When production on House of Cards‘ sixth and final season was halted after sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey became public, it was an emotional time for the cast and crew, they told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet at the season’s premiere.
“It was obviously very sad, first and foremost,” star Constance Zimmer told THR at the event, held at the DGA theater in West Hollywood on Monday night. But Zimmer and the rest of her castmates were also extremely supportive of the actions Netflix was taking.
It was important to everyone, especially star Robin Wright, that the show return, said her co-star Derek Cecil.
“We spoke on the phone a little bit during that time, and it was important that it come back in a very specific way, but not only it finish, but that it finish on its own terms and clear of him in any sort of financial sense,” he said. “I just remember it needed to be free and clear and separate, and then somehow fall on its own, and that felt like being true to the story itself and to the fanbase that it’s developed and to all the people that have been part of the story up to now.”
It was vital that the show move forward, said Wright, “for the fans, first and foremost. They owed it to the audience to finish the story they were telling, “and equally important was to not put 600 people out of a job.”
Boris McGiver said that while “there’s always the shock of the lead actor,” he credited Netflix and producer MRC for keeping the cast and crew on hold. “The first reaction from Netflix was within hours. Netflix and MRC said, ‘Hey, it’s OK. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to pay everyone. Regardless of how long this takes, everyone’s getting a paycheck, week to week.’ I’ve never heard of that happening. Never.”
“Everybody rallied to save jobs,” added Patricia Clarkson, who was also working around a film schedule. Mentioning Wright, showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, as well as the cast, she said, “You want to save the story and jobs, and you want to go out on a high note, and they did.”
Star Michael Kelly said returning to set after the shutdown was “one of the most uplifting moments that I’ve ever had on a stage in my career.” Everyone was excited to get started again, and “You felt the passion. You felt this big spark, really, when we started. And it pushed it through that final leg. Because it was tough. Especially on the writers. What they were able to accomplish in a very short amount of time was incredible.”
The finished season, which debuts Nov. 2, follows President Claire Underwood as she acclimates to office after her husband’s death, and the portrait it paints of a woman in power is extra appealing to many cast members.
“It’s great to see her inherit that role. She owns it entirely. Unfortunately, we don’t have the most virtuous president in Claire Underwood, but you are going to have a president who kills people every now and then,” says Greg Kinnear, who plays a final-season foil for Claire. “But she’s dynamic, and I think the underlying part of that is pretty cool. There’s some very strong women in this show. Believe me.”
Said Zimmer, “I’m hoping that it resonates enough for people to understand the difference and the impact that a woman can make when she is given power.”
Following a screening of the premiere episode — which elicited audience cheers for many of Wright’s speeches, particularly her first one, as well as her onscreen executive producer credit — the crowd made its way down Sunset Boulevard to the Sunset Tower Hotel for the afterparty. The room gradually filled up so much that waiters with passed apps (flatbread, chicken, sliders, avocado and tomato toast) couldn’t make it more than 5 feet past the kitchen entrance.
Partygoers immediately lined up for a photo op that allowed them to emulate Claire’s pose in the season six key art while a DJ spun ’90s hits — the regal venue and besuited guests an incongruous sight as “I Wanna Sex You Up” blasted through the speakers. Cast members including Wright, Kelly and Zimmer held court by the bar, ignoring their reserved banquettes until the party was well underway.