Constance Zimmer on Her 'Empowering' Face-Off With Robin Wright on 'House of Cards' (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
Janine Skorsky lives!
“I had been waiting for that phone call,” Constance Zimmer tells ET of her return to House of Cards’ final season. “I was doing the same thing the fans were doing. I just kept putting it out there, and I was like, 'I'm still alive, I'm not dead. Let's keep believing I'm going to come back, and I'm going to make an impact.'”
Janine was last seen in her hometown of Ithaca, New York, in season four, where she retreated to after discovering the dangers of Washington, D.C. However, she’s right back in the action in season six, unafraid to break stories -- or to confront Claire Underwood (Robin Wright).
“I really loved how they introduced me back into the season in a way that was like, 'Look, I might be working for the Ithaca Times, but it's a way to get in under the radar and to be able to investigate a story,’” Zimmer says. “Because once you get in there, you can reveal more truths.”
Alas, Janine’s investigation into the Arcas chemical spill led her right back to Claire, in a powerful face-off on Air Force One in the penultimate episode. The scene marked a pivotal moment for Janine, proving that she’s a strong-willed journalist ready to tell the right story, not just the most convenient one.
“That was the first time Claire and Janine have ever been in a scene together, and that was incredibly exciting that they also gave Janine a moment of like, 'Listen, I'm not going down this weird path with you. I'm going to stand for what I believe in, and I can take you down,’” Zimmer shares. “It definitely felt incredibly empowering.”
“I don't know if I ever know or feel that I'm at the top of my game. Underneath it all, I'm still an insecure actress that's like, 'Oh my god, where's my next job? Am I ever going to work again?'... But you step outside of the actors playing the part, and for the characters, I was so excited for Janine. I was like, 'This is a big deal,’” she continues. “And I mean, I love working with Robin so much. She is such an incredible team player, and it was really fun to be able to have that scene and for it to be on Air Force One, of all places too.”
“There wasn't much adjusting personally for me, when I then went back. I just think we were all so excited to see how we were going to finish the story. Janine's storyline from the first season, when everything started going awry, has always been the same motivation, which was to get people to be found guilty of their crimes. So it didn't matter if it was Francis Underwood or if it was Claire Underwood,” Zimmer notes, before admitting she’s glad things worked out as they did. “I think that it was a little bit more exciting for it to be two women coming head to head in that scene. The enthusiasm might have even been stronger and greater.”
“We've always felt that Robin's character was just as important, if not more important. But it's just, as women, we're just put behind the man. I wish that it would have happened organically and naturally instead of it feeling like, 'Oh, this is our only option,’” she says of Wright taking the lead on the show. “But it felt incredibly fitting, and I'm so glad that we get to see a woman as the president, albeit a little darker than I think we all would like.”
As for Janine, Zimmer “selfishly” wishes her character could have done more to change the tide.
“I think, more than anything, I just feel so proud to be a part of the show and to have Janine have made such an impact as she did, even though she was, for the most part, a fairly small character. It just kind of shows you that there's no such thing as small characters,” she says. “I think it's also a very good story to tell that it doesn't matter the amount of impact you have as long as you do something.”
“It's always sad when you say goodbye to a character in general, and this show, so specifically, felt like the end of an era as well, because I remember our first days on set, and all of us not really understanding what Netflix was, and how people were even going to see this show,” she recalls. “What do you mean, you're going to stream it, and are we even going to be able to get nominated for Emmys? Is this even television? This is crazy.”
“Then to be there at the end, and Robin at the helm, and Robin directed that last episode, and that also felt incredibly important,” she expresses. “I just feel so proud.”