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‘House of Cards’ star Elizabeth Marvel to to present 2023 Interlochen Arts Academy commencement address
Known for her roles on Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ and other hit shows, Marvel is an alumna of Arts Academy and Arts Camp. She will deliver the 61st Interlochen Arts Academy commencement address on May 27.
Interlochen Center for the Arts is excited to announce Elizabeth Marvel (IAC 82-83, IAA 83-87) as the Interlochen Arts Academy Class of 2023 commencement speaker. The graduation ceremony will take place at Interlochen’s Kresge Auditorium on Saturday, May 27, at 10 a.m., and will be livestreamed on the Interlochen website.
After graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy, Marvel attended The Juilliard School and then launched a successful career in acting, winning numerous awards for her off-Broadway work and garnering prominent roles in film and television.
Here, Marvel discusses the visual arts class that made her a better actor, and describes the unique experience of portraying the President of the United States.
Finding her center
Although Marvel studied drama and theatre arts at Interlochen, her most impactful classes ended up being the ones she took in the Visual Arts division.
“I've always been a very visual person,” says Marvel. “It's something that I think serves me a lot in film and television because I'm always thinking about working within a frame.”
Marvel recalls a particular time she was taking a ceramics class and learning to center her clay on the wheel—a process she calls “sort of a Zen exercise.” When Marvel was frustrated by her inability to center correctly, her teacher had a solution.
“My teacher gave me a notebook and a pen, and she told me for two weeks she wanted me to go outside every morning to the woods and meditate. And if I couldn’t meditate, I could write in the journal,” Marvel remembers.
Surrounded by the beauty of nature, Marvel did some much-needed self-reflection. In time, she found the patience and attention she needed to thrive in ceramics class.
“What I learned from that experience has continued to serve me the rest of my life,” she says.
It’s always fun to play the smartest person in the room. I think many female politicians are probably women who—ever since they were six years old—always knew the answer to every question in class and had to learn to bite their tongues.
Playing the President
Marvel took her newfound focus to The Juilliard School, and from there she made her way onto New York’s theatre scene. Soon, she began garnering recognition for her work: she won Obie Awards for her roles in Thérèse Raquin and Misalliance (1998), A Streetcar Named Desire (2000), and Hedda Gabler (2005). She quickly found success in the world of television as well.
One of Marvel’s most memorable roles was “President Elizabeth Keane” in Showtime’s Homeland. Marvel remembers meeting with the producers and two other actors (both male) who were being considered for the role.
“It wasn’t gender-based. They hadn’t decided if they were going to have a male or female,” she says. “This was all going down during the presidential race between Trump and Clinton. It was heavy—heavy and complicated. It was very complicated for me as a feminist and citizen.”
Marvel won the role, and held it for two seasons of the show. But it wasn’t the first time she played a strong female leader. On Netflix’s House of Cards, Marvel was “Solicitor General Heather Dunbar,” a character whose background also included a presidential run.
“It’s always fun to play the smartest person in the room,” says Marvel, on why she’s drawn to roles like these. “I think many female politicians are probably women who—ever since they were six years old—always knew the answer to every question in class and had to learn to bite their tongues.”
Reflecting on the fraught history of women in American politics, she adds, “Later generations have had more access—they had a seat at the table, unlike Shirley Chisholm’s wonderful quote: ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ I think my generation was offered a seat at the table, but with limits.”
It's an amazing time to be an artist because we’re in a period of a paradigm shift. There is space for narratives there's never been space for and voices that have never been allowed to be heard.
Coming back to the stately pines
Though it’s been years since she was a student at Interlochen, Marvel is eager to stay connected with the place that shaped her so much. For the past two summers, she’s sent her son to Interlochen Arts Camp, and last summer, she was on faculty in the theatre department.
Marvel wants to encourage rising artists in her commencement speech this May.
“I feel remarkably hopeful and excited. I keep encouraging my own son to move towards the arts,” she says. “It's an amazing time to be an artist because we’re in a period of a paradigm shift. There is space for narratives there's never been space for and voices that have never been allowed to be heard.”
When asked what she’d like Interlochen’s graduates to walk away with, Marvel says she wants them to realize that authenticity is their “superpower.”
“The best thing you can do is to dig deeper into who you are, what is uniquely you, and just pull that forward. That is what you have, and that is what needs to be valued and preserved.”
Interlochen’s faculty are excited to welcome Marvel back to the land of the stately pines.
“Elizabeth is an exceptionally talented alumna whose vibrant career has allowed her to share her acting gifts with the world,” said Interlochen Center for the Arts Provost Camille Colatosti. “Her story and her achievements will be an incredible inspiration to our graduating seniors at Arts Academy.”
Joining Marvel on stage is senior speaker Mia Kohn, a music major. Singer-songwriter major Emily Baird will be this year’s senior performer at Commencement, and voice major Lynn Kang will perform in Honors Convocation.
Tune in to the Commencement livestream at 10 a.m. on May 27 on the Interlochen website.