PLAYBOY: Has a fan ever asked for an autograph and looked surprised when they read the signature, thinking you were your sister?
MARA: As a redhead, I’ve been confused with other redheads like Amy Adams—but hey, I’ll take that. She’s amazing. I had someone come up to me for an autograph and say, “I loved you in The Devil Wears Prada,” but no, that’s not me either. I’ve signed autographs, and when I realized they thought I was someone else, I’ve actually called the other actor to tell them. Maybe I need to start asking who people think I am before I sign.
PLAYBOY: The opening episode of the second season of your TV series, House of Cards, caused shock waves when the intimate relationship between your journalist character and Kevin Spacey’s character turned fatal. Shouldn’t a character as smart as Zoe Barnes, already suspicious that her boyfriend has murdered a U.S. congressman, have seen that he’s capable of pretty much anything?
MARA: She would never have entertained getting into a personal relationship knowing it was going to get so dangerous or that he was 100 percent capable of murder. Even though I obviously knew what was going to happen this season, I was able to watch in a pretty objective way. Because the show is so well-made, it’s easy to forget about the scenes I’m in and not in and just sort of watch it like a regular person would. That’s a real testament, because usually I have to watch something I’m in a couple of times before I can start to appreciate it for what it is. But with House of Cards, it was easy to get caught up in it.
PLAYBOY: Please annihilate the silly rumor that they used a body double for your naked backside in that memorable scene in the first season.
MARA: Who would say that? I met David Fincher when my sister did The Social Network, so I knew him long before I ever read for him. When he said, “I really want you to play this role,” he told me about the series and what was going to happen with the character. I fell in love with her because she’s so ambitious and driven. She’s attracted to power. Of course, having seen his films and knowing what I knew about House of Cards, I expected there might be a lot of nudity and edgy stuff required. But I trust David.
PLAYBOY: Were you ultimately surprised at the amount of nudity and sex scenes?
MARA: I’d read all the scripts way in advance, so nothing shocked me. It just happened, and it wasn’t uncomfortable. From day two of working with Kevin, I found him just as playful as I am. He would definitely up my game. I tried to get him to laugh by wearing pasties with his face on them. Of course, because Kevin wants to win whatever the game is and because he always wins, he did not laugh. He waited until the director said “Cut” and then he laughed. Kevin has an amazing sense of humor, but he’s also a great professional and he’s really fucking good at it.
PLAYBOY: How does your family react to seeing you in nude and edgy movie and TV scenes?
MARA: They have a sense of humor about it that they didn’t used to have. They were very upset when I was 19 and had a scene in Nip/Tuck that showed only my back but suggested nudity. I tried to explain that it’s acting and part of the craft, and if it’s important to the story and tastefully done, I will choose to do certain things. By the time House of Cards came along, my family had dealt with plenty of other difficult things to watch with my career and my sister’s career.
PLAYBOY: You recently landed the role of Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot. You’ve finished shooting a thriller called Captive, and you’ve just been in Transcendence, the directing debut of Wally Pfister, the cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and Inception. Any tales to tell?
MARA: Wally is so talented and such an enthusiastic person. I loved working with him on Transcendence, playing someone who is anti-technology. I really hope he directs more movies. Captive is interesting too. I made it with David Oyelowo, who is a friend. It’s based on the real story of a man in Atlanta who broke out of a courthouse jail, shot a number of people and took a single mother who was a meth addict hostage in her own apartment. It was intense and I probably wouldn’t have made it with anyone but David. So it’s been busy. I still have plenty of time for binge watching, though, given certain conditions.
PLAYBOY: Which are?
MARA: I try to work out six days a week, mostly doing the Bar Method, ballet-inspired classes mixed with Pilates. I have to run for an hour every day. If I put that time in, then I feel I can do whatever I want for the rest of the day, even if it’s just watching movies or catching up on a TV show. I barely watch live TV now.
PLAYBOY: Are you addicted to working out?
MARA: No. It’s not about being too thin or too fat or anything. It’s not about weight. It’s confidence. I’m a vegan, but that doesn’t mean I get up and leave if I’m out to dinner with someone who orders a steak. My friends don’t care about me not eating meat. Their biggest surprise is that I won’t eat cheese anymore, and I don’t blame them because cheese was definitely the hardest thing to give up.
PLAYBOY: What’s your biggest professional frustration?
MARA: I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve won already, but there are certain aspects of me that I haven’t played yet. I’d love to do a love story and I haven’t. Doing a movie or TV show that centers on two people can be the most challenging for an actor. That’s something I would love to do.
PLAYBOY: Sue Storm in Fantastic Four possesses the power of invisibility. You’re photographed whenever you’re in public, but if you could be invisible for 24 hours, what kinds of mischief would you get up to?
MARA: I feel I have that power already. I can go almost anywhere and not be recognized. I already do what I want to do and just live my life.