Age & Hometown: 22; Highland Park, Illinois
Current Role: Stirring up trouble for Bobby Cannavale as Dixie Evans, a struggling Hollywood starlet who knows too much in Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’ The Big Knife.
Broadway Baby: Rachel Brosnahan’s red-hot career took a theatrical turn when she was tapped to make her Broadway debut in the first-ever revival of The Big Knife. “I’m the youngest member of the cast by quite a lot, so it’s been a lot of listening and observing,” she says. “I’m the newbie!” As dizzy starlet Dixie Evans, Brosnahan doesn’t have to reach too far to channel the role of a rising actress. “I’m just out of drama school, and it’s hard to get people to take you seriously,” she admits. But scene partner Bobby Cannavale helped ease her path: “Bobby is Bobby. He’s a god. The idea of [working with him] was intimidating, but he’s a big kid at heart, and so kind.” It’s also a thrill for Brosnahan to time warp back to Hollywood’s golden age. “The first time I saw my costume, I was like, ‘Damn! She’s the lowest of the low, and she looks like that?” she laughs. “Old Hollywood. There’s nothing like it.”
Learning with Bern: The eldest of three kids, Brosnahan targeted a career in the arts early on. “Drama was all I ever wanted to do,” she says. “There was no plan B!” After graduating from NYU’s Tisch Drama School, she moved to Los Angeles for pilot season and booked the hit young adult film Beautiful Creatures (in which she played a Civil War-era witch). Her only previous screen credit had come at 18 as Bernadette Peters' daughter in the indie film drama Coming Up Roses. “I have memories of us freezing, lying on the ground in these puffy, red warming coats,” recalls Brosnahan, who was still in school and doing midterms on set. Peters encouraged the young actress to try musicals—despite Brosnahan’s self-professed lack of singing ability. “We had a small duet in the movie, and she was teaching me to sing, and I was like, 'What is my life!?'”
Playing House: Lately, Brosnahan has been earning recognition for her breakout gig on the Netflix drama House of Cards. “I was so shocked to have gotten that part,” she confesses of her role as manipulative call girl Rachel Posner, which was expanded from two episodes to a full season shortly after she was cast. “They just kept writing for me, and I can’t even express how grateful I am.” Still, Brosnahan had concerns that she was different from what the producers may have expected. “I was supposed to make my first appearance in lingerie, but I got on set and they were like, ‘Oh my God, how old are you?’ I thought, ‘I’m gonna get fired!’” Brosnahan won’t reveal whether she’ll be back for season two, but she promises that regardless, you’ll definitely see her on stage again. “I’ve got the bug now,” she says. “I need to do more on stage. I’ve got to get my fix!”