“House of Cards”: Burning Questions

We asked – and showrunner Beau Willimon, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright did their best to dance around ‘em!

House of Cards may not have broken the Internet when its highly anticipated season 3 was dealt out on Feb. 27 (save that for some mercurial coloured dress; sign of the zeitgeist, y’all), but it’s clear from my timeline chatter that most diehard fans are currently either in the midst or have finished binging everyone’s favourite political soap opera masterpiece. So far, there hasn’t been any major spoiling… an indication how sacred the House of Cards viewing experience has become to all.

That’s because, as Golden Globe and Oscar winner Kevin Spacey told EverythingZoomer last month in Los Angeles, “We’ve tapped into something special … and relevant. It … just clicked. But let me be clear: I’m acting my little heart out; but the writing and production make it easier. It’s a dark but delicious show to watch.”

Spacey adds that airing on Netflix gives producers and writers complete artistic control, which sets itself apart from other political dramas like ABC’s Scandal.

“If we had been at another network, it is entirely possible they would have made us take out the fact that Frank strangles a dog in the first five minutes of the show in season 1, for example,” Spacey notes. “Netflix, not for a second, in those first two episodes and in every episode since, has ever come to us with a concern. We have absolute freedom of expression, and it is a glorious thing.”

It doesn’t hurt to feature a glorious leading lady like Golden Globe winner Robin Wright, either.

“Kevin and I get to play the most loyal yet complicated and adult marriages on TV,” Wright points out to EverythingZoomer. “Claire is obviously Lady MacBeth to Kevin’s MacBeth. Our show could easily be called ‘Shameless’ because these characters really are at the root of their being void so, as an actress, it’s a dream part. Luckily, despite Claire’s shaky moral compass, she’s a strong woman and an equal to her husband.”

house-of-cards-beau-willimonBefore the solid release, EverythingZoomer spoke with tight-lipped writer and showrunner Beau Willimon on the end-game of the Washington opus, if he has any dream guest stars in mind, why he doesn’t consider himself an online TV pioneer and the real dealio with that sexy threesome scene last season that fans are still buzzing about!

For those jonesing for another House of Cards hit, enjoy:

Spill: What will happen in season 4?

You should know by this point that I never talk about storylines! Let’s take in season 3 first.

Where did you try to go thematically in season 3? There’s so much going on in Washington.

Yes, it’s a gift, really. I will say, going into our third season, we wanted to experiment and push the boundaries in terms of scope and story and try new things. Fans will hopefully recognize the House of Cards they love, but they’ll see some new things about the show.

With each season, do you try to challenge Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey as actors with the material or do you just focus on writing for the characters? Wright has never been better … and reaches new artistic heights in season 3.

Well, they’re always challenging me as a writer so I can keep doing my best. When you have two thoroughbreds, you want to put them in the best race you can. I’ve learned so much from Robin and Kevin as a writer. It’s a very collaborative relationship. We’re constantly in dialogue about the storyline progression and what we’re seeing on camera. I think season 3 is juicy. Our exploration of these two characters and their marriage goes deeper and deeper. Fans will continue to see more of that in coming seasons.

Frank and Claire Underwood definitely have the most fascinating marriage on TV.

I think so! That’s what we aim for. It’s unconventional but it works. I don’t think any marriage is conventional …

Speaking of their marriage, I’m still reeling from the shocking threesome Frank and Claire had with their secret agent stud, Edward Meechum in season 2. As one of those armchair head writers, I never saw that coming! I mean, I hoped but never thought in a million years you’d go there …

We call it the “Threechum!” [Laughs]

house-of-cards-frank-claireWhat was the genesis of the idea?

We always ask ourselves in the writing room: what are the sort of things you would never expect to see on House of Cards? And most of the time, we toss out our ideas because they don’t belong there. Every once a while, we explore an element of a character or dynamic between our characters that, at first blush, seems doesn’t belong, but the more we think about it the more we realize, “No, that character has it in himself or herself to go to that place.”

We wanted to see the Underwoods experience whim. I wanted the audience to see that they have desires and that they’re sexual animals like the rest of us. And in life, sometimes the right elements align, or it’s a totally spontaneous moment like the threesome happens without it necessarily feeding back into the plot. We’re not trying to lay the foundation for some big scandal with that quiet moment. Sometimes that kind of hook-up happens to people, and it happened to the Underwoods. We thought it was an interesting idea to explore.

What were the reactions from Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright? The sex scene contained a real-life meta element, which I won’t mention, that added to its brilliance.

They were all fearless. I brought it up to them in advance and made sure they were comfortable with it; and all three from Robin to Kevin to Nathan [Darrow, who plays Meechum] were absolutely game. They were all absolute pros about it, too, in terms of bringing a huge amount of instinct and realism to the scene. They trusted each other immensely, which is paramount in making a scene like that work.

The world is changing so rapidly and disturbingly. Can we expect ripped-from-the-headlines inspirations in season 4 like an ISIS plot?

Obviously, we all still live in the same world, so it’s impossible not to absorb and react to everything around you. But we don’t do ripped-from-the-headlines stories because, if we did, we would be narratively behind a year. Undoubtedly, we [endeavour] to integrate [real-life] world politics into the narrative often times in ways that aren’t even obvious.

Is there any dream star you’d love to cast on House of Cards? Anyone you’re coveting?

That I’m keeping to myself.

You’re Fort Knox!

Well, no! It’s more about not spoiling anything for the audience! If I gave you a name and I didn’t get them, then everyone would be disappointed.

Okay, tell me: are you Frank Underwood?

[Laughs] No! God, I hope not! I haven’t buried that many bodies,… yet.

How many seasons do we have left of House of Cards?

We’re tackling one season at a time right now. I do have a notion of how the series will end but I’m not getting into a numbers game when it comes to seasons.

Have you gotten used to the “pioneer” label given House of Cards breakthrough from a Netflix series to a bonafide Emmy-nominated phenom?

Pioneers? I don’t think we view ourselves as pioneers. [Producer] David Fincher, myself and the whole House of Cards team found ourselves in the right place at the right time just when Netflix was getting into original programming, and we were developing House. We didn’t intend to be pioneers or stream House on the Internet but, being neophytes to TV, we thought, “Why not?” We got in there and we’re glad we did it. Now people call us pioneers, but it was just us experimenting with something new and not knowing if it would work.

And it worked! What are you working on next?

House of Cards takes up the bulk of my time. I have a couple of things that I’m working away on, but when it gets closer to talking about them, I will.

Playing it close to the vest again! The Underwoods would be proud.