House Of Cards As A Metaphor For Hollywood, Journalism, & The Internet

janineEmbed1Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Well, the day has come. The day when you reunite with the one you love and caress their face gently and whisper sweet nothings. No, we are not talking about Valentine's Day — we're talking about the return of House of Cards.
Zoey, Francis, Claire, and the gang are all back in action and getting up to all kinds of dirty deeds in Season 2. For those of you who've already started watching, we highly recommend our first recap of Season 1, in which spoilers abound. For those of you still getting psyched? We sat down with Constance Zimmer, the actress who plays Zoe's on-again, off-again rival and Slugline cohort, Janine Skorsky. As a newspaper veteran who famously stated "it's not worth f*cking your way to the middle," Janine's always been a point of interest for us at R29. Plus, her transformation over the course of the show is pretty fascinating to watch — and, from what Zimmer has to say, things are only going to get crazier.

Janine started out as an enemy, but then became an ally. What's her role in the future?
"She takes on a whole new shape that even I was surprised to see. You think you know your characters so well, and then the writers throw you into a downward spiral you didn't know your character was capable of. So, I guess that's the best way to explain it. She definitely gets to shape-shift once again into something else that I didn't even think was capable of being."

Before Zoe came in and changed everything, Janine's future was pretty predictable. She was probably going to work at The Herald until she retired. But, then she took a risk at a point in her life when most people wouldn't. She did something huge! Is that something you relate to at all? What do you think about that choice? "It felt like a very smart choice. I guess I can say that because it's not me, right? It's Janine. Even though she wants to represent old-school journalism, she's also not stupid in realizing that it's changing, and that it has shifted. You can still stay true to what you do as a journalist, or what most of us do in our jobs or careers, but life is changing. Things are becoming more futuristic. I liked that I was able to be that character that fought against it, but then learns to compromise when she realizes that she can't win. And, in that compromise, two parties can win. Again, I loved that I was able to do that. I didn't want her to be just one thing, you know? I didn't want her to have the 'this way or no way' mentality. We can't do that anymore in our careers. It's just not possible."
I was going to ask you about that parallel between traditional TV and Netflix, and print journalism versus digital journalism. Do you think there's a similarity there between the two industries? "They're obviously very different. When we were shooting the first season of House of Cards, everyone felt so sorry for us doing a show for Netflix. It was very confusing. No one could understand how Netflix would air all 13 episodes at once. Yet, all it needed was for a show to premiere. Now, people don't want to watch television any other way. And, with the Internet, Amazon, Yahoo!, Hulu, and Netflix, all these people making incredible content, it's just giving more opportunities to talented people who were not given those chances before. For that, I'm grateful."

It's so interesting, the transformation that Janine goes through — both in how you played it and how it was written. Before, she's so aggressive and looks down on things. But, then she ends up in this really innocent position. She's the newbie. How did you change your bearing to reflect that?
"Well, I obviously had to take her down a couple notches. I had to find her soft spots and her vulnerability, which is definitely hard when you're playing such a strong character. Again, the writing is truly so phenomenal. So much of it is on the page already. What happened is, Janine has to compromise in her own way; the friendship between the two of them is key. It happened for the common good, right? Two people in compromising positions share their expertise. She had a purpose again — a true purpose. That softened her because she was allowed to be there and help."

janinePhoto: Courtesy of Netflix.
Do you think Janine is what Zoe is going to be in ten years? Or, are they just totally different people? How similar are they, really? "You know, the choices that Zoe makes are much riskier than what Janine made in the beginning of her career. We have more at our fingertips nowadays, and so does Zoe. She has way more ways to reach people. Whereas Janine would have to work a year to even get to the front door of Frank Underwood's house, it took Zoe five minutes. That is the old school versus new school. It mimics what's going on in the world today. There are so many people who have worked really, really hard to get where they are. And, then there are others who have it handed to them because it's easier now. Because of that, there are definitely two different people having come up in an industry in two different ways. I don't necessarily know if Zoe would ever follow Janine, but I don't think she'd hold out as long as Janine does. She'd probably say screw it and go do something else. She didn't have as much time invested as Janine did. I think she'd just stop."

Is that something you've noticed in the younger generation of actors in Hollywood?

"Yeah, I think so. You have somebody like Justin Bieber who gets discovered on YouTube because his mom uploads a video of him singing. Then there's The Rolling Stones, who have been around for years, and who will be there forever. Now, Justin Bieber talks about retiring. I definitely think there's a huge difference. The more time you invest in your life, whether it's your career, relationships, whatever, the harder you will work to sustain it. If it's something that was given to you without very much effort, then I'd think you'd go and do something else if things weren't working out the way you wanted, you know?"

Now, random question, but a lot of us in the office have admired your skin on the show. It's really beautiful and amazing, even if Janine is working 48-hours straight.

"What?! That is the craziest thing I've ever heard."

It's not crazy! "Are you sure you weren't looking at Kate's skin?"
I'm pretty sure. "Or Robin? It must have been them."

I think you have plenty to be praised about. So, I wanted to ask you about your routine. What do you do when you're going to a red-carpet event? What do you do in your day-to-day life?

"That's so funny. That's very sweet. The key to all of that is lotion and water. I've really been obsessed with lotion since I was little, like, a kid. My daughter hates it. I try to tell her how good it will be for her later in life. I don't have a specific regimen; it's just lotion and water, constant lubrication. I've never washed my face with soap — like, ever. I was told at a very young age that it doesn't matter what kind of soap it is, it's drying. Nowadays, the soaps that are made don't have all the crap that the other soaps have in them. It's definitely always about moisturizing and drinking water. Always refuel. So much is taken out of us everyday. It goes away if you don't replenish."

Do you dress yourself most of the time? Or do you have a stylist?

"No, I wish! I need one. I need one badly. You have to pick and choose what you spend your money on in this business. I have a very fashionable husband, so he's become my go-to stylist."

Your bangs are awesome, but I have to wonder: Do you ever succumb to the desire to trim them yourself? "Oh God! I cut them myself all the time! It's the easiest thing to do! It's just a straight line. My hairdresser gets mad at me and claims they can see I did it myself. I don't know. I can't tell. I have to. They grow so fast. I've had bangs my entire life, and whenever I have to sweep them, I'm always like, 'Ugh, the sweep.'"

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