Actress Kate Mara has joined the celebrity vegan club after giving up her love for cheese.
The House of Cards and Shooter star admits her family and friends aren’t that surprised by her healthy diet, but they are shocked she was able to stop eating cheese.
She explains, “I’m a vegan, but that doesn’t mean I get up and leave if I’m out to dinner with someone who orders steak.
“Their biggest surprise is that I don’t eat cheese anymore, and I don’t blame them because cheese was definitely the hardest thing to give up.”
Kate Mara has had an impressive year. After holding her own alongside Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as the ambitious young journalist, Zoe Barnes, on the Netflix show House of Cards, she is now hitting the big screen alongside Johnny Depp in the thriller Transcendence as the head of an anti-technology outfit. Here, she chats about her latest film, sibling rivalry (her younger sister is actress Rooney Mara) and the roles that made her parents uncomfortable.
You’ve been very busy lately with Transcendence and House of Cards.
It actually wasn’t that crazy a schedule. The second season of House of Cards only took me about three weeks to shoot and then I went straight into Transcendence.
What did you do with your time off?
I just spend a lot of time at home with my dogs and my friends. Living in LA, one of my favourite things to do to just go for a walk around the reservoir. I see a lot of movies – just typical things I guess.
What attracted you to the role in Transcendence?
I thought the idea behind the film [in which a brilliant scientist has his consciousness uploaded to a computer] was really interesting and I had not played somebody like Bree before. I’m always looking to play different characters. I watched different documentaries about artificial intelligence and tried and come up with a character that I sort of understood. So that was really fun for me.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
The only thing I ever wanted to do was be an actor, from the time that I was about nine years old. Between nine and 11 I was in a lot of school community theatre plays.
How do you feel watching yourself on screen?
I’m okay with watching things that I’ve been a part of. Sometimes it can be a little bit hard to not judge yourself the whole way through a performance. But I think that it’s a good thing to be able to watch what you’ve done and to learn from it.
Your sister, Rooney Mara, is a well-known actress as well. Was there ever any sibling rivalry?
I’m sure we’ve auditioned for the same movies back when my sister first started acting but we’ve never been in the situation where we knew that was happening. We’re also very different, so that helps. We don’t look that similar so maybe things that she’s up for, I wouldn’t be up for. I think that makes it easier.
Your dad recently chose an unusual name for his racehorse…
My dad has a bunch of racehorses, and growing up, if he was ever uncomfortable with a role that I was playing I would always say to him, “It’s just acting dad. If I’m playing a psychotic gymnast on Law and Order, I’m not actually psychotic.” There have been a few risqué performances that definitely make a father or mother uncomfortable, and I would always ‘It’s just acting,’ so he recently named one of his racehorses ‘It’s Just Acting Dad’, which people find very amusing.
How would you describe your style?
My style changes with my mood. The thing that I typically go back to is a classic look with an edge. I like the mix between feminine and masculine.
Can you tell us something about Kevin Spacey that would surprise us?
No, I probably couldn’t! I’ve already said a hundred times that he’s really, really funny. He does amazing impersonations of people.
What’s your favourite scent?
I actually don’t have one because I don’t ever wear perfumes. If you shower, then I generally like somebody’s natural essence.
What’s your earliest memory?
One of my earliest memories is from when my family lived on a farm. It was very cold in New York and we would bundle up and go outside and play with the animals. I remember being very, very young and meeting a duck for the first time. I’ve always loved animals and I’m sure that has to do with being around animals from a very young age.
What do you order at a bar?
A glass of red wine.
What’s your signature dish?
I’m an awful cook. I just don’t have the passion for it so I’ve never really tried. The only thing I really know how to make is guacamole, which is convenient because it’s my favourite thing to eat. I’m not bad at making that.
PLAYBOY: Many know you from your “nice girl” roles in big movies such as Brokeback Mountainand 127 Hours, but TV viewers have watched you unleash your inner bad girl as the icy, ruthlessly ambitious journalist on House of Cards, as a vengeful sexual supernatural stalker on American Horror Story and as a bisexual cheerleader on Nip/Tuck. And now in Transcendence you play a militant revolutionary opposite Johnny Depp. What is Hollywood trying to tell us about you?
MARA: There’s always a reason people get cast in certain roles, so I feel maybe there is something of that underneath. I take all that as a compliment. I don’t think of myself as icy, but I’m definitely ambitious. I do think of myself as strong and very driven. I’ve had to audition for most of the roles I’ve done, so I still have to go in and prove I can be driven. I’m also comfortable saying that I’m pretty vulnerable with people I trust.
PLAYBOY: You were raised in New York’s wealthy Westchester County with an older and a younger brother, as well as your also famous younger sister, actress Rooney Mara. Your father’s family founded and still owns the New York Giants, of which he’s an executive. Your mother’s family founded and still owns the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that background, should we imagine you growing up beautiful, spoiled, headstrong and, when you got old enough, breaking the hearts of Giants and Steelers team members you dated?
MARA: Thank God no, because doing that would not have gone down well. I respected my dad way too much to ever even have that sort of temptation. The Giants are my family, and I’ll always look at the team that way. Even going to a football game in sneakers and jeans, getting drunk with friends—that was so not the experience I ever had. We’d go into the box and sit with my grandma, dressed as nicely as if we were going to church. It was very much a place of business.
PLAYBOY: At several Giants games you’ve sung “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and you also sang very well in the 2010 indie movie Happythankyoumoreplease. Should other singing actresses such as Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried lose sleep?
MARA: My first dreams of acting were about being in musical theater on Broadway. My sister and I would watch all those classic black-and-white movie musicals. That’s what excited me and what I wanted to do. As kids, my sister and I were even in a local production of The Wizard of Oztogether, and neither of us played Dorothy. I guess we’ve shown them.
PLAYBOY: How did you start singing at those Giants games?
MARA: The first time was at the age of 14 when my uncle or my dad asked me if I felt like singing it. I was so naive and inexperienced that I thought, I’m just singing in front of my family and all these drunk people who don’t care who’s singing. As I got older and more successful in the acting world, I became harder on myself. I haven’t done it for at least four years now, and the thought of doing it is definitely scarier now than it used to be.
PLAYBOY: Does that mean you’ve given up wanting to sing on-screen too?
MARA: My dream role would be to play Gypsy Rose Lee in a movie of Gypsy. I was 14 or 15 when they were bringing back The Sound of Music to Broadway and I got five callbacks. They had picked one kid for each of the roles, and though I’m a very small person—five feet three inches—they were afraid I’d grow taller than the girl they’d cast as the oldest daughter. I swore to them, “No, I’m not going to grow any taller,” and I haven’t. But when I didn’t get that job, I thought I would die from the rejection.
PLAYBOY: When you were growing up, were your friends and would-be friends always hitting you up for Giants and Steelers tickets?
MARA: Maybe it’s where I grew up, in a beautiful town, but I wasn’t surrounded by people who ever tried to get things from me. I had very few friends, and I come from a huge, really close family. The need to have a big group of friends has never been a part of me. I love the Giants and Steelers so much that I sort of have an agreement on the set that if either team is in the Super Bowl, I have to be off the next day.
PLAYBOY: Did your lack of friends when you were young mean you were an introvert?
MARA: Like a lot of actors, I was painfully shy. School was terrifying to me, and I don’t even know why. My mom was kind of shocked that acting was my chosen profession, given the fact that I could barely look people in the eye. But she was amazing, putting my sister and me into all these community theater shows and taking us to auditions. Having to be friendly and open to new people helped get me out of my shell.
PLAYBOY: Are you now the life of the party?
MARA: I’m okay at a party, but if I’m going out with a group of friends, I’d rather it be four of us than 10. Otherwise I’ll wind up talking to just the two people next to me. I’m always much more at ease when there are fewer people. I wasn’t a loner as a kid, but I’m 31 now and still like small groups rather than big crowds.
PLAYBOY: Many male actors admit that they were partly motivated to pursue careers in show business because of the astonishing-looking women who work in and around it. What about you?
MARA: I’ll bet women don’t say that. It’s silly. Attractive people are everywhere. I was very focused on a career and still am. I was never boy crazy.
PLAYBOY: Would you cop to feeling slightly jealous over the fact that David Fincher directed you in the first two episodes of House of Cards, but he directed your sister in both The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the latter of which got her an Oscar nomination?
MARA: We’ve never had any kind of competitive thing between us, thank God. We’re really close. Oscars aren’t everything, but I watch them and I’m not super-cynical about them. Would I love to earn an Oscar nomination someday? Of course. But we were all together when we learned Rooney had gotten the nomination, and we all celebrated together. We went to the Oscars together. She and I have auditioned for some of the same parts, and we’ve actually checked with each other, like, “What time is your audition?” because it would be just awkward to see each other there.