Mamie Gummer gets it.
She knows why people are interested in her family tree, given that she's the daughter of the formidable Meryl Streep, the most Oscar-nominated actress in history.
"I understand the curiosity, and she's an amazing lady," Gummer says. "It's always been there, that shadow. It's been a comforting presence. I feel like I've negotiated how to live with it."
Plus, given that she's nearly the mirror image of a young Streep, "It's hard to hide it," Gummer, 24, says with a laugh.
Critics have been kind to Gummer, a graduate of Northwestern University's theater program in 2005, who is making her Broadway debut in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," which runs through July 6. She's clueless naïf Cécile Volanges opposite Laura Linney's manipulative, malicious La Marquise de Merteuil and rapacious, seductive sidekick Ben Daniels as Le Vicomte de Valmont.
"I saw a bunch of people for the role. She just took it," director Rufus Norris says. "It's not a huge role, and it needs a definite and strong character in that part to make it stand out. Mamie has complete commitment to the emotional journey of the character."
Gummer doesn't see too much of herself in the wide-eyed, gullible Cécile. "She's a little bit out of her depth all the time, so I sort of key into that. It's being new. I'm new here," she says. "I get it. It's interesting to play the ingénue."
Linney and Gummer became friends after shooting HBO's "John Adams." When Linney saw her in the play "The Autumn Garden" in Williamstown, Mass., last summer, she gave her name to "Liaisons'" Norris.
"I went in and I read for it, and that was sorta it," Gummer says of playing Cécile, who gets deflowered by the predatory Valmont. "You're gonna get raped and you're gonna like it. Really? OK."
Acting, she says, wasn't her lifelong ambition. Rather, says Gummer, who played Streep's daughter in 1986's "Heartburn" but was credited under a different name, "it was a series of small decisions. I decided to go to Northwestern. I decided to be a theater major. I decided to do the showcase. And all of a sudden, I decided to do a play in New York."
Her mother hasn't been campaigning on her behalf. "There haven't been any phone calls made. It's been on me," Gummer says. "I feel a little more comfortable in what I'm doing, more validated. Both my parents have been really lovely about everything."
And Gummer isn't the typical party-hopping, attention-loving Hollywood progeny.
"I don't know her mom, but I've always admired her as an actress. My admiration for her as a person has been tripled because she's clearly a great mother," Norris says. "Mamie doesn't have any of the crap one might fear would come from someone who had a rarified parentage. She doesn't have a rarified air."
Gummer, who is single, and cast members go out after curtain call every night, hitting local watering holes.
"My life begins at midnight now," she says. "We're rehearsing during the day and performing at night. I'm always in that building."