House Of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon had written the play Farragut North, which became the 2011 George Clooney film The Ides Of March, but Willimon had, he says, “never worked on a TV show before.” So it’s perhaps all the more fun that House Of Cards has reaped awards and nominations at every turn since its 2013 incarnation. Cards was both the first Netflix original show and the first to release an entire season at once, pioneering TV binge-watching–a boon to Willimon, who says, “we were able to take a novelistic approach to filmmaking, which you could call television, but we really saw as a long movie, I guess, with more of a resemblance to a novel than anything else.”
Netflix has “been the perfect vehicle for me thus far,” Willimon says. “I have nothing to compare it to, but it’s difficult for me to imagine a partnership better than the one we have with Netflix. They placed a huge amount of faith in us as the flagship for their original content initiatives, gave us the resources to do what we needed to do, and believed in our vision for the show. And I’ve always respected that. You know, most of us, while working on House Of Cards, when we first started out, really had little or no experience in television at all. Robin and Kevin had both done a little bit of work in TV, but not extensively. So, we had the bliss of ignorance. We didn’t necessarily know what it meant to make a television show, we just knew that we wanted to tell everybody the story and that we had 26 hours, initially, to do it.”
Starting out with the confidence he had a whole season was key, Willimon says, saying, “What you get with Netflix is not only this commitment to tell a story over a long period of time, without fear that, after three episodes, you might get cancelled or something like that, but you also have partners who realize that these episodes function as parts of a whole, that we’re trying to tell a big story, and they’re willing to get behind that story for the long haul, as opposed to just sort of looking at each hour as it comes. That’s why we don’t see them as episodes. We see them as parts of a whole.”
Among noms and wins for cast and crew, the show has been nominated in the Outstanding Drama Series category every year since its start. Does all the award attention pile on the pressure for Willimon to outdo himself? “The goal for us isn’t necessarily to get nominations or awards,” Willimon says. “The goal is to always improve, to dig deeper into our story, to expand our world, and to always reach for a higher bar. The Emmy nominations and awards are wonderful. They’re thrilling. It’s always validating when your peers give you a pat on the back, and embrace the work you’re doing, but one never presumes that they will. You feel like you have to earn it every year. So, it’s always a tremendous feeling, it has been, each year, when we’ve been privileged enough to be nominated in a number of categories, but we never take it for granted, and we never take our audience for granted. Each year, we’re striving to outdo the year before.”
Willimon is resolutely tight-lipped about Season 4–including reports that Neve Campbell will join as a series regular–but he does admit, “we have a pretty good idea of how Season 4 is ending.”
So it seems fans will have to wait for Season 4 spoilers–including the Obamas. “The only reason I know that they watch,” WIllimon says, “is because the President has tweeted about the show, and folks we’ve spoken to in the Obama Administration have said that they watch. It’s incredibly flattering to think that the President of the United States, and the First Lady, would take any of their time out of an extremely busy schedule to watch anything we’ve made. It verges on the surreal. It’s kind of hard to process. I’m thrilled that they remain interested in what we do, and hope that they remain fans.”
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