Sarah Skeist is a comedian, writer, and actor you might recognize if you watch Netflix originals like House of Cards and The Punisher, each of which had her on for an episode -- but she may have more eyes on her now for a series of comedic web shorts than she ever had in more "serious" fare. Skeist is the creator and co-star of Two-Mara, a short-form comedy series in which she plays Kate Mara (yes, the one from Fantastic Four and House of Cards) opposite Jewells Blackwell, who plays Kate's real-world sister Rooney Mara. Rooney, of course, is best known for her independent and darker fare, including a role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
That gave Skeist an idea to explore a dichotomy -- Kate as a smiling, commercially-appealing, happy-go-lucky girl with a warm heart and Rooney as an odd, repressed, and often cruel counterpart. She set about making a series of shorts, and the result is pretty inspired comedy.
"I definitely was very much aware and conscious of not turning this into a roast," explained Skeist, who appeared in an episode of House of Cards, a series Kate Mara recurred in. "I play Kate, and I like Kate Mara. I love her work. I have no problem with Kate Mara. And same with Rooney, you know what I mean? My reason for doing it had more to do with just sort of like the funny similarities between me and Jules and them, and also just how random they seem in a certain way. And there's mystery around the relationship for anybody who cares about them as celebrities, you know what I mean? When I conceived of it, it wasn't like 'I want to make fun of these working, awesome women.' It was more just like, that's kind of just a funny area of pop culture that I don't think other people would think of."
The fact that most people have only a very general idea of who the Mara sisters are as people, rather than performers, helps the series work. The personalities that Skeist has created are intentionally broad and not especially specific to the Maras -- with the actresses serving primarily as inspiration and a baseline for drawing up the characters played by Skeist and Blackwell.
"They're very famous and successful but they're not crazy famous," Skeist added. "There's plenty of people who may know one of them and not the other, or don't know they're related, or haven't heard of them. It was important to me to make the characters stand on their own anyway, because I was hoping for it to have broader appeal than just poking fun of these two famous people. I want the show to be funny, and I want it to be funny for everyone, not just people who know them. So I intentionally left out a lot of specific references to them except for a couple of lines here and there because I wanted the characters to stand on their own anyway."
Because the characters are drawn broadly and relatably, Skeist says, she is already kicking around some ideas for a potential follow-up that would take them out of the context of a new YouTube channel and give a different context to their interactions, kind of the way Archer has done every season for the last five years or so. In the fourth episode of the current run, we get to meet Kate's therapist, and the revelation that follows kicks off just one of a number of possible scenarios Skeist can envision.
"That's my favorite. I mean I don't like to pick favorites but that one is definitely my favorite episode partly because of that line," Skeist said. "We should totally go spin off, a little self-help. Kate goes to therapy, season two. I'm actually thinking of making season two like a sci-fi show, but that was one of my weirder ideas. It also might not be. It also might be quarantine. We'll see."
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