Yesterday Kate Mara was announced as the lead for Netflix’s first scripted series House of Cards, a political thriller whose pilot is being directed by David Fincher. You might think that Kate nabbed the role through nepotism since her younger sister Rooney Mara just spent the last year working with Fincher on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but you might be surprised to hear that Kate is an accomplished actress by her own right.
In fact, she’s become one of those actresses you recognize by face but not by name, on series like Everwood, Jack & Bobby, and Nip/Tuck as well as movies like happythankyoumoreplease and 127 Hours.
1. On September 11, 2001, Kate was on a flight out of New York City to Los Angeles. They had to land in Kansas City when news reached them that the World Trade Center had been attacked. As she was living in Manhattan at the time, she said, “my family couldn’t get through to me and they were completely freaking out, wondering whether I was on one of the planes that crashed.”
2. She may seem sweet, especially compared to her leather-clad sibling, but Kate has played some pretty dark roles. Most recently she had a recurring role on FX’s American Horror Story as Hayden McClaine, the girl that Dylan McDermott‘s character slept with and who’s now a vengeful ghost haunting their house. Series creator Ryan Murphy actually wrote the role for her after she did a few episodes of Nip/Tuck season 1 as bisexual cheerleader Vanessa.
“She’s kind of fearless, Kate,” he said; after working with him on two series, it’s clear that she has an appreciation for the twisted. This behind-the-scenes video from Ryan’s Elle shoot with Kate and others is fun; skip to about 2 minutes in to watch her nonchalantly chat with the interviewer while covered in fake blood.
3. She gets the perceived rivalry with her younger sister Rooney, who snagged the two roles to catapult her into stardom — Erica Albright in The Social Network and Lisbeth Salander in Dragon Tattoo – while Kate is still working in the indie world. However, Kate says that there’s no resentment: ”She and I have never had that sort of competitive thing, thank God, because that would make it so much more difficult. It’s definitely tricky; we’re so close in age and we’ve been up for the same roles, but the positive side is so much greater. We’re supportive and excited for each other.”
4. She was in consideration for the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises, but the role went to Anne Hathaway instead. (Six degrees: Anne and Rooney are both alums from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, albeit five years apart.)
5. In House of Cards, Kate plays Washington, D.C. reporter Zoe Barnes. Desperate for a scoop, she makes a deal with Kevin Spacey‘s character Frank Underwood; he’s a representative who gets passed over for Secretary of State and decides he wants to overthrow the new President. One of Kate’s first big breaks was on the teenager-who-becomes-President WB drama Jack & Bobby.