Rachel Brosnahan

by Charley Cameron

“I’d love to see a rock get thrown in. I can’t wait to see what happens.”*—Where the Manhattan and House of Cards actor sits across from her March 2015 interview with Marie Claire
Rachel Brosnahan, the 25-year-old actor perhaps best known for her Emmy-nominated role as call girl Rachel Posner in House of Cards, really likes to talk about books, and talks about them, along with “just about anything”*.1—and everything—else, with disarming passion, knowledge, and humility.

When I reach her by phone—one day into a vacation in Vancouver—she cheerily proclaims, after a quick greeting, that right now she’s just enjoying the chance to “take some downtime with my pups [and] read.”

Brosnahan’s first sparks of interest in acting came from being a “sort of shy” kid who was a “really avid reader” she says, “I read anything and everything I could get my hands on.” Born in Milwaukee but raised in Highland Park—an affluent suburb of Chicago—Brosnahan’s favorites were fantasies like Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Two months after graduating from college—the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts in New York—Brosnahan landed the role of “Call Girl” in the Netflix series House of Cards. She says about the time, “I was [just] entering the world and trying to figure out what the fuck was going on.” The series creators quickly expanded her role, and “Call Girl” became series regular Rachel Posner, which she says, “[was] the most wonderful gift I could ever be given […] also the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

Brosnahan is notably nuanced about the roles she chooses: “I’m drawn to playing any fully fleshed-out three-dimensional person, whether they match up with my worldview or not.” She acknowledges, “It unfortunately can be difficult to find three-dimensional [female roles], and so when you do see one who is complex and flawed, it’s exciting.”

For her current role on WGN series Manhattan, Brosnahan plays Abby Issacs, the wife of a young scientist working on the development of the first nuclear weapons at Los Alamos. “I tried to do as little research as possible about the science behind building the bomb, because for one, she had absolutely no idea what was going on, which was useful for me, even though I hate not knowing what’s going on. I hated not being able to pick up and pore through books about the Manhattan Project.”

In speaking about the expectations typically placed on young female actresses, she states, “I think there are a lot of women speaking out against that sort of thing: [against] the stupid interview questions that are only geared at women about their facial care routines and things like that.

“I’m still learning to talk about these things, and it’s difficult to talk about and I have a lot to learn from these amazing women,” says Brosnahan, referring to women such as Frances McDormand, who she worked with on Olive Kitteridge. She exudes admiration for McDormand, and recalls their discussion about aging: “One of the things that stuck with me most is that she wants you to be able to see every smile that she’s ever had on her face—that it’s important—and I love that.”

For now, her turns in the newly released movie Louder Than Bombs, upcoming indie drama The Fixer with James Franco, and Disney movie The Finest Hours await cinemagoers, and she is about to go off and shoot Boomtown, where she will be working with “wonderful new director” Sabyn Mayfield. Brosnahan acknowledges that after a crazy couple of years she’s taking time to find the next thing. Until then, she’ll just be doing some light reading.

Photographer: Kinya at kinya.nyc

Stylist: Joshua Liebman for honey-artists.com

Hair: Rheanne White for seemanagement.com using Leonor Greyl

Makeup: Gita bass for starworksgroup.com using Charlotte Tilbury

Manicure: Kylie Kwok for traceymattingly.com using Essie

Producer: Mirham AscenCio at mirhamascencio.com

Photography Assistant: Keisuke Tsujimoto

Special Thanks: Rika noda at art-dept.com

* Bonner, M. “Why 'House of Cards' Star Rachel Brosnahan Is Team Claire,” Marie Claire, March 2015.

* Cyphers, L. “Owner Anything but Quiet Burger Baron Pegram Plays by His Own Rules,” New York Daily News, June 1998.