'House of Cards' Star Weighs in on Meechum's "Intense" Loyalty to Frank

Nathan Darrow opens up to THR about his character's fate: "In Meechum, that's the end he wants. He wants to give himself."
Courtesy of Netflix

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

In the world of tight-lipped, real-life secret-service agents, no one really knows what they're truly thinking. Luckily for House of Cards fans, show creator Beau Willimon pulled the curtain back on that hidden side of politics by creating Edward Meechum (Nathan Darrow), protector of fictitious president Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey).

The character has served Frank and first lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) both professionally and personally. While some characters on the show may think they know the couple's secrets, Meechum may be the only one who really does. From a threesome with the pair to taking a bullet for the president, Meechum has had an undeniable attachment to the Underwoods.

In the wake of his eventful fourth season, Darrow opens up to The Hollywood Reporter about the root of Meechum's loyalty, Frank's "affection" for Meechum and what the scenario would be like for the silent secret-service agent back to the screen.  

Audiences have known Meechum to be rather serious, but in this season, we saw him drink and laugh a bit with Frank. How was it expanding his character?

It's nice whenever he's relaxed. There were a few moments before this season, but yeah, he's a serious fellow. I think what the writers did, which was really smart -- without having some kind of real, heavy-handed reveal of something about him -- they still allowed the character to light up a bit before he fell, which I thought was really done by them.

Seth was really gung-ho about blaming Meechum for the leaked photos. Do you think for a second Frank ever believed him?

That's a good question. It's really tough when ... it's kind of like we reap what we sow. Frank himself is so duplicitous that it's like, the poison of being duplicitous is ... when your back's against the wall you can start to believe that your closest confidante is out to get you. The play Richard III has a lot of these elements, just like what happens to this guy at the end. But I remember doing it and I remember what was going on for Frank, it's almost like he's so desperate that he has to entertain it as a possibility. That's what's so interesting about it. There's something in Frank's heart that's not totally dead, because he has this affection for Meechum where he can believe him.

Why has Meechum been so loyal to Frank?

It has to do mostly with his combat experience. If you remember from the first scene, I tell Claire I was in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan, and if you know anything about that region and what went on there, the operation there — it was a very hot place. If you served there, you were seriously under fire, and you were in a circumstance where you completely, completely relied on those you were serving with, and they relied on you. I feel like Meechum exits that situation, and that's what he misses. Of course you come back and you survive and that's wonderful, and you're not in that terrible situation, but what you're missing is a level of loyalty and intense connection with other people that you're just not going to find as we drive around in our big cars and go to Target on the weekend and just live our lives as we live them here. And so I feel he was trying to attach himself to a powerful man, another powerful man with whom he could have that kind of "You got my life, I got your life" kind of thing.

Did Frank have Meechum's life? Do you think it was a mutual loyalty?

I think from Meechum's perspective, absolutely. He had it as much as anyone. He responded to who Meechum was and was willing to kind of promote him and take him into his protection in a way. But if push came to shove, I don't know. 

Meechum took a bullet for him. 

It's his job; that's what he's there to do. And that's what he's been wanting to do. The psychology is interesting. I'm sure he left people in Afghanistan in body bags. People that he served with, so that probably goes through your mind, like, "No, that person should be me. That person should be alive." In Meechum, that's the end he wants. He wants to give himself. 

Obviously he cares for Frank. Do you think he was in love with him?

Well, you know, that's a big word ... I think he had a wish to be close with Frank and also with Claire that was kind of singular and was involved all of him. It involved his heart, but also his body. I don't know what you call that. It wasn't, like, mature love or romantic love.

Stamper cares for Frank. Claire does. Do you think someone other than Meechum would have taken a bullet for him?

Wow, yeah ... that's a very tough question. You would have to ask those fictional characters. (Laughs) It's hard to say. In the particular situation, mind you, I don't think that anyone other than a secret-service agent probably would do what Meechum did, because Meechum has the training. He had the kind of muscle reaction and that was in him always to be ready to do that, whereas any person wouldn't necessarily ... The only other image I can think of is like a mother and their child. A mother would have some kind of instinctual ... be able to immediately go to protect, but I think anyone else would just be shocked and confused about how that whole thing went down. 

Were you upset he was killed off?

It's tough to leave something you've been involved in. There's the practical thing of being an actor where the job ends, but we're always doing that. Jobs are always ending, and you're going on to something else. But mostly I thought that it was the right way to complete his story.

How did you find out about your character's fate?

Beau gave me a call maybe a few weeks before we were going to get back together and work on the fourth season, and he told me how the story was going to be. I just dropped to my knees and begged him, "Please, please, no, no, no, no, no, no no." (Laughs) No, I took it in, and thank God it's make-believe. 

This season is your last, and it's also Beau's. What was it like working with him throughout?

Beau's very talented, intelligent and a sensitive storyteller. I can't wait to see what he's up to next. 

How do you think new showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese will continue the series?

They all seem to be like they were working as a good organ in that the scripts weren't always the same, but they were all in the lane of what we were doing. I expect it to continue to be of really good quality, surprising and satisfying. 

Meechum's scenes are mostly with Frank and Claire. During your time on the show, was there anyone you wish you filmed more with?

Yeah, I liked where there was a little bit of a dynamic with Yates, because Yates in season three was really moving into the position I wanted to be in. I guess they kind of had that in there though, they had our little stuff. 

Looking back from your time on the show, what was your favorite part?

I really liked working with Robin when she was also directing. That was really fun, because she's really good at it, and because she knows what goes into the job she's sort of especially dedicated and really keen with actors. I would say that's really up there. 

You do or don't know what happens the rest of the season? I don't want to spoil it for you...

No, no, you'd be spoiling it for me! I'm just a civilian, man, I don't know what happens. Who else dies? There are more deaths, right?

Say the show brought Meechum back as a ghost or in some other capacity. What would the ideal situation be for him to return?

We'd fast-forward to 10, 12 years, Frank is out of office and they're dedicating his library in Gaffney ... no, it wouldn't be in Gaffney, but somewhere down there, and Meechum is pushing his wheelchair. Am I literally a ghost? I haven't come back to life? Well, if I come back to life and it was all a dream or something, then I'm still there pushing his wheelchair saying, "The car's ready, sir." If I'm a ghost, Lord, then I can go anywhere. Maybe there's some other attachment that he'd want. 

How did you react when Meechum died? Would you want the show to bring him back as a ghost or for it to all be a dream? Discuss in the comments below, and stay tuned to The Live Feed for all things House of Cards.

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