If you’re a fan of the Netflix series House of Cards, you may have heard of actress Elizabeth Marvel. If not, then you’re missing out on one of the most powerful women characters in recent television history. Marvel plays Heather Dunbar, the Solicitor General of the United States and one of the many potential Democratic challengers to Frank Underwood’s (played by Kevin Spacey) presidency. She was only one of two actors to appear in all four seasons of the show, though she takes on different roles throughout her appearances. How Did Elizabeth Marvel Get Her Career As Heather Dunbar?
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Facts About Marvel
She has been cast in lead roles on four separate television series, including three times as a series regular. She is credited with being one of TV’s most prolific character actresses. Before becoming an actress, she wrote and directed several short films that received critical acclaim at film festivals around New York City, where she lived until 2000. She then moved to Los Angeles to further her career in television and film acting and began writing screenplays for both film and television.
On playing a character with so much to discover
There’s still so much to find out about who she is, because we haven’t discovered as much about her backstory as we have with Frank, Claire or Doug. It’s really thrilling to come into a series after it’s been running and doing well and be able to play a character that they haven’t explored quite yet.
The anti-heroine role she loves
One of Marvel’s most notable roles is as Heather Dunbar in House of Cards. The role was her first on a television series, and it’s gone on to define her career. She recently told Entertainment Weekly that she originally went into an audition for another character—only to discover halfway through that she was auditioning for a new addition to House of Cards’ cast: I had like four lines, I don’t think I said anything at all.
Working with Kevin Spacey
If there’s one thing you should know about Kevin Spacey, it’s that he is a workaholic. He has repeatedly said that he does not understand how other actors can be less busy than him (he is particularly vocal about Robin Wright, who he views as lazy). It is well-known in Hollywood that if you want to meet Spacey, go to his office in Los Angeles during hiatus from filming.
Getting into the mind of a dark character
Like so many of House of Cards, there’s some controversy surrounding Marvel’s character: in real life, she is a Democrat and friend to Obama; in our fictional universe, she works alongside Frank Underwood to keep him in power at all costs.
What is most challenging about acting for her?
I’ve never done a legal drama, so there was definitely an education in terms of, Okay, what is that argument actually supposed to look like and sound like? It feels very intellectualized. And I had to figure out how to do that without it feeling stilted or unnatural. That was challenging.
On being an actor and raising two kids
It’s been a crazy year for Marvel. She just appeared in two high-profile movies (the action-thriller Lucy and Jason Reitman’s drama Men, Women & Children), landed her fourth Emmy nomination for her role on House of Cards and became a mom for the second time to twin girls with husband Ben Shenkman, an actor she met while both were starring in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at London’s National Theatre.
On going from actress to mother to returning back to acting…
Just last month, 32-year-old actress Elizabeth Marvel had her first screen role since giving birth to a baby boy in May—on Showtime’s Emmy-winning political thriller House of Cards. The role is a pretty big one: She plays Democratic politician Heather Dunbar, an aspirant for her party’s presidential nomination and eventual challenger to Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), on his quest for his own party’s nod.