Holly Twyford, (on-screen) antagonist
Holly Twyford, (on-screen) antagonist

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If you watched the first episode of the second season of House of Cards, you saw a powerful cameo from D.C. actress and director Holly Twyford. She portrays Mrs. Applebaum, the wife of a doctor who knocks up Claire Underwood’s former protege, Gillian (Sandrine Holt). I won’t delve more into the significance of their blistering encounter—-let’s just say we’re witnessing chess pieces moving on the Underwoods’ board—-but Twyford makes one hell of an impression.

As Mrs. Applebaum confronts Gillian near the steps of her home (the scene was shot in Baltimore; Twyford isn’t sure what neighborhood), she screams at her, reminding her of what a horrible, no-good thing it is to screw another woman’s husband—-and keep the resulting baby. Gillian, stunned and wide-eyed, attempts an apology, but it’s no good. “Use a condom the next time you fuck someone’s husband,” Mrs. Applebaum says, seething.

“It’s not fun. It’s not pretty,” says Twyford of the scene. For half a second, it seems like Mrs. Applebaum is going to deck her husband’s ex-lover, but she doesn’t take it there. Though Twyford says it almost did get violent—-strictly by accident.

“I followed her up the stairs. And when we were just sort of rehearsing it, I kind of slammed the door open. We were rehearsing a take and for a moment I thought I smashed her fingers,” Twyford says. “I slammed the door open, and we finished the take, but then I said, ‘Oh my God, are you OK? I’m so sorry!’ She was very sweet… I think she was amused that I had gone from this vicious b-word to this, ‘I’m so sorry I hurt you!’ But that was about as violent as it got.”

Twyford specializes in theater, but she’s had her time on screen, too—-she’s done independent films, cropped up in Homicide, and taped various commercials. To get the House of Cards gig, she did what TV and film actors normally do: audition. A couple of weeks later, she was taping.

Right now, Twyford is acting in Jackie Sibblies Drury‘s We Are Proud to Present… at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which according to Twyford is generating its own ripples. “I think this is a really powerful, important play to do, and people are certainly leaving with strong reactions, both pro and con,” she says. “People have gotten angry! Some people have walked out of the theater, and [another] just immediately embraced one of the actors… it was really quite beautiful.”