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A version of this story first appeared in the March 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
If your goal is verisimilitude within the realm of TV news, you could do worse than to recruit Morley Safer. The sage of 60 Minutes is among several media figures playing themselves in the second season of House of Cards.
“Have suit, will cameo,” laughs Safer. So how did his appearance come together — beyond, as Safer jokes, “my renowned acting ability”? Cards creator Beau Willimon says Safer was a natural to go toe-to-toe interviewing Kevin Spacey‘s scandal-plagued vice president, Francis Underwood.
“Morley Safer asks the hard questions,” says Willimon. “He’s seen administrations come and go.” To get the shoot just right, Cards used the CBS News studio lights and hired freelance cameramen who shoot for 60 Minutes. “They wanted to make it as authentic as they could without calling it 60 Minutes,” says Safer. (CBS News prohibits use of the 60 Minutes name for fictional projects.)
Safer, 82, is among a clutch of prominent journalists making cameos in the second season of the Netflix drama. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity deliver updates on their respective programs about the unfolding scandal enveloping the vice president. Yahoo political columnist Matt Bai is involved in a prickly negotiation with a press deputy. And CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield interviews Robin Wright, who plays Spacey’s scheming wife, Claire Underwood.
(Banfield met Spacey last year in Boston when Spacey broke away from production on the second season of House of Cards in Baltimore to lend his support to first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. He came bearing six-month Netflix subscriptions and DVDs of American Beauty.)
“If someone is interested, we supply the script to them and see if they still want to do it,” notes Willimon. “If they say something doesn’t feel right, I tell them, ‘We want it to be in your own words,’ and we adjust it.”
Safer did have one script tweak though. “They had me say, ‘There are rumors of this …’ I said, ‘We don’t use that word.’ We would say, ‘There are reports that, there has been the suggestion that.’ ‘Rumors’ is a bit of a no-no.”
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