Over a year ago, Kate Mara was sentenced to death — or at least her character Zoe Barnes was. In Mara’s very first meeting with House of Cards executive producer David Fincher — before she had officially been cast as the ambitious reporter who gets entangled with Kevin Spacey’s devious politician Francis Underwood — “he basically said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,'” the actress remembers. “‘The good news is, I want you to play Zoe. The bad news is, you’re not going to last throughout the whole series.'”
Poor Zoe’s fate — she’s callously pushed in front of a subway train by ex-lover Underwood — mirrors that of Mattie Storin (Susannah Harker), Zoe’s counterpart on the BBC’s original House of Cards. Even knowing this, Mara thought her character’s sudden death was utterly “ballsy” and “shocking,” and certainly cool enough to soothe any wounds suffered from being written off the show. The murder’s setting is also apropos: The first House of Cards scene Mara ever shot was a meeting between Zoe and Underwood in a metro station.
The pivotal moment was filmed both in Cards‘ Baltimore studio, where the actress spent a day enacting Zoe’s fatal fall over and over again (“I had a stunt guy pushing me off of these mats for hours”), and on location at a local subway stop, where the drama’s famously tight-lipped creative team kept the scene’s true nature under wraps. Says Mara, “I think they told the extras at that point that, like, a dog or something was thrown in front of the train.”
Netflix released its political thriller’s entire second season on Feb. 14. And those fans who binge on all 13 episodes in one sitting may end up knowing more about the show’s plot than Mara herself, who hadn’t seen or read anything past the premiere when she spoke to EW. Still, the Cards star knows what she wants to see: Underwood getting away with murder. Er…murders. “I’m not watching the show for moral reasons,” she says, laughing. “There doesn’t have to be a good guy for me to like it.”
On some level, Mara wouldn’t mind a Cards resurrection — maybe alongside Corey Stoll, whose character, Congressman Peter Russo, was offed in season 1. The suggestion she (jokingly) floated to series creator Beau Willimon: “Just have us be, like, weird ghosts.” After all, she has experience playing someone undead: In the first season of American Horror Story, Mara menaced Dylan McDermott as a vengeful mistress who hung around long after a vicious death-by-shovel. Back then, she enjoyed watching hostile audiences cheer her character’s demise, only to find themselves “stuck with me for, like, seven episodes.” This time around, though, Mara’s feeling a little more compassionate. When watching Zoe’s final moment, “I really hope no one, like, screams, ‘Yes, finally!'” she says with a hint of a sigh. “I hope no one’s too relieved she’s gone.”