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Interview: Molly Parker on Harper Regan and House of Cards

Canadian actress Molly Parker rose to fame after starring as a necrophiliac in the 1996 film Kissed. Since then Parker has starred in numerous films and television shows, including the beloved HBO series Deadwood. While her co-stars are off promoting the third season of Netflix’s House of Cards, Parker is here in Toronto starring in the stage production Harper Regan. We sat down with Parker to discuss her “return” to the stage and the new season of House of Cards.

Scene Creek: The last time you were in a play was eighteen years ago. What brings you back?

Molly Parker: It’s not as if I’m “returning to the stage” (laughs). I’ve done one professional play and that was eighteen years ago. My path just wasn’t theatre. When I first started out in Vancouver I did a little bit of TV. It was right at the beginning of when there was a lot of American service production starting to happen in Vancouver. That hadn’t been the case before, so that was new. So I got little jobs on you know, whatever the terrible stuff that was shooting there at the time was. Highlander: The Series and stuff. Then I did Kissed, so I basically found my way into independent film and fell so in love with it that I didn’t leave. I did that for ten years and probably made over forty films in that time. Then I did Deadwood and here I am!

SC: What drew you to Harper Regan?

MP: On the surface, Harper Regan is a story about a woman who is torn between the responsibilities to her family and to herself. She’s a wife and a mother and because of a trauma in her immediate family, she has been put in a position of being that provider for the family. Now her father is dying and she needs to go see him, but she can’t leave her job without losing her job and her family is depending on her. So those are the stakes, but she goes anyway. Her father dies before she gets there and so she’s lost everything for nothing, and yet along the way she meets these odd people who she has these interactions with who affect her in some way. So it’s sort of like Lost Weekend you could say, or this mini-Odyssian journey of transformation. That’s sort of the surface part of it. She’s basically in many ways this very average, unremarkable woman. She’s kind of every woman in a way, and yet she does something that is extraordinary. It’s in that space between the ordinary and the extraordinary actions of ordinary people that I found the most interesting. She’s quite mysterious to me, I don’t really know who she is. I know what I’m doing, but what is compelling to me about her, and hopefully to an audience, is that you can completely relate to her, and yet she behaves in these ways that we might not think we would behave, but in fact you never know. Anyone could do anything at any time.

SC: Just looking your works Kissed, Trigger, and Deadwood, it’s clear that you’re choosing characters that are completely unique. What is your process for choosing your roles?

MP: I have no idea, it’s so weird. I do think that I’ve been really lucky. I know I’ve been really lucky in my career to be offered really challenging roles. Certainly I have been attracted to parts that are a little bit scary to me, I think that’s probably true. If you do anything long enough you can look back at what you’ve done and then maybe say, “Oh now I understand what was happening!” Whereas at the time you’re just like, “I like this and I don’t like that” and “this feels challenging and that doesn’t”. When I first first [sic] started jobs, when I was nineteen or twenty and I would get the job of “the daughter of blank” or “the girlfriend of blank”, it was always in a relationship to a man, and for a long time I felt like, at that time, I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t care about playing women like that. I’ve always wanted to play complex women and I try to make all of the characters I play as complicated as I can. I don’t care very much about being likeable; I’m not in it to be liked. I do care about…just because it’s more interesting to me and it’s what I want to see when I spend my time watching anything I want to be presented with somebody who speaks to my humanity. I want to be entertained as an audience, but I also want to play characters where someone could think, “That’s actually a woman that I would be interested in talking to”.

SC: Why should people come to see Harper Regan?

MP: I think that people should come see Harper Regan because it’s gonna be awesome (laughs). My hope is that it entertains. It’s such a well-written play. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s moving, it’s quite beautiful and then also it operates on this deeper level, that for me atleast had me thinking about it for days. Hopefully we can make a version that gives people that experience.

SC: What is your experience like working on House of Cards?

MP: It’s so fun, I love doing it. All of the elements are great. There’s magnificent actors, certainly Kevin [Spacey] and Robin [Wright], but it’s a huge ensemble cast of great actors. The writing is terrific and challenging. We have the best crew. I love [my] character, she’s strong, she’s fierce, she’s a warrior, she is sexual, she is ambitious, she is ruthless, she is flawed, she’s afraid, she’s vulnerable, she’s all kinds of things. I’m lucky to play that part.

SC: What can we look forward to for Jackie Sharp on the fourth season?

MP: I can’t tell you anything. It’s just bizarre, but we aren’t allowed to say anything. It’s a great season. It was really fun to do. There’s a new character this year that’s so good. I am excited to see it. I think that in many ways the show is about a marriage and this season really explores the complexities and depth of that part of the show.

Harper Regan is being performed at the Bluma Appel Theatre until March 22. The third season of House of Cards is now streaming on Netflix.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.