If you’re a “House of Cards” fan, there’s a good chance you binged Season 3 the first weekend it debuted. That, or you’re saving the finale, because you can’t bear the thought of going another year without a new episode. Whatever the case may be, there’s little argument that the series — adapted from a BBC miniseries — is one of the most talked about shows produced today. Vice recently sat down with the Netflix series’ showrunner, Beau Willimon, to discuss his multiple-award winning series, his career leading up to and outside of “House of Cards,” and what it’s like working for the streaming service.
And here, I’ll pause to warn you, in no uncertain terms, the video below CONTAINS SPOILERS. Though there are clips from the show in the preceding minutes, more major Season 3 spoilers begin to creep in at around 19:51. Skip ahead to 27:07 to avoid them altogether. Now, onto the interview (sans spoilers)…
Right out the gate, Willimon explains that he — and fellow producers David Fincher (who actually convinced Willimon to do the series), Eric Roth, and Joshua Donen — spent a year working on the script, which they anticipated would land at Showtime, HBO, AMC, or some such network. They were completely unaware that Netflix was on the hunt for original programming, and the streaming giant wound up being the ideal place for the show. Willimon and his team were unwilling to audition their series and wanted a full season commitment from whichever network picked it up. Netflix did them one better — it offered the producers two seasons, which was just about unheard of at the time.
For those unacquainted with Willimon’s trajectory — as the interview indicates most people are — way before partnering with Fincher, or ever thinking about “House of Cards,” the showrunner was firstly a painter. He actually turned to playwriting as a way to overcome his fears of artistic failure and to force creative discipline. He found the experience to be one of the most artistically honest he’d ever had up to that point, and worked to become a better writer.
One particularly entertaining tidbit from the interview, which doesn’t give away any plot secrets, has to do with Pussy Riot’s cameo in the third episode of the latest season. Though Willimon has “a strict non-cameo rule” for himself and feels “it’s the worst form of narcissism one can exhibit,” he actually appears very briefly — topless, no less — in the Pussy Riot music video that the episode’s end credits play over. Don’t believe it? I’d tell you to go back and see if you can find him, but he donned a ski mask before filming to maintain his anonymity.
Oh, and if you’re curious who Willimon shares his Netflix password with? The answer is a definitive “no one.” “I don’t want someone else’s preferences getting all muddled up with mine,” he explains. (Sagacious man.)
Watch the full video below to hear Willimon’s thoughts on overcoming addiction, how he met Fincher, his initial reluctance to work on “House of Cards,” Frank Underwood’s “impotence” now that he’s in office, Robin Wright’s desire for fewer lines than are typically scripted for her, the writing process, and much more.