RACHEL BROSNAHAN IN NEW YORK, JUNE 2015. STYLING: VANESSA CHOW. SHIRT: GAP. HAIR PRODUCTS: BUMBLE AND BUMBLE, INCLUDING STYLING LOTION. HAIR: EDWARD LAMPLEY FOR BUMBLE AND BUMBLE/D+V MANAGEMENT. MAKEUP: ALICE LANE FOR CHANEL/THE WALL GROUP. MANICURE: ANGEL WILLIAMS FOR CHANEL. SPECIAL THANKS: DUNE STUDIOS.
Picture actress Rachel Brosnahan on a desert road. If you’re a fan of Netflix’s House of Cards, it’s not hard; the last time we saw Brosnahan’s character—a beleaguered prostitute enmeshed in Francis Underwood’s intrigue—she was on such a road, facing her end at the hands of a ferocious aide. But the road image isn’t too far from Brosnahan’s current reality. For the past few months, the 25-year-old actress has been in Santa Fe, shooting the second season of Manh(a)ttan, a WGN America historical drama in which she plays the wife of a wunderkind scientist on the eve of the creation of the atom bomb at Los Alamos.
“Women weren’t encouraged to look inward then, and you see Abby coming into her own,” Brosnahan says. “But it was also an exciting time for women. Abby gets a job and asks questions about her place and marriage.” Brosnahan sees parallels in the problems confronted by actresses today. “I think things aren’t changing as quickly as the women of Hollywood would like and deserve. You’re still seeing a lot of these same archetypes. I see a lot of prostitute characters—unlike House of Cards, many aren’t very three-dimensional. But I do think there’s a movement, particularly in television, challenging some of these portrayals.”
Brosnahan, who was raised outside of Chicago, has been acting since she was a teenager and was recently nominated for an Emmy for her work on House of Cards. “I was under the false impression that I could sing in high school, so I did a lot of musical stuff,” she recalls. “I can’t sing or dance, so that was entertaining for everyone.” She studied theater at NYU and landed House of Cards four months after graduation—roles in The Blacklist and Olive Kitteridge quickly followed. In the past year, she’s only spent a few days in New York, where she has an apartment and made her Broadway debut in 2013. She’d eventually like to return to theater, but first she’ll play the former flame of Jesse Eisenberg in Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s film Louder Than Bombs and a young widow and mother in Disney’s historical nautical drama The Finest Hours. Amid all the work and travel, Brosnahan has managed to find a solace. “I think home has become my friends and family, wherever they are,” she says. “Home is where your rump rests.”