NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 06: Kate Mara attends Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance Presents Style Lab hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal & Kate Mara at Gotham Hall NYC on November 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance)
  • Interviews

Kate Mara on “A Teacher”

Kate Mara’s rite of passage into acting came under the lights of the hit TV series Law and OrderClaire Danes, Adam Driver, Allison Janney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in kick-starting her career on the police procedural and legal drama show. The then 14-year-old has been in constant motion since, appearing in such acclaimed series as Nip/Tuck, 24, Entourage, American Horror Story and House of CardsRooney is also an actor, has showcased her talent as well in such films as Brokeback Mountain, We Are Marshall, Iron Man 2, and the reboot of Fantastic Four, where she met her now-husband, Jamie Bell.

Now Mara has turned her creative attention as both actor and producer on the new miniseries A Teacher, which chronicles the story of a young teacher who enters into a relationship with one of her students and sets off an emotional and moral journey that will change the lives of everyone involved.

How good of a teacher would you be?

I would like to think that I would be a pretty good teacher. I think teachers have incredible patience and my patience is tried on a daily basis with my kids. This quarantine life is proving that most parents are not the best teachers, myself included, so I have a lot of respect for them.

This miniseries is based on an earlier film. How much of that served as a reference point for you?

I had seen the film way back when. I am happy about that and it made me a fan of our director, Hanna (Fidell). When she reached out to me a few years ago, she asked if I would be interested in producing and starring in this series. I already knew what kind of filmmaker she was and what this was based on, so I jumped at the opportunity. We wanted to make this series stand alone. We wanted different in a lot of ways so people who hadn’t seen the film, it wouldn’t matter and those who did, this would be exciting to them.

The concept of the story is this teacher and this student forge a relationship. When we first meet these two people, we like them. We have empathy. Then this incident happens. Do I continue to like them?

That is nice to hear because that is a testament to the writers and Hannah. That was important to us to make Claire that way. We didn’t want to make her just this evil character. We wanted her to be human and for people watching, to look at her in a real way and for it be complicated.

How much do you hope audiences engage in this discussion?

That’s one of the main reasons why we wanted to make the show. This thing does happen all the time and without conversations about it, nothing ever changes. This is definitely one of those pieces that will have people arguing, for good reasons. I do want people to finish an episode and talk about it for hours.

It would be easy to paint Claire in dark colors. But even though she is married, this relationship seems like a sexual awakening for her.

I wanted to play the character because of all the different layers she has and all the choices she makes. It is not just one reason. I wanted it to be complicated and not relate to the choices she makes but relate to her before she makes that choice. Maybe they can have empathy for her later on when you realize her past. She is not this evil woman. You can for sure disagree with her choices but I didn’t want it to be so simple.

Many teachers can be impactful on a kid’s life. Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? Was there someone who engaged you and affected you in some way?

It is very common for kids to have a crush on one of their teachers. You look up to them. I was enamored with many of my teachers. My drama teacher inspired me in so many ways. I looked up to her. That’s the messed-up thing about this show. Claire uses her power in the way that she does. As innocent as it might appear, it is an abuse of power. She shouldn’t be doing this no matter how young she is or how old her student is. It doesn’t matter.