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'House of Cards' stacks up more roles for rising star Brosnahan

Published On: Feb 20 2014 09:18:01 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 09:50:23 PM CST
Rachel Brosnahan in 'House of Cards' (photo -- Netflix)

Netflix

Rachel Brosnahan in 'House of Cards'

A highly successful career appears to be in the cards for actress Rachel Brosnahan.

At age 23, Brosnahan's star isn't only rising -- it's soaring -- thanks to high-profile roles in Netflix's "House of Cards" and NBC's "The Black List." Better yet, she has much more on the way.

I talked with Brosnahan mere hours before the debut of Season 2 of "House of Cards" last week, and the Wisconsin-born and Illinois-raised actress couldn't have been more pumped. After all, Brosnahan's role as call girl Rachel Posner was originally supposed to run a mere two episodes in "House of Cards" -- but creator Beau Willimon was so impressed with the actress that he fleshed out the character to appear in seven episodes in the first season and eight episodes in the second.

"House of Cards," which became available for streaming on Valentine's Day for Netflix subscribers, is a much different project, work wise, for Brosnahan, because it's nothing like she's ever done on film or television.

"Working on 'House of Cards' the first season felt like a 13-hour movie to me and it wasn't really run like television," Brosnahan explained.

The sensibilities definitely changed, Brosnahan said, when she started work in network television. "When I started working on 'The Blacklist,' I thought, 'Oh, my God, this is insane,'" Brosnahan said. "The days aren't any different from any of the films I've worked on, especially the low-budget ones -- and there's been many of them -- but the turnaround is different. When I get the script the day before shooting and need to know eight scenes the next day by 5 a.m. It's taught me to be an amazing memorizer. I'm so fast now."

On the flip side, Brosnahan said, "House of Cards" episodes are shot two at a time every three weeks to a month, and in her experience on "The Blacklist," where she stars as Jolene/Lucy Brooks in a recurring role, it takes about nine days to shoot an episode.

For the uninitiated, "House of Cards" follows the dirty dealings of Sen. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) who underhandedly plots out revenge after the president reneges on a promise to make him secretary of state. The show also stars Robin Wright as Underwood's steely wife and conspirator, Claire, and Michael Kelly as Underwood's chief of staff and confidant, Doug Stamper.

While "House of Cards" is a fictional story, Brosnahan said she finds herself engaged in it because it unfortunately -- if not refreshingly -- exposes the all-too-real world of corruption in the political ranks and manipulation of the people on the outside. "We had a lobbyist on the set who watched Michael Kelly and I do a scene, and when we were done with a scene, he said, 'I know that guy. I've seen that guy,' and we were like, 'Oh, God, that's horrific,'" Brosnahan said.

While viewers can obviously get their fill of political corruption on a nightly basis by turning on the network and cable news channels, Brosnahan feels the show has struck a nerve because it is "so blatant" in its portrayal of politics. "The show presents itself in a way that it never tries to hide how corrupt things are," Brosnahan observed. "The characters are trying to hide it, but as an audience, you have the insight and get to see everything laid out in front of you. Whereas, in our own political system, we have no idea to the extent to which the corruption exists. We have all sorts of theories, but a show like 'House of Cards' helps feed a sick fantasy in a way of what might be happening in our government."

Due to the way fans can access "House of Cards" -- diehards can binge-watch all 13 shows at once, or casual fans can watch it whenever they find a free hour -- Brosnahan was reluctant to discuss aspects of her character in Season 2. One thing Brosnahan can say for sure is that her work in a dramatic, provocative role in the show has opened up a whole new world of opportunities. In addition to "The Black List," she has roles in the upcoming ABC drama "The Black Box," the WGN original series "Manhattan" and the HBO mini-series "Olive Kitteridge."

All the opportunities have allowed her to flex her creative muscles, and she has Rachel Posner to thank for it. "Prior to 'House of Cards,' I was looked at in a different light. I was playing young ingénues who were bright-eyed, innocent and asexual young ladies," Brosnahan said. "The show took an incredible chance on me, putting me in a role like Rachel, having no proof that I could pull it off. As a result, people are starting to look at me like I have more of a range. I'm getting to play a lot meatier roles. They're darker roles. They're not just the simple characters anymore, which has been really exciting for me."

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