House of Cards, the hit Netflix show chronicling the intricacies of DC’s political world, is returning for a third season tomorrow. While binge watching all 13 episodes in one sitting, expect to see more of Ayla Sayyad. Played by Mozhan Marnò, Sayyad was first introduced as the journalist investigating Kate Mara's character's sudden death.
Here, we chat with Marnò about what to expect from season 3 (an extraordinary cameo), her relationship with the show before getting cast (“I binge watched the whole thing in a week”), and her role on another hit show, NBC’s The Blacklist.
House of Cards is officially back for season 3. What can we expect from this season?
Mozhan Marnò: Honestly, when they were telling me what was going on during the season, my jaw was on the floor. You can expect more extremely and, in my opinion, very very cool cameos. Maybe the coolest cameo ever. A real person showing up, real people showing up… I was shocked when they got them! I cannot tell you who, but they’re very cool.
Has your political awareness changed since working on the show?
MM: No, I’ve always been pretty current. I read the newspaper, I’m up on what’s going on, I listen to NPR. I’ve always been sort of concerned with world events, so no, I don’t think it’s changed anything for me in terms of my political consciousness.
Any funny stories from the set?
MM: I can tell you that Kevin [Spacey, who plays Frank Underwood, the show’s lead] comes from the theater and he kind of holds court on set. There are a lot scenes where there are a lot of extras, [shooting] a press conference [for example], and he’s constantly riffing and making jokes at the end of scenes and it’s kind of like they’re his audience.
Netflix ushered in a completely new, and successful, model of television. Do you find it has changed anything from an actor’s perspective?
MM: This is more of a question for producers because I think that the model really does shift things for how [shows are] distributed and released and marketed and all that. But, in terms of for the actor, I don’t [think anything has changed]. The only thing I can say is that people actually binge watch it. If they actually watch all the episodes in a very short period of time, I think that they feel kind of closer to each character because they’re just consuming it without break. You’re not trying to piece it together in your mind. You’re deep, you’re entrenched.
Derek Cecil, Marnò, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Kelly, Molly Parker, Michael Gill, Jayne Atkinson, Rachel Brosnahan and Joanna Going of House of Cards at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
You’re also on The Blacklist. Season 2 returned a few weeks ago. What can we expect from the upcoming episodes?
MM: I can’t tell you anything! Both of these shows, they’re highly, highly, highly obsessed with keeping everything top secret. It’s so funny to go from one super confidential show to another, but we’re only a couple of episodes ahead of the audience. We’re shooting something that’s maybe 3 or 4 episodes ahead of what has been airing.
How is this set different from the House of Cards set?
MM: I think [that] with House of Cards, it’s sort of slow burning, and there are a lot of two-person scenes, and dramatic scenes, and I think that, with The Blacklist, there’s a lot of activity. There’s a lot of excitement and explosions and criminals and blood and cuts and intrigue, and, with House of Cards, it’s sort of psychological.
How’s working with James Spader on The Blacklist?
MM: James is terrific. He is just extremely intelligent and thoughtful. There’s nothing that he does without careful consideration and that’s really refreshing. The blocking and the dialogue, everything that he does is just very thoughtful. He’s just a very smart actor.
You obviously have your hands full but what can we expect from you next?
MM: Well, I was in this indie film that was just nominated for a couple of Independent Spirit Awards called The Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and it’s this Iranian vampire film in black and white. That’s sort of making the rounds right now, and then, otherwise, I’m a writer. In my spare time, which there is not that much of these days, I’m working on a screenplay.
PHOTOGRAPHY VIA VIRGINIA SHERWOOD/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES (HOUSE OF CARDS); FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES (SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS)