'House of Cards' Bosses: "The Real World Has Stolen Storylines on Many Occasions"

David Giesbrecht/Netflix
From left: Paul Sparks, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Neve Campbell. Sparks' character was killed off in season five, and Campbell's character finished the final episode on a dubious note.

The Emmy-nominated drama's showrunners, Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson, who took over from creator Beau Willimon, unleashed an unintended season of Trump parallels with the Netflix series’ latest cycle.

Can House of Cards see the future? That was a question posed by viewers of the political thriller after watching the fifth season of machinations by Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood. 

The first handful of episodes alone saw approval ratings plummet for House of Cards' resident Machiavellian president as he virtually closed U.S. borders and declared war amid cries of voter fraud. By the end of the season, however, Frank was no longer running the Oval and the Netflix series welcomed its first female president before the country did. Pending a renewal, a potential sixth season will follow President Claire, promising to be just as ruthless as the husband who preceded her by shutting him out of her life, at least temporarily, in the season's final moments.

Below with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson reveal the biggest misconception about their show and their thoughts on stealing an election.

The most challenging scene to write this season was …

PUGLIESE The last scene of season five, but that's true every season.

I still can't believe we got away with …

PUGLIESE Stealing an election — they should really make that harder.

The biggest misconception about House of Cards is …

GIBSON That it's heightened. Over the course of five seasons, the real world has stolen the writers room storylines on many occasions. The frustrating part is that sometimes the real world goes to air first.

The person on House of Cards who has the most difficult job is …

GIBSON Everyone. There's no hierarchy of difficulty on set. We all try to bring our A-game to make the show as great as it can be.

The line of dialogue we are most proud of this season is …

PUGLIESE AND GIBSON "Tom. Don't cheat on my wife."

The other Emmy-nominated series that I can't get enough of is …

PUGLIESE Atlanta. It's beautifully written, acted, directed and has such a complex and vulnerable main character.

The actor I've never worked with but would love to is …

GIBSON Donald Trump.



Few expect to see House of Cards break through at the Emmys this late in its lifespan, though the TV Academy does have a surprising history of finally honoring dramas in their fifth season. It's is a divisive piece of TV — and one, perhaps more tellingly, that has become less of a priority at Netflix as the streamer's output has surged. Industry favor also has shifted, notably in the direction of Netflix's other dramatic originals Stranger Things and The Crown. It's also worth considering that the most recent run of the Beltway soap opera, its first without original showrunner Beau Willimon, follows a drawn-out presidential election. That may not have been the most enticing pitch with so little distance from 2016's election. — Michael O'Connell

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.