WASHINGTON – A star-studded new political drama debuts Friday, but it won’t be found on any TV channel.
“House of Cards” is the first original series ever on Netflix.
The series from director David Fincher and playwright and screenwriter Beau Willimon is based on a BBC miniseries and stars Kevin Spacey as a member of Congress, Robin Wright as his wife and other well-known stars, including Kata Mara and Constance Zimmer.
The series premiered in D.C. Tuesday night at the Newseum, and WTOP caught up with the actors and creators on the red carpet.
Spacey plays House Majority Whip Francis Underwood, and he researched his role in Washington with real-life Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
“He was incredibly generous; A.) with his time, B.) with helping me understand what it might be like to try to corral 218 individuals to vote in a particular way. Particularly because a lot of the freshmen congressmen that came in rode in on the notion that we’re not Washington and we’re going to fight the system,” said Spacey.
Spacey also got help from Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
“They answered all my questions, they were very forthright, and they let me sort of tag along and watch how it works,” said Spacey.
Robin Wright plays the congressman’s wife, Claire Underwood. She says she didn’t spend time with any congressional spouses ahead of her role, but she did re-read some Shakespeare.
“She is…the Lady Macbeth to his Richard III,” Wright said of her character.
“They’re both leaders, and the ends justify the means. They will do whatever it takes to get ahead, and have each other’s back, and they have a mutual respect for one another as husband and wife and man and woman. They’re a team,” says Wright.
Writer and Executive Producer Beau Willimon is highly involved in politics.
“My campaign experience goes back to 1998. I worked on Chuck Schumer’s first Senate campaign, then I worked on Hillary’s (Clinton) 2000 Senate campaign, Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential (campaign) and then eventually (Howard) Dean’s ’04 bid,” said Willimon.
“I met a lot of great people, people who have gone on to do amazing things in politics. And I also saw the darker side. The land of governance is paved in streets of gray, not black and white and so we’re trying to take that complex approach to it,” Willimon says.
The entire 13-episode first season of “House of Cards” will be available to Netflix members Feb. 1.
Watch the trailer for “House of Cards”:
“More and more people are watching entire seasons of shows over a weekend. That’s the trend. This is being driven by what the audience wants, not by us necessarily being revolutionaries. We’re responding to the market,” said Willimon.
“We approached it very much … this first season as a 13-hour movie that just had an expansive narrative to it. And we weren’t concerned so much about cliffhangers and the next episode because as you know Netflix is releasing all 13 at one time,” says James Foley, who directed three episodes.
“What’s great is that I read a bunch of stuff in the trade papers in L.A. today that are waking up and saying, ‘Whoa, what is this?’ This could disrupt broadcast television if it can be an on-demand thing for all 13 episodes that’s crazy and different,” Foley says.
Wright says TV as people know it is changing.
“Everything’s going to become live stream eventually. It’s the new medium, and it’s the trend. We’re not going to be the last that does this format.”
“I don’t know how many people you talk to and say ‘What did you do over the weekend?’ and it’s like ‘Oh, I stayed home and watched three seasons of Breaking Bad.’ So what that tells us is two things.
“A.) the notion that the American viewing public has no attention span is completely wrong because people are gobbling up these long, complicated plot stories … and secondly it seems that this is an opportunity, the way in which this is being released, for the film and television industry to learn the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn. Which is: give the audience what they want, when they want it at a reasonable price, in the form they want it in, and they’ll buy it, they won’t steal it,” Spacey says.
Still, Spacey admits the project is a gamble.
“We don’t know yet whether we’re going to be the big thud heard around the world, or whether we’re actually going to have some sort of impact on how this kind of viewership happens, but it does seem it’s the direction it’s heading in. So, I’m always happy to be involved in something early on. It’s pretty cool.”