Kevin Spacey on Washington: ‘Our Story Lines Are Not That Crazy’

Feb 16, 2014 12:57pm

Today on ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos spoke one-on-one with actor Kevin Spacey in his first interview since Spacey’s political drama “House of Cards” debuted its second season on Netflix Friday.

The Washington-insider thriller has had viewers glued to their screens this weekend. Still, Spacey teased, some days the Washington portrayed in the show is not much different than the real Washington.

“We can get done shooting on a day and I’ll come home and turn on the news, and I’ll think our story lines are not that crazy,” said Spacey, whose character Rep. Frank Underwood schemed his way through the show’s first season.

The show offers an exceptionally dark and twisted portrayal of Washington and its leaders. There’s murder. There’s scandal. There’s lying and back-stabbing. But that hasn’t stopped President Obama from becoming a fan.

A tweet from the president’s Twitter account, an account run by Obama For America staffers, sent out late Thursday night said: ”Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please.” And in December at a meeting with technology CEOs, Obama joked that he wished Washington was more like ”House of Cards.” “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient… It’s true. I was looking at Kevin Spacey and I was thinking this guy’s getting a lot done.”

Spacey told Stephanopoulos he understood why the president might be envious, saying the efficiency in his Congress serves as a clear reminder that the show is fiction.

“I thought over the last year it must be really interesting for — not just an American public but people around the world — to view a very effective Congress that gets things done. So I can imagine [President Obama] must feel like, ‘Gosh, I wish we could move that quickly,’” Spacey said.

In order to prepare for his role as House majority whip, Spacey spent time shadowing real-life House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., learning firsthand the challenge of getting members of Congress in line on legislation.

“There are so many new members of Congress who were sort of brought in, in the Tea Party and we’re going to fight against Washington and we’re not going to do it the usual way, that it’s very difficult to harangue 218 Congressman to vote a particular way you want them to vote,” Spacey said.

“I don’t envy him the position.  It’s not easy,” Spacey added on McCarthy’s real-life role. “But it was very for me fascinating to go to a couple of whip meetings and actually see what the agenda is, what they’re going to put out there, how they do it.”

The lesson learned? Maybe ruthlessness is necessary.

“Lyndon [B.] Johnson is a character that my character in ‘House of Cards’ admires. During his lifetime and certainly during his presidency he took an enormous amount of criticism, certainly for his policies in Vietnam. But we also have to look at the fact that he passed three civil rights bills in a very short presidency.” Spacey said.

“Or even Abraham Lincoln,” Spacey added. “You look at the film “Lincoln,” which showed him as a very effective politician willing to give positions to various people in order to get votes for something he thought was more important. And today that would probably be a scandal.”

For Spacey, “House of Cards” is good for a night of binge watching, as well as a reminder that the country has a history of politicians who took extreme steps to pass legislation.

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