The production co-starred Tony Award-winner Harriet Harris.Mara made her film debut in Random Hearts, with Harrison Ford in 1999, directed by Sydney Pollack.
Mara graduated from Fox Lane High School a year early and was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University to study musical theater, but she eventually deferred her slot to work as an actress.Her parents are Timothy Christopher Mara, an NFL scout and vice president of the New York Giants for player evaluation, and Kathleen Mc Nulty Mara (née Rooney).Her mother's side of the family has held ownership in the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers football team since its formation in 1933, and her father's side of the family has held ownership in the NFL's New York Giants since its formation in 1925.In 2011, she guest starred on the FX horror series American Horror Story, as Hayden Mc Claine, a student who becomes Dr.
Ben Harmon (Dylan Mc Dermott)'s dead mistress, a spirit trapped in the Harmon house.
She is known for playing reporter Zoe Barnes in the Netflix political drama House of Cards (2013–2014; 2016), computer analyst Shari Rothenberg in the Fox thriller series 24 (2006), and Ben Harmon's vengeful mistress Hayden Mc Claine in the FX horror miniseries American Horror Story: Murder House (2011). She has since appeared in Brokeback Mountain (2005), We Are Marshall (2006), Shooter (2007), Transsiberian (2008), Stone of Destiny (2008), The Open Road (2009), Transcendence (2014), The Martian (2015), Fantastic Four (2015), Morgan (2016), Megan Leavey (2017), and Chappaquiddick (2018), portraying Mary Jo Kopechne.