“House of Cards,” Netflix’s “Macbeth”-esque look at the extremes to which Frank Underwood and his wife Claire go to achieve and maintain power, is not known for its love stories. But that’s just what Mahershala Ali’s lobbyist Remy Danton and Molly Parker’s congresswoman Jackie Sharp find themselves in. We talked to them both about why their characters are willing to take risks for love in a power-mad world.
On their connection:
Mahershala Ali: Remy has a lot of respect for Jackie. Sometimes you just can’t explain chemistry either. I think they hit it off in a way that kind of goes a little bit beyond words. He’s just drawn to her. She’s an attractive woman who wields a certain degree of power. I think the circles that Remy finds himself in, I think it’s been difficult for him to find a partner. Someone who he can really have a conversation with on that level who he finds attractive, who challenges him.
Molly Parker: I mean, I think that Jackie and Remy have a very pure, hot, physical connection. … Here’s this man who is very much like her in many ways. He has a lot of the same qualities in terms of his intelligence and his ambitions and his willingness to sacrifice his life for power and money and yet they have this incredibly deep pull towards one another for which they would have to risk all of these other things that they’ve worked for in order to be together, because those are the stakes.
On working together:
Ali: I really just love working with Molly. And any way that I can get that, I’m really appreciative. I think [writer] Beau Willimon does a wonderful job as far as challenging us as actors and when we sit down and we’re kind of co-creating and collaborating, Molly and I get to really comb through it and try to get to the essence of the relationship and kind of dig into whatever scene it is that we’re working on that day. Like what it means, what it’s really about, what’s beneath it, what’s not really being said.
Parker: They’re great scenes. Mahershala Ali, who plays Remy, is one of the most loving human beings I’ve ever met, truly and we have such a great time with that relationship, just as actors, just sort of exploring all of the hidden dynamics of that relationship. It’s really fun. He’s so lovely.
On what they’ll sacrifice to stay together:
Ali: I think any time you love someone, you’re willing to put yourself out there and take risks for that person. And I think we’ll learn more about that this season, but Jackie just holds a special place in his heart. So I definitely think he would put himself out there for her yet again.
Parker: She’s had this taste of this power of being in the leadership. At the beginning of the season, we find her in a place where she needs to find a way back to the seat of power and the way in which she does that has tremendous consequences for her personal life.
On their changed circumstances this season:
Ali: I think it’s kind of the best place he could land considering how things ended up at the end of last season. It’s similar to what he was doing it before but I think the task and the responsibility is so much bigger being chief of staff as compared to working with Frank when he was a congressman.
Parker: At the beginning of Season 3, where the midterm election has happened, their party has lost their majority and because of that, her role in the leadership has diminished. She’s retained her seat, but she’s not the majority whip anymore because these democrats have lost the majority. Although she has sacrificed her own principles for the Underwoods, she now feels that she hasn’t been properly compensated.