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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from House of Cards’ fourth season.]
Sex appeal, youth, and family are all things missing from the life of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards’ fourth season. Sure, Underwood has been vocal throughout the series about not wanting kids, but the concoction of all three must sting when when rival Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) steps onto the scene in the fourth season of the Netflix political drama as a new and formidable opponent in Frank’s quest to regain the White House.
Conway has the token wife named Hannah (Dominique McElligott), he maneuvers his way into the lives of young voters with viral videos, social media and selfies, and he prances in the spotlight by landing magazine features. Underwood’s new nemesis challenges Frank, who realizes he may not actually be holding all the cards. What does Kinnaman think Underwood envies most about Conway? “His youth,” Kinnaman tells The Hollywood Reporter days after the release of season four.
Kinnaman’s return to TV, following his breakout role on The Killing, comes as the Swedish native prepares for the release of one of his biggest film projects yet: Suicide Squad. In the film, which hits theaters in August, Kinnaman plays military officer Rick Flag alongside a cast that includes Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, among others.
Kinnaman spoke with THR about why he was “concerned” about signing on for House of Cards after Suicide Squad, “sparring match” scenes with Spacey and a fifth season encore.
Will is about making videos, taking selfies, and using social media to appeal to his voters. How do you think his character reflects the current presidential candidates in the real life election where they’re active on Twitter and Snapchat?
This election is just crazy, more unpredictable than anyone could have imagined. What we’re portraying in this show with social media playing a bigger part to appeal to a younger demographic in the way he’s promoting himself and what they both have in common is what previously kind of was perceived as something that was beneath a presidential candidacy. I think this presidential campaign we’re seeing especially on the Republican side, there’s very few things left that we ever thought we were going to see in a presidential election. After we seen a presidential candidate implying how big his dick is, I think there’s not much left for shock value.
Do you think there are parallels with your character and any of the candidates? Or any other characters?
I think there are more parallels with Donald Trump and [former Prime Minister of Italy] Silvio Berlusconi than anyone else. He’s just his own entity because he’s just a reality star that’s now a presidential candidate. In the ways that Will is using social media, I mean all the candidates use Twitter, but Trump uses it more.
Your addition to the show was pretty tight-lipped. What were the logistics to you joining the series?
It’s like anything when you go into a project, you have to follow the lead of the production and the publicity side of that and how they want to promote it. As many things as I’ve done before, you go into it and you keep it quiet and under wraps and sort of leak the information when everybody feels it’s the right timing. It was an amazing experience with Kevin, and Robin [Wright] and particularly Beau Willimon who I just think is a brilliant, brilliant man. I just had a lot of fun working with the material and also coming to a set and a creative space where there were some pages that we got, but then it was all a creative process that I was invited to participate in and help create the character and give input.
How did Beau bring you on to do the show?
He called my people up and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. Then we started talking about it and I made the decision to join.
What drew you to the role and to join the series?
I loved the show. I think it’s one of the best shows on television, if not the best, and I was a real fan of it, but it was definitely the character and the role. You know there are a lot of roles on phenomenal TV shows that I wouldn’t want to do anyway, but this was something that I thought was special and it was an opportunity to play with Kevin. It was a very fun character.
What scenes were your favorite to film?
I really enjoyed the scenes I had with Kevin. We had, during the Democratic Convention and the scenes we had in this little room — that was a lot of fun. Even though they would get spaced out over a whole episode it came down to a 15-page scene that we shot continuously. It was like we were doing a little mini-TV play, just me and him in that room. He’s such an amazing actor and this character is something he completely embodies. It was like a sparring match and I think we both really enjoyed ourselves in that.
Where do you hope Will goes in season five?
We’ll just have to find out. I mean I have a contract for a few episodes, but we’ll see what happens.
What is the draw for mostly film actors to join a series like this?
That divide that existed before is pretty much eradicated and much of the quality writing that’s done now is in TV. The daunting thing about doing TV is you’re starting a new series where you might end up doing six seasons or something and that’s not something many people want to do to be locked in like that. But going in and doing one season of a show pretty much takes the same amount of time as doing a big-budget film, like six months. And just the opportunity to create a really complicated character is even greater on a TV show when you have a 13-episode arc and you can really make something interesting and special. And I think these formats like True Detective and Fargo where the show goes on but the cast reboots, those are really attractive. The writing is very good and you go in and get to do a very interesting character and a well-written show. It’s almost like in Sweden where I grew up, it’s always been a bounce back and forth between the theater and film and TV. You go back to the theater to reconnect with your craft and just doing more complicated stuff that’s a little bit more demanding. It’s a healthy thing to go back and forth between the mediums where it demands something different from you. That’s something I’ll definitely be doing, going back back and forth between film and TV.
Did production for Suicide Squad interfere at all?
We were able to work it out… I was promised five weeks in between productions, but then that shrunk to like six days or something so it was really jumping from one to the next. I was a little concerned right when I started out cause I was pretty drained after Suicide Squad and I had done a movie just before that as well so I was coming off of eight months of shooting very intense stuff. So I was a little concerned, “Would I have time to recharge my batteries?” But when I came into House of Cards; it was just the writing was so good. It just fits well into your mouth and it’s so fun to rehearse it. It was one of those things where it didn’t take any energy working on it I actually got energy from digging into the material. I just found myself at home or in my hotel room rehearsing and just truly enjoying myself. And it’s been a while where the text has been so good and it really made me want to go back to the stage. That was the big feeling, my takeaway after working on House of Cards. It really made me want to go back to theater.
Well, Beau’s reportedly working on a play. Are you going to join him?
We actually spoke about it and I would love that. He’s one of the best writers in this country and he really has an amazing sense of both story and dialog and character. He’s a stone cold genius that guy.
You only had a six-day break between Suicide Squad and House of Cards. How did you celebrate when both were wrapped?
I went back to Sweden to see my family and then I went back to Cuba.
The end of this season, after the story comes out about Frank, Will is convinced he’ll be the next president and tells his wife she’s going to be the next first lady. And then after that, Frank announces total war. Do you see a world where he would recruit the likes of the Suicide Squad?
(Laughs.) Yeah, I’m sure he’d be open to that.
Could the Suicide Squad take him down?
Yeah, f— it Rick Flag could take Underwood down without a doubt. Hell yeah.
Because Will Conway can’t.
Yeah, exactly. Well, we’ll see about that, we’ll see about that…
Who’s more powerful Frank and Claire or the Suicide Squad?
Suicide Squad. (Laughs.)
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