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The Indiewire Springboard: 'House of Cards' Breakout Mozhan Marnò Thinks Hollywood Needs to Catch Up

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire April 11, 2014 at 9:55AM

If you subscribe to Netflix as millions around the world do, you're probably familiar with actress Mozahn Marnò by face, and not by name. As one of the new additions to the second, wildly popular season of "House of Cards," Marnò made a big impression Ayla Sayyad, a badass reporter who proves resistant to the threats of powerful political players.
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Mozhan Marnò
Mozhan Marnò

Every Friday, Indiewire's new Springboard column will profile an up-and-comer in the indie world who deserves your attention. Select profiles will feature photography by Daniel Bergeron, exclusive to Indiewire. Today we talk to actor-writer-director Mozhan Marnò.

If you subscribe to Netflix, as millions around the world do, you're probably familiar with actress Mozahn Marnò by face, and not by name. As one of the new additions to the second, wildly popular season of "House of Cards," Marnò made a big impression as Ayla Sayyad, a badass reporter who proves resistant to the threats of powerful political players. Sundance audiences may also know her from her scene-stealing role as a prostitute in Ana Lily Amirpour's ecstatically received Iranian vampire film, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," which ecently screened at New York's prestigious New Directors/New Films series. Marnò, a Yale MFA acting graduate, has been working on stage and screen for the better part of the last decade, most memorably appearing in the Perisian language drama "The Stoning of Soraya M.," which made its debut at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. She's also a playwright, and speaks French, German, Farsi, and Spanish.

I look and seem older than I am. I think I vibe older.

I've always been drawn to other countries. Both of my parents are from Iran. My family was all over the place. That's what happens when there's a revolution -- everyone scatters. I've always grown up with this idea that we're part of a larger landscape.

It's hard to not compare yourself to other people. I think it's one of the big struggles of life. Sometimes I think about why I have the career I've had. I think we really attract the kind of work we're supposed to have. You end up attracting what you're good at.

We're educational snobs. Our family didn't grow up with any money, but we grew up with high class education because my mother and father killed themselves to get me scholarships to all these fabulous schools.

I'm kind of a geek. I'm always taking some kind of class.

"House of Cards"
Netflix "House of Cards"

A career as an actor was not in my parents' consciousness. I think my mother especially was worried. Then I got into Yale, and she was like, "Oh, that's OK." She wrongly thought that getting into Yale was some guarantee for your career.

I never grew up with this idea of who I'm going to marry will support me. That's been very important in my life -- how are you going to make this work?

A Bachelor of Arts at a liberal arts school is kind of ridiculous. I took all kinds of random classes. I was just being a kid, learning anything.

I started as a writer to create work for myself, and now it's completely diverged from that goal. I haven't been in anything I've written. I don't want to create a vanity piece for myself. I went to LA after Yale. I was lonely, I had no community and I was auditioning for extremely stupid television. So then after reading so many dumb scripts I was like, "If this is getting made, let me try my hand at it."

I still don't recognize myself in movies, unless they're foreign films. I think Hollywood is a couple years behind what the United States looks like.

It's really comfy to join something that's already a success, and already has a fan base.

This woman came up to me in Trader Joe's. She said, "I just got one thing to say to you girl. Don't let you let that Frank Underwood get you girl!." I was like, "I will try..." It was amazing! Then she high-fived me. It was the best moment of my week.

This article is related to: Mozhan Marnó, Indiewire Springboard, Futures, Interviews, House Of Cards, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night






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