Taking on the role of ruthless congressman Frank Underwood in new critically acclaimed US drama House Of Cards, Kevin Spacey plays the conniving politician to a T in the hit series. Written by Beau Willimon (his play Farragut North was adapted into The Ides Of March), the series is based on a novel by Michael Dobbs and has been adapted from a BBC mini series of the same name. It tells the story of a begrudged congressman who seeks revenge on his colleagues following a power play. Here, Spacey chats about the series and why it works.
How did you get involved with the project?
David Fincher and I have worked together a number of times in the past. I acted for him in Seven, and then I co-produced The Social Network. The series – in both the original British version and now our version – uses Shakespeare’s direct address from Richard III, where the main character speaks directly to the audience. Beau Willimon and I think this is a really rich and effective way to bring an audience even closer to the material. It’s quite fun and different, the direct address and I’ve only seen it done a few times – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, being my favourite.
I’ve known Robin for 20 years. We worked together in a film called Hurly Burly. We trust each other and we’re friends, so that has been really comfortable and easy. It’s a great feeling to know that I can just look across the room and have a real sense of what Robin is thinking and she can do the same with me.
Have you found yourself drawn to American politics more after playing on such a politically driven show?
When we were shooting we were in an election cycle and I would go home and turn on the TV and watch the latest political news and think: Well, our storylines aren’t that crazy. One of the reasons I think that Francis is such an interesting character to play is because he gets things done – he might well be diabolical – but he’s effective. We’ve just come out of a congress that is the least productive congress in the history of the United States. They passed fewer bills than any congress ever. People sometimes ask me if I would ever consider running for a political position and the answer is no. Because I actually like to get things done. And I just think that being in politics would be incredibly frustrating.
Did you do anything to prepare for the role?
I was very privileged to sit down with Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican majority whip in the House of Representatives. He let me tag along to some meetings and it was very interesting to see what it was actually like to corral 218 congressmen every day, with many of them being freshman congressmen.
House Of Cards is available to download from iTunes, www.apple.com/itunes from Dhs13 per episode.