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Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has the power he’s always wanted.
So what’s next?
Frank inherits a White House rocked by scandal after he orchestrates President Walker’s (Michel Gill) exit from the Oval Office. To further complicate things, Rachel, the former call girl who can connect Frank to Russu’s (Cory Stoll) death, is missing in action after attacking Frank’s right-hand man Doug (Michael Kelly) and leaving him for dead.
The drama suffered a bizarre leak earlier this month, when all 13 of its episodes mysteriously appeared on the streaming service. They were taken down 20 minutes later, but not before screengrabs of key moments and episode descriptions were spread across the Internet.
Willimon takes the leak in stride, saying with a laugh that he’s determined not to give away too many season three secrets.
“I think our leak did plenty of that already,” he says. He previously told THR he doesn’t think the leak will spoil the viewing experience, because “20 minutes is not enough for people to have figured everything out.”
In a chat with THR, Willimon breaks down the big challenges Frank and Claire (Robin Wright) face this season, the painful decisions the writers had to make and whether there will be anything to equal the Zoe (Kate Mara) subway surprise of season two.
Is it safe to assume Frank finds being president isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
His path has never been easy, and he’s said himself, “the higher you get up the mountain, the more treacherous the path.” Now that he and Claire have achieved what they aimed to achieve, now what? What does he do with that power? What challenges does he face? Is there any higher to climb? Is the only direction down? Does he fight to stay on the summit? It could be any and all of those things.
How did you narrow down what those obstacles would be?
The nature of the presidency is one that is wrought with responsibility and pressure. That’s true of any president, but if you imagine any president who assumed office without a vote being cast for him, and on the heels of a major scandal, I think it’s safe to assume the road will not be easy.
Frank has achieved all of his dreams. Is it challenging to make a character like that remain interesting?
We had a lot of challenges, not just in terms of what obstacles Frank will face, but also what is the nature of this union between Francis and Claire? Every season we’ve seen them change, evolve, grow deeper, run into conflicts. We wanted to keep investigating that. That’s been at the core of the show. We also wanted to make sure we don’t get comfortable, that we don’t start repeating ourselves. That we don’t do things that come easily to use in the writers room. We’re trying to tackle stories and facets of these characters that are unchartered territory. We want to surprise ourselves as much as we want the audience to be surprised.
You aren’t afraid to kill key characters, as when you killed off Zoe. Is it safe to say that will be the case with this season?
You can’t be precious about anything. You have to challenge every idea. You have to always assume there’s a better one and strive for that better idea. You have to serve the story. The story is not there to serve you. You may love a character. You may love a storyline. But the overall narrative demands it must come to an end, as heartbreaking and difficult as that might be for us. Zoe is a great example. It was always the plan for her to meet her demise at the beginning of season two, and the closer we got, the harder it was to carry it out, but we did, because it was right for the story.
We’ve always known these two people make each other stronger, that without each other they are not nearly as formidable as the two of them working together. Now that they’ve achieved this mutual goal, what does it mean to each of them? They worked so hard and have done a lot of bad stuff together there. They both must have a point of view about it, and they’re going to have experiences that are similar and different.
House of Cards begins streaming Friday on Netflix.
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