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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the House of Cards season four premiere, “Chapter 40.”]
House of Cards returned Friday for its fourth season — just in time for arguably one of the most bizarre presidential races in United States history.
After last season ended with Claire (Robin Wright) walking away from her partner in life and crime, Frank (Kevin Spacey), the premiere opened hours later with the longtime duo still miles apart, both figuratively and literally.
While Frank was still on the campaign trail days before an important primary — and desperately trying to cover up his wife’s absence — Claire went back home to Texas to carve a new political path for herself apart from her husband. Step one? Recruiting her own Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) in Leann Harvey, played by new series regular Neve Campbell.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Campbell about Leann’s loyalty to Claire, creator Beau Willimon’s final season and the joys of playing a role other than “the girlfriend.”
Were you a fan of the show before you signed on?
I hadn’t seen all of the episodes, only because I have a three-and-a-half-year-old, so I just don’t have the time. And if we are watching TV at home, it’s Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I had seen probably about five or six episodes, and I was a huge fan.
This was show creator Beau Willimon’s last season of the show. What was it like working with him?
I loved working with Beau. He’s, in my opinion, a genius. He’s a fantastic writer, he’s very politically minded. He was well adept at really creating an accurate picture in a lot of ways of a world of politics. We were all sad to hear the news, and we’re going to miss him. I’m glad I found out recently they kept on two of the writers [Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese] who have been on the writing staff [and] are now taking over as showrunners. I’m glad they made that decision, because they at least still have the voice of the show. They worked with Beau and know the tone that it should be. Hopefully, it will be in keeping with Beau’s work.
What do you think Frank and Melissa’s direction for next season will be?
I honestly don’t know! (Laughs) Beau kept things really close to his chest when it came to his vision of what was in the future. He kept everything very much in the present of what he was writing in the moment. I know that they’ll have a clear idea of where Beau was going.
In the first episode of this season, Claire and Frank’s story still continues, and she hasn’t definitively left him. How will their relationship unfold further? And how will Leann contribute to either their demise or reunion?
The Underwoods‘ relationship is obviously very compromised at the beginning of the season. They’re at odds, and this season is going to focus around a campaign and an election. Frank and Claire are going to be in competition, I suppose. Leann is brought on to help Claire with her campaign. So Claire and Frank go toe-to-toe, as do Stamper and Leann.
What does Leann want? What is her end game?
Leann is very ambitious. She’s been very successful in her own right already, but when she’s looking to the White House, I’m not exactly sure where she’s going. But getting in bed with these two is certainly not a bad thing. Not in bed like Meechum did. (Laughs)
She has this loyalty to Claire. Right off the bat, audiences witness this bond. Where does that stem from?
I think it can be tough to be a woman working in a male-dominated world, especially the political world. I would imagine it would be somewhat challenging. They see eye-to-eye in the sense that they’re successful, strong, and unapologetically strong. I think they admire that in one another.
She can’t be that loyal to Claire, can she?
You’ll just have to wait and see.
You’re essentially Claire’s Stamper, but we haven’t seen you commit any murders yet. What’s the difference between Frank’s right-hand man and Claire’s right-hand woman?
Well, the obvious at the moment is Stamper’s a murderer. (Laughs) They are both committed to their individual bosses and their work. They’re both ambitious people, so they’re similar in that way.
What was the dynamic like off-camera when you and Michael Kelly are filming scenes where you’re essentially rivals?
I loved working with Michael. I love what he’s done with his character. He’s one of the best characters on the show. It’s fascinating. He’s a super talented actor, and he’s also a really wonderful guy. Very funny, easygoing and welcoming on set, because it was an intimidating set to walk onto. I think because I was such a fan of the show, I wanted to make sure I brought my game. He was really warm, and we’ve become really good friends.
A lot of your scenes are with Robin Wright. How was it working with her?
She’s a pro and knows her character so well. I really enjoyed working with her as a director as well. She directed four of the episodes this year and is really talented. That definitely seems to be what she wants to move into eventually. And she’s got a knack for it.
Frank has very few allies, as does Claire. Is it fair to assume Leann will be an obstacle down the road?
Yeah, it’s fair to assume that’s a possibility.
How can Leann avoid being another casualty of the Underwoods?
That was up to Beau Willimon, so we’ll have to see what the new writers feel. (Laughs) That’s the thing with being on this show; you actually never know what’s going to happen with your character. You just have to go along with it, and that’s what’s unpredictable about the Underwoods.
How is Leann different than their past victims?
She’s a fairly calculating, bright, head-of-the curve woman, but you never know with the Underwoods.
She does have protection. In her first encounter with Stamper she pulls a gun on him. . .
Well, she’s a Texan!
What surprised you most about Leann throughout the season?
Her unapologetic strength. It’s really nice as an actor and woman in this business to get the opportunity to play a character that’s really strong, intelligent, successful and not such a victim. Or not just the girlfriend of or wife of [someone].
Her character seems like she’s been on the show the whole time…
That’s such a nice thing to hear. I was really hoping it would be seamless for audiences.
The series is already renewed for season five. What do you think the life line of the show is?
That’s hard to say. Inevitably, it’ll be up to Netflix and our new showrunners, but the world of politics is vast. They’re going to continue to be really smart about these characters and their journeys. I’m excited just as audiences are to see where they go with it. There’s a lot of places you can go. Look at the insanity that is the campaigns going on in real life at the moment, and you realize you really can’t go too far with anything.
The entire fourth season of House of Cards is now available on Netflix.
What did you think of the season four premiere? Does Leann seem like she’s been on the show the whole time? What do you predict is up her sleeve? Chat about it in the comments below and stay tuned to The Live Feed for more House of Cards coverage.
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