Will 'House of Cards' Surprise Return Lead to Frank's Downfall? "It Gives Hope," Star Says

"Honestly, I said to my agent, 'Does Beau [Willimon] know?' Boris McGiver tells THR about getting the call to reprise his role as journalist Tom Hammerschmidt in season four.
Courtesy of Netflix

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from House of Cards' fourth season.]

House of Cards' antihero Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has racked up a long list of victims over three seasons without being stopped. Rest in peace to those deceased by the hands of Underwood: Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), and now, in season four, Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus). Don't forget the dog's life he ended in the series premiere. Ruthless.

There are also those who may not be six feet under, but have still been burned by the fictitious president: Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), and Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali), to name a few. It seemed as though Frank and his first lady-turned-Vice President Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) were unstoppable. But then, after Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) came back onto the scene after Goodwin's death, the maniacal married couple no longer seemed untouchable. Hammerschmidt was first introduced to fans as Zoe's boss in season one, when he was publicly humiliated by her and axed from the Washington Herald after he called her a c—. Now he's back, and the preacher of presenting the facts before jumping into a story found the facts in season four. McGiver opens up to The Hollywood Reporter about his surprising return to the series, his character's complex arc throughout, and his hope for "tension" to come in season five.

Hammerschmidt was missing from season three. What was your reaction getting the call to come back and have this big arc in season four?

Honestly, I said to my agent, "Does Beau [Willimon] know?" Because I was like, "What?" I know Beau and he was like, "Thanks for doing this, but I can't promise you anything. It's probably not going to happen." I said "That's fine, that's fine, cool." So a year and a half later, I got the call and I was like, "Really?!" But totally happy and surprised.

Hammerchmidt's story on Underwood is about his corruption of the presidency. He doesn't really expose the murders he was involved in. Is that something fans could see unravel in season five?

Judging by the last episode of season four and my last season with Underwood, I think that nothing has been placed. It's like a pretty good dog with a bone, pretty good digging and something along those lines might come up. That would be really cool to see. I'm not a writer, I just do what they tell me.

The scene with Frank and Hammerschmidt in the Roosevelt Room was intense. What were the dynamics like filming that scene?

First of all, [Kevin]'s just great to work with because he's such a great actor and he's really personable and it's all about the work with him. Granted, he's my executive producer and boss, but on set and when we did read-throughs, table reads, it was always actor first. When you're with him in the room it's actor, actor; it's not about being with your boss. And I loved that. As an actor myself, I don't waste time. There's too much money involved; there's too much pressure. I don't mind jokes and stuff like that and having fun, but I'm really about the work. So that particular scene I just loved working with Kevin because it is truly just about the work. And when you're both there and you've got a laser focus on each other, it just becomes exciting.

Now Hammerschmidt and Janine are the last two reporters standing, from the originals. What was it like working with Constance Zimmer again? Her scene was brief, but when did you find out she'd be back?

I found out about a month before when I got the script. It was absolutely kept under wraps. And even after we wrapped I was told by Netflix to really not talk to anybody about it. We don't talk to anybody anyway, but specifically they said, "Please, don't talk to anybody about it, because yours is a comeback surprise that we don't want to give away." Which I totally got. But working with Constance, she's so much fun to work with. She's such a lovely, bubbly, bright light of a human being. So that part of it was great. We also got along really well. We clicked when we first met. It's very easy to read each other's acting when we're together. It was all too brief, but I think it's a pretty powerful scene.

What do you make of Hammerschmidt's story throughout the entire series? In the first season, he was fired and publicly humiliated by Zoe Barnes and now he's kind of saving the day as the one person taking down Underwood.

Honestly, I think [it's] true gumshoe journalism, true vetted journalism, and I think that's what Hammerschmidt stands for. That's what Beau, David [Fincher] and Kevin's idea was for Hammerschmidt to be — this last vestige of someone who actually will say, "I'm not going to say anything till I hear some facts. Let me see some facts. Let me read some facts. Let me vet the facts. Let me double-vet the facts. Then we'll talk." And to see that arc happen is really great because it gives hope toward bringing back vetted journalism. I think that would be what the arc of Hammerschmidt. I believe that's what the writing was trying to say.

Fans haven't witnessed too much backlash from his story yet because it happened in the very last episode. Is that something that will be explored in season five?

I hope so. If Hammerschmidt becomes a pea in the prince and princess' bed that becomes a boulder and begins to take them down, wouldn't it be wonderful if we have these two actually doing some big work as politicians — raising the minimum wage, actually helping people — and now suddenly they're caught in the crosshairs of an investigation? So, you're going to take down some of the top politicians the country has ever had? That kind of thing. That's where I'd like to see it. I would hope the investigation continues and it gets really raucous, it gets really tense. I could see all kinds of stuff happening to Hammerschmidt because in one of the scenes with the newspaper owner where she tells him, "Be careful" because she's lost two [staffers] already. And he says, "Don't worry I'll be fine once this comes out." But will he really be fine?

Now that it's out, he should be protected.

One would hope! (Laughs.) Subway trains, subway trains, they keep coming by!

Will you be returning for season five?

Listen, your question to God's ears. I haven't heard anything. I'm sure they're planning what they're planning now. I think I find out sometime in April.

At the end of this season Frank instills fear by announcing an all-out war. How do you see that playing out? Is that pushing it too far on the show?

I don't know, I've been thinking about that myself. It's interesting because maybe creating fear so they can win the election, it's much like this implementing of fear by Trump, just raising up people's fears, fears, fears. They're saying, "I hate black people too, I hate immigrants." I live in a spot in upstate New York where it's just rampant. They just come out of the woodwork. So it's very interesting to see what fear does. Maybe that will be the only way for them to [win]. If it's an all-out war, what kind of war is it?

Your character exposed the skeletons of Underwood. In the current election do you see the possibility of journalists uncovering something shocking about the current candidates?

I think yes. There's a problem with that depending on whose network you air it on. So many of our networks are owned by right-wing owners and if it isn't part of their politics, it won't be heard or uncovered. What's interesting about the Underwoods in the fictional world is they echo a lot of the dastardly ways in which truth can be convoluted and obfuscated. I guess it's possible. I don't think it's as possible as Hammerschmidt did it in the fake world. Gosh, I would love it if that were more true. Certainly on NPR, it seems to be the only vestige left of actual attempts of reporting.

Do you think there are parallels to the current candidates and the characters on the show?

Yeah, absolutely! You have the gun rights stuff, you have the husband and wife with Clinton and Mrs. Clinton. There's a lot of parallels. … [Beau] just takes the stories right from life and goes, "This isn't that crazy." This is all stuff that he reaches. For instance, [for] Underwood's hallucinations, he talked to quite a few doctors and they said, "Those hallucinations are as real as anything you've ever experienced in your life. When pneumonia starts to do that to your brain, you cannot tell the difference." That's Beau's type of writing.

Who in the series do you wish you filmed more with?

Robin Wright, absolutely. I'm really fascinated by how simple she can be on the screen. Truly, simple and do so much. I've been directed by her, but I haven't had any scenes with her yet.

What was the dynamic like with Robin directing you?

She's a younger director, but just like a really great, kind person. … She didn't come on set with this massive ego. She would stop and go to the crew, "Is that right?" And they're like, "Yeah, yeah." She would always check in to see if what she's doing is right. And that to me is the mark of a real student, an amazing student. So the element of anything just leaves the room when the director at the helm says, "Um, did I do that right?" It's just great. That's what's great about working with her, I must say. She has great ideas, and you just go with them. The dialogue is great.

Do you watch the series once it comes out? Do you binge-watch? What do you think is the best way to watch a show like this?

This show in particular, I don't like binge-watching it because there's so much in there. I'll do at most two a day, truth be told, three a day. But it's just a little bit too much at once. I love that people binge-watch it because it really reads like a beautiful novel: It's a great story and it's told really well. I personally, like to take a little bit more time. You know what's amazing? I must tell you, as an actor reading the scripts, when they come out and then seeing them on the screen is unlike other shows I've been involved in. They come out almost exactly like what I picture when I read these scenes. It's fascinating. It jumps off the page and reads so easily off the page.

Were you happy to see the Underwoods finally be stopped? Do you want to see more Hammerschmidt in season five? Voice your thoughts below in the comments section and stay tuned for The Live Feed for more House of Cards coverage.

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