds. House of Cards takes place in the world of Washington politics. Is that something you follow?
No, I don’t follow politics at all. But one of the great things about the show is that you don’t have to be interested in that world to enjoy watching it.
House of Cards: Tuesdays, 8.30pm, Showcase.
Tell us about how the pair’s relationship unfolds? House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and (inset) Kate Mara