“House of Cards” showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese addressed the elephant in the room at Monday night’s premiere of the sixth and final season of their Netflix political drama: former star Kevin Spacey’s absence.

Pugliese said the series doesn’t ignore Frank Underwood’s existence.

“Their response was to get to work and respond by telling the best story possible,” he said of the cast and crew. “But Francis Underwood, in that sense, his presence is still felt in the season. It would be irresponsible to deny that that character ever existed.”

Gibson said the “House of Cards” team was eager to continue the story.

“We have an amazing crew, an amazing team, many of whom had worked together for so many years, and everybody really felt very strongly about finishing the story with integrity and intention, and properly,” Gibson said. “We didn’t want to deny Claire her turn, and everybody felt very committed to finishing the story.”