The creator and showrunner of the first four seasons of “House of Cards” is exiting the series he helped build into one of television’s most heralded dramas, but that doesn’t mean the show will end. Netflix has picked up Season 5 of the critically-acclaimed political thriller from production company Media Rights Capital. It just won’t have Willimon’s hand to guide the new edition.
“Prior to its fourth season premiere, Netflix and Media Rights Capital are thrilled to announce that ‘House of Cards’ will return for a fifth season in 2017,” Netflix representatives said in a statement. “Concurrent with the renewal, creator and showrunner Beau Willimon is departing the critically acclaimed series. Netflix and MRC owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Beau Willimon for his strong narrative vision for ‘House of Cards’ over the show’s first four seasons. As an Academy Award-nominated writer, he made his first foray into television and built a riveting and critically acclaimed series, establishing his place in TV history. The producers, cast and crew join us in wishing Beau the best in his next creative adventure.”
“I’m grateful to Netflix and MRC, my fellow executive producers, our two incandescent stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, our talented writers, as well as the incredible cast and crew with whom I’ve had the privilege to work,” Willimon said in a separate statement. “After five years and four seasons, it’s time for me to move on to new endeavors, but I’m supremely proud of what we’ve built together, wish the show much continued success, and leave it in the hands of a very capable team.”
Neither statement makes clear why Willimon is “departing” the series, nor do we know whose decision it was for him to do so. Complications in production and cost have faced “House of Cards” in recent years, and Season 3 was the first of the series to face significant critical backlash. With that in mind, Willimon did say his motivation for leaving was to “move on to new endeavors,” and he does have quite a few in the works. He may want to get back to making movies or focus on his many upcoming productions, including the HBO miniseries “Jack Johnson.” Sources at The Hollywood Reporter claim Willimon, who established himself as a playwright back in the early aughts, is in the middle of writing a new original play, as well.
No replacement for Willimon was announced, but Netflix has had some experience with swapping out showrunners of late. Original series “Narcos” and “Lemony Snicket” have both seen their showrunners depart for undisclosed reasons, with the drug drama actually employing its third showrunner in just two seasons (only one of which has been released).
Interesting (if unrelated) is how the Netflix drama continues to mirror its partner in politics, “Veep.” The HBO comedy also lost its creator and showrunner, Armando Iannucci, after four seasons. Both series have earned accolades from critics and awards circles alike, even if they never compete directly against one another. (“House of Cards” is submitted as a drama while “Veep” competes in the comedy categories.)
Willimon helped turn the Netflix originals brand into the powerhouse it is today with “House of Cards'” early success. The series was an instant critical and cultural success story, earning extra attention because of big names like Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher, but raking in awards and landing on many Top 10 lists thanks to its longstanding overall quality, largely attributable to Willimon. The series co-starring Robin Wright and Michael Kelly has won two Golden Globes and six Primetime Emmy Awards.
“House of Cards” Season 4 premieres March 4 in its entirety on Netflix.