Beau Willimon compares Frank Underwood’s darkest moments to the decisions made by actual lawmakers.
By Tierney Sneed May 1,, 2014
Politicians – including President Barack Obama – like to distance themselves from the nightmare-ish view of Washington the hit Netflix show “House of Cards” presents. But according to its creator and showrunnner Beau Willimon, real-life lawmakers have more in common with the show’s Machiavellian protagonist Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) than they would probably like to admit.
[Warning, spoilers from Season 1 ahead.]
“Every politician who gets to the highest offices of power is a murderer,” Willimon says, when asked about a pivotal “House of Cards” Season 1 scene in which Frank murders the promising but troubled congressman Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) and stages it as a suicide. See the clip provided exclusively to U.S. News below
“They have to be willing to be a murderer,” Willimon continues. “Whether it’s killing someone in a garage or whether it’s sending 100,000 troops off to war, you’re making decisions that are life or death, and the results of those decisions is that some people may die.”
Willimon appears on Friday’s episode of “The Writers Room” – a Sundance Channel show in which the creators of popular TV shows are interviewed about their process. He is joined by “House of Cards” co-star Molly Parker (who plays possible war criminal Jacqueline Sharp), writer and story editor Laura Eason, co-executive producer John Mankiewicz, and Matt Bai, of Yahoo News, who serves as a political consultant for the show.
Before making the jump to Hollywood, Willimon worked on a number of political campaigns, including Sen. Chuck Schumer’s 1998 campaign and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senatorial run in 2000. He then penned the play “Farragut North” and its movie adaptation “Ides of March.” Willimon has told U.S. News he believes both “Ides” and “House of Cards” are realistic to the ways of Washington.
Indeed, a scene in Season 2 that comes off as crazy for entirely different reasons – Frank stages a sequence of legislative jujitsu that ends with lawmakers being carried into the Capitol in handcuffs – was not just grounded in actual congressional procedures, but based on real events.