Behind The Scenes At House Of Cards – In An Election Year
“I suspect when we come back we'll be in the middle of a presidential election”, Kevin Spacey told us back in November. The cameras were still rolling back then on Season Four of House of Cards as a group of HFPA journalists visited the usually closed set. The show that put Netflix on the map as a purveyor of scripted entertainment is produced in a nondescript industrial park off I-95, halfway between Baltimore and DC. You’d never know it from the outside, but here several low-slung buildings have been converted, their interiors transformed into amazingly detailed 1:1 replicas of the White House locations where a lot of the action takes place. Which brings us back to those elections…and, really, can there be a greater pleasure than to switch between binging HOC and checking out the coverage of one of the zaniest actual elections in memory?
That context has both underlined the show’s meta quality and the uncanny ability of creator and showrunner Beau Willimon in anticipating some of the developments in politics and current events. “We don't write or do what we do in terms of our storylines because of something that might be happening in the real world” Golden Globe-winner Kevin Spacey aka Frank Underwood, told us when we spoke to him in the replica of the White House’s press room, “What has been kind of bizarre and a little bit strange for us is that in every single season we've had the experience where we have come up with a storyline (…) and then something very similar to what we just did happens in the real world and Beau and I are like they're going to think we stole this from the headlines (…) but it's actually been the other way around and it's happened every single season”
In fact, if there’s anything to glean from how season four is playing out alongside a real life presidential primary, it has to be that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction. And our sense of déjà vu was only heightened by the tour of the HOC studios and of show production designer Steve Arnold’s amazing sets which Beau Willimon personally gave us.
Before we left we had to ask Spacey one last question: having lived in Frank Underwood’s utterly cynical political world for four years, hasn’t his own worldview been affected? “No, I think that politics can be a lot of things. I mean, yes, it can be nasty and yes, it can be difficult and yes, campaigns can be awfully ugly but actually when you get down to it and you particularly (with) the best of our politicians, when you see what happens when people actually start working together and when they can resolve things and where they're not being driven by partisanship or party lines but ideas and what will actually help, it's incredibly exciting. I've always been an optimist, yeah, and I love doing the complexity and the intrigue and – and playing all the Machiavellian aspects of this particular show but it has in no way dampened my enthusiasm about how good I think politics can be and how valuable I think public service is. Never done it.”
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