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Canuck actress Molly Parker spars with Kevin Spacey in 'House of Cards'

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TORONTO - Canuck star Molly Parker says she relished the chance to dive into the dark intrigue of "House of Cards," noting the new character she plays on the acclaimed Netflix drama offers a worthy match to the power-hungry Francis Underwood.

Parker plays a third-term congresswoman who figures prominently in Francis's latest quest for power at the White House.

That means lots of scenes for the B.C.-native opposite star Kevin Spacey, whose steely eyed Francis remains ever-focused on cementing the vice presidential post, no matter the cost.

Parker appears early in the Season 2 premiere, establishing right away that her character Jacqueline Sharp cannot easily be manipulated.

"She's tough and she's smart and she's a soldier," says Parker, wary of revealing too much about the storyline.

"She's ambitious and she's also principled, as we find out as the season progresses."

The sophomore run launches Feb. 14 with virtually no time lost following the Season 1 finale. Francis and his equally ruthless wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, are out on the early morning run they began in the previous episode, clad head-to-toe in assassin black.

The moment they return home, Francis is confronted with news that requires decisive action and it's clear these new episodes are set on maintaining the sombre intensity that became a hallmark for Netflix's flagship show.

Parker says she was a fan before joining the project, even binge-watching the first 13 episodes "in about three days."

Since joining the cast, she's been especially impressed by Spacey, whose movie star pedigree helped establish "House of Cards" as a slick alternative to more conventional programming offered by network and cable television.

"He's such a powerful actor and he clearly loves this show and loves making it," says Parker, also known for roles on "Deadwood," "Dexter" and "The Firm."

"There's nothing better than working with somebody who's at the top of their game. It just makes me better."

Jackie is a Democratic congresswoman from California, as well as a battle-scarred veteran from Afghanistan and Iraq who earns praise from Francis for her "ruthless pragmatism."

Although Jackie is not drawn from anyone in particular, Parker says felt compelled to research powerful women in order to better understand how gender politics work.

"I read Hillary Clinton's autobiography and Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice and really just sort of got curious about what it takes for a woman to rise to that level of leadership in politics and in business," she says.

"One of the things that's really striking to me is that we still, at a time when like 51 per cent of college graduates are women, still only 12 or 13 per cent of women are at the top of the political and the business world....

"I was just really interested in what it costs to be a woman in a roomful of men and how do you hold your own?"

Season 2 of "House of Cards" debuts Feb. 14.

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