You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmys: ‘House of Cards’ Reinvents Foundation

Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning.

Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative and successful playwright, and producer-director David Fincher, among others, had to be quick studies on the medium. Moreover, they were re-imagining a BBC miniseries of the same name that had a fiercely loyal following. Finally, they were putting together a dramatic series for a company, Netflix, with virtually no background in episodic television.

Willimon says they addressed issues (especially the lack of TV know-how) with “hard work,” but the “Cards” brain trust also succeeded with a thoughtful approach to the project.

First up was how to handle the beloved 1990 BBC version. The creators of the U.S. edition immediately recognized that the British effort represented a different time and place and concentrated intently on avoiding a straight adaptation. Instead of a post-Margaret Thatcher Britain, the focus was on making it current to the world of American politics.

Still, Willimon knew where he should cherry-pick from the original. He retained a key dramatic device: having the show’s main character speak straight to camera.

“It allows for a direct communication with the audience that creates intimacy and makes the audience complicit,” Willimon says. “On paper you might not condone the actions, but as a voyeur you become complicit.”

Even after the show’s structure fell into place, the plot was still fluid once production began. In early shooting, Willimon was enthralled by the interaction between actors Kevin Spacey (Underwood) and Corey Stoll, who plays doomed Congressman Peter Russo, and wanted more of it. The story arc originally didn’t have Russo running for Pennsylvania governor. Rather, the plan was to put another character on the campaign trail. But Willimon reworked scripts on the fly in order to get Spacey and Stoll’s electric chemistry into more scenes.

As everything came together, the one big question remaining was how to release the show. Working on Netflix’s digital streaming platform, the “Cards” crew was offered a variety of distribution choices — all at once, weekly or in batches.

Willimon says they opted for providing all 13 episodes simultaneously because it left viewers with the most options. With more viewers becoming addicted to binge watching, it was a savvy choice that would have certainly made tactician supreme Frank Underwood proud.

More TV

  • Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes -

    'Walking Dead' Star Chandler Riggs Breaks Down Emotional Midseason Premiere (SPOILERS)

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • THE BACHELOR - ÒThe Bachelor: The

    'The Bachelor' Recap: 6 Takeaways from 'The Women Tell All'

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • ATLANTA -- "Alligator Man" -- Season

    Our Staff Picks: TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 26, 2018

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • Fireworks light up the sky during

    TV Ratings: Winter Olympics Hit Back-to-Back Lows in Final Days

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • Cinema Audio Society 2018 Winners: 'Dunkirk,'

    'Dunkirk,' 'Game of Thrones' Win Cinema Audio Society Awards for Sound Mixing

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • 'Seven Seconds' TV show premiere

    Regina King Talks Heaviness of Role in 'Seven Seconds'

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

  • John Oliver Lawsuit Dismissed: 'Last Week

    John Oliver Victorious: Coal CEO's Defamation Suit Dismissed

    Like the series’ lead character Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” creative team had to navigate some tricky hurdles en route to nine Emmy nominations in its first season. While none of them required Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming, they did necessitate some serious cunning. Lacking extensive TV experience, showrunner Beau Willimon, an adroit former political operative […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content