On Netflix’s hugely popular drama “House of Cards,” Sakina Jaffrey plays the White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez. In the series she’s the first woman and Latina to take on this job. Unfortunately for Linda, she’s also one of the reasons why Francis “Frank” Underwood creates his master plan. We talk to Sakina Jaffrey about the whole thing.
What kind of research did you do before the show?
I watched interviews with Condi Rice, and read her book as well as Hilary Clinton’s book. I read Lyndon B. Johnson’s book, which Kevin [Spacey] actually gave me last year just to know what type of character he was playing. Not that it’s an exact LBJ equal, but there are some similarities in terms of what he gets done, peoples’ views on him, and how ferocious he was in getting things done.
Your character was part of the reason why Frank Underwood made his master plan. Were you ever afraid of what was going to happen to your character?
One of the things I love about Linda is that she’s just ferocious in her belief that she’s right. Her job is to protect the president and she’ll do it at all cost, and I think she believes that she’s ethical.
There are a lot of strong female characters in this series. Was that something that attracted you to the project?
I give total credit to Beau Willimon [creator of the show] for creating these brainy women —not just smart and powerful, but actually intellectually very advanced. When I was doing the show I felt like I was in graduate school, because you have to know the material, you have to know the politics inside and out in order to play it realistically.
Are you into politics?
My husband has been involved in politics both as a journalist and a political consultant. When Clinton was inaugurated we moved to Washington for three years, because he was a political correspondent for Rolling Stone. So the truth is I sleep next to a man that can fill me in if I don’t know what’s going on all the time. And his name is also Francis.
What reactions have you got from being on the show?
I have a teenage boy and a teenage girl. Their friends have watched the show and learned about politics through it. So I’ve gotten to be a little bit of a cool mom. For once in my life I’m cool.
Are we going to see you in season 3?
I can’t tell you anything. But I think that no one ever really leaves Washington. They are all still around. Relationships are really the currency in Washington, right?