Kate Mara lucked out playing fresh-faced young reporter Zoe Barnes in Netflix’s award-winning original series House of Cards. Acting alongside Hollywood royalty – Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright – with a pilot directed by David Fincher, Mara’s star is now firmly on the rise. The same could be said for her character, although as we revisit the White House in season two, Zoe and her Washington Herald colleagues find themselves in grave danger. As they continue investigating new Vice President Frank Underwood (Spacey), it remains unclear to what lengths he will go to prevent the discovery of his murderous past.
For eager fans, the wait to find out is finally over with all thirteen episodes dropping on Netflix on Friday 14 February. We caught up with Kate Mara to hear all about season two – DON’T read ahead if you haven’t watched episode one…
How would you describe Zoe’s transformation from the very first episode to the start of season two?
She’s changed a lot. I think she starts off as a very eager and determined young reporter – she’s very green even though she’s driven and ambitious and knows what she wants. She hasn’t had a lot of experience in this crazy, political world and Frank brings her right into it. With the situation she’s put in with him and all these other people he introduces her to, she grows a lot and luckily her morals shift in a nice way.
She’s certainly prepared to break certain moral boundaries when it comes to getting information she wants…
Women aren’t usually portrayed as people who will sleep with another character to get ahead but men constantly do it on shows and there’s no mention of it which I think is really boring. It’s nice if that is changing and people aren’t judging them more than they would a male character.
Zoe could have been the show’s moral compass but she isn’t – what do you think is the appeal of a series with no “good guy”?
There are a lot of anti-heroes on our show but I love that. I’ve noticed on more and more series there are leading characters who are not necessarily “good guys” as we like to call them – they’re more layered. There are a lot of anti-heroes who are the stars of shows now and shows that people love. I think we like to see different characters and layers to people so they aren’t just considered good or bad. Nobody’s perfect – obviously our show takes it to the next level – but it’s nice to see people portrayed as complicated beings.
Speaking of complicated beings, how would you describe Zoe’s relationship with Frank?
Pretty complicated. Their relationship changes a lot from the very beginning of season one. It starts off with her really wanting to be a part of his world and learn from him and that changes into a complicated personal relationship. I think the more she learns and the more experienced she becomes in that world, the more dangerous she realises it is and that’s one of the reasons Zoe starts distancing herself from Frank.
What’s it been like working with Kevin Spacey?
I love working with him. Obviously everyone knows how talented he is and people just assume he’s going to be really intense and serious and he is but he’s hilarious with me. He’s very playful and so with all the ridiculousl scenes we had to do together, I was never nervous about it. I felt very much at ease with him.
There’s a very shocking scene at the end of season two, episode one – were all the cast made aware from the start how things were going to play out?
I was always prepared for certain things to happen. One of the great things about being involved in this show was that before we started shooting, Beau [Willomon] and [David] Fincher gave me a little bit of an overview of what was going to be happening. There weren’t any surprises for me as an actor which if you’re part of a television show is the hardest thing. I hate not knowing what’s going to be going on in three weeks. You feel like you have no control and with this show I was really lucky because any questions I had I would just go to them and they would give me the answer. There was no mystery.
Are you all braced for the reaction from viewers?
Knowing what was going to be happening with certain characters in season two was one of the reasons I was excited about being a part of the show because Beau’s writing felt very fearless as did the character of Zoe. I was excited to be a part of something that was not afraid to go for it and start off the season with a bang. It’s always fun to do something that gets people talking.
House of Cards executive producer David Fincher has also worked with your sister, Rooney [the star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo]…
We’re really close with Fincher as a person. My sister and I don’t really need to get together to talk about him – he’s part of our lives regardless of working with him.
Zoe’s willing to go to such great lengths for a story – do you think you’d make a good reporter?
I’d be a horrible reporter. I’m more of a listener. Obviously it’s part of my job to be chatty and speak with new people all the time but that’s not really who I really am. I was very shy for a very long time and had to force myself out of my shell so I don’t think seeking people out and asking them about themselves is something that comes naturally to me.
Watch the rather awesome trailer for House of Cards series two below:
All 13 episodes of House of Cards season two are available on Netflix on Friday 14 February at 08:01am GMT
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news