Caution: Spoilers for Season 2 of House of Cards ahead. Do not read if you haven’t watched yet!
When a short clip of two women kissing made the rounds in a House of Cards Season 2 trailer, no one thought it was Rachel Posner. In fact, we thought it was intrepid reporter Zoe Barnes, another dark-haired character in the political thriller and one that has been known to use her sexuality to get scoop. But when Netflix premiered all 14 episodes in February, it became clear that it wasn’t Zoe in bed with another woman, but the isolated former call girl Rachel, and it wasn’t because she was trying to get anything but love and comfort.
Rachel Brosnahan plays Rachel Posner, who we first met in Season 1 when she was caught with Rep. Peter Russo after he was paying for her services. They were pulled over by the cops, which led to some political string-pulling, and eventually made it so that Rachel knew too much, and was a liability for Congressman Frank Underwood (played expertly and evily by Kevin Spacey).
While it was only intended for Rachel to be in one or two episodes, writers found her enigmatic and created an even bigger story for her in Season 2. The congressman’s Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper, has a strong hold on her, and he has to make sure she’s kept away from anyone who could link her to Peter Russo or the white house. This means she’s yanked from place to place, working menial jobs and living in barren apartments without any other contact to the outside world. A young woman who has a fraught relationship with her parents, she has no friends or family, and most days the only person she talks to is Doug. He keeps tabs on her constantly, and brings her food so she doesn’t have to go out on her own. When he lets up a little in Season 2, though, Rachel meets someone on the bus: Lisa Williams (Kate Lyn Sheil).
Lisa works at church daycare, and she invites Rachel to come by. Rachel is put off by the idea of The Fellowship at first, but she’s lonely and intrigued by Lisa, so she goes, and finds that she and Lisa have an undeniable interest in one another.
“You know, I think it’s just as good as place as any to connect with any person, man or woman,” Rachel Brosnahan told us during a phone interview. “I think, you know, it seems to be a fairly loose, if you will, kind of church. It’s full of a lot of people who come from not so ideal backgrounds. I think it’s great. I think Rachel is really coming into her own and Lisa’s there to help her move through it.”
Rachel said she was alerted to her character’s relationship with Lisa just before Season 2 began filming.
“I didn’t know anything about it the first season, but when I met with our showrunner to discuss Season 2, he mentioned that might be a possibility,” Rachel said. “He put it in a lovely way. He said ‘It’s not meant to be like, in her history — it’s something that she has for this particular person. It’s this particular woman who sparks her interest. I kept asking ‘Do you have a Lisa yet?’ and they kept telling me they had someone really amazing and I would meet her really soon. We got really lucky. I think that Kate and I understood each other as people so the chemistry was real.”
Rachel noted that her character never uses the word “lesbian,” nor does she identify her sexuality in any way. For her, it’s all about Lisa, the person.
“I knew a little bit about the basics of how Rachel and Lisa meet but I didn’t know it was going to develop into something as deep as it did,” Rachel said. “Like when Lisa asks if she’s ever loved anybody—she says no. And I think that this is a first. And because she loves her, she’s going to do whatever she can to protect her.”
It takes several episodes for Rachel and Lisa’s friendship to turn into something more, but they eventually move in together, which makes Rachel become more independent, something that Doug Stamper demands she put a stop to. He makes her throw Lisa out, which leads to an emotional scene where Rachel is in tears, demanding Lisa leave and never talk to her again.
“It was devastating. I didn’t know that that was coming. I would venture to say that Rachel has never loved anyone and she has to break up with someone that she loves the most and not know that she’ll ever see her again,” Rachel said. “It was pretty intense. It was horrible to shoot, frankly.”
As for her relationship with Doug Stamper, things ended on a violent note that has fans wondering if we’ll ever see any of them again.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about quite a bit but i think it’s a very complex relationship,” Rachel said. “I’m not even sure either one of them, Rachel or Doug, can articulate what’s happening. It’s partially a father/daughter relationship, it’s partially a friendship, it’s partially a boss/employee. In a way, Doug becomes her new pimp. What’s the difference, really? Between the life she left behind and the one she’s moved into. In a way. I think it’s a very complicated relationship and I’m not sure Rachel ever knows what to feel about the relationship with Doug.”
Because Rachel the character is so isolated, she rarely works with anyone but Kate Lyn or Michael Kelly, who plays Doug. But Rachel the actress said she actually enjoys that part of the process.
“It is a little weird. Luckily I get to come to table reads and see everybody a little bit,” Rachel said. “I’ve only met Kevin [Spacey] a handful of times. But luckily the small group I’m working with — Michael and Kate Lyn Shiel who plays Lisa—I could not be any luckier. There’s two of the most talented, kind, dedicated people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. At first I was like ‘When am I going to see everyone else?’ But I’ve come to really fall in love. Because it’s really just Michael and I or Kate and and I, you really get to explore the depth and the complexities of their relationship.”
Unfortunately Rachel has absolutely no intel on Season 3, saying she’s not even 100 percent sure she’ll be back.
“I have no idea. I have not even the slightest clue,” she said. “I hope Rachel comes back, because there’s more to explore there. And I hope that Lisa comes back. That can’t be the end of Lisa. She was too good, and too good for Rachel. And also bad, in a way, because she made Rachel a lot less controllable. She had something else to live for in a way. There’s a different part of her life that didn’t involve all this darkness and politics and Stamper and I think that’s why Stamper made Rachel break up with Lisa, because it became dangerous for him.”
As for if she thinks Doug is dead? “I have no idea. I have been slightly misquoted as saying he’s not. I have no idea. I hope that he’s not. I don’t think he can be. He’s such a fan favorite! And Stamper, more than any other character, has the ability to take down Frank Underwood. I think he’s the only one. He knows the most and it would take something with him—he’s so loyal, but he’s the guy who could do it. I hope he’s not.”
House of Cards has developed Rachel Posner into a character most fans identify with, although Rachel says there’s a definite split on where some viewers fall.
“She’s fighting the good fight and she keeps getting kicked down. And I think a lot of people identify with Rachel and with Rachel’s situation and want her to come out on top and have a happy ending,” Rachel said. “That’s one of the big ones people are tweeting at me: ‘Why can’t Rachel have a happy ending?’ And then the other half is ‘We hate Rachel! She’s ruining Stamper! Please die!’”
But what’s most fun about Rachel is the vastly different sides we get to see of her, and how nice it is that her real self is most at home with Lisa.
“You actually get to see Rachel working quite a few jobs. You get to see her doing the escort thing you get to see her still doing that. You also get to see her playing that role when Stamper has asked her to again. You get to see her as a waitress, you get to see her at the call center. She’s putting on a lot of different masks, and they were definitely all fun to try on. But I think that one of the nice things about this season is you get to see Rachel at home. You get to see Rachel be Rachel, without any of the make-up on and without sexy clothes. I think the Rachel you see with Lisa is the most real side of Rachel.”
On her time off from HOC, Rachel was on NBC’s The Blacklist and is currently in production on a new WGN America series called Manhattan. House of Cards is available on Netflix now.