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Anyone hoping to glean even the smallest detail of House of Cards‘ second season during the series’ TV Academy panel on Thursday night was out of luck. Beau Willimon seems to come from the Matthew Weiner school of transparency in terms of showrunning.
“Nothing about season two,” he said when cast member Kristen Connolly was asked if she’d be returning. The gag order extended to when and how future episodes will premiere — and whether or not plans are already in motion for a life beyond Netflix’s current $100 million 26-episode order.
Willimon and star Kevin Spacey were less reluctant to acknowledge the critical darling’s accomplishments since its lump sum debut on Feb. 1. And any bragging was not out of place. The event, which featured much of the series’ cast including Robin Wright and Corey Stoll, was part of Netflix’s aggressive strategy to make a big debut at this year’s Emmys.
“A few days ago Netflix announced that, in large measure as a result of House of Cards, they brought in two million more subscribers,” said Spacey, noting the company eclipsed HBO in subscribers. “You bet they’re making money… I think that what we in some ways set out to prove was that the film and television industry can learn the lesson that music industry didn’t learn. Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price — and they’ll buy it and they won’t steal it.”
The unique model of House of Cards allowed for additional freedoms on the production end that Willimon and the cast all praised. Episodes were filmed two at a time, allowing the actors more time with directors, and Willimon noted that an essential carte blanche from David Fincher gave the writers opportunity to give the darker take on Washington, D.C., that they wanted. He referenced the absent ep’s reaction to the series’ contentious opening scene, in which Spacey’s character smothers a dog that had been hit by a car.
“People in our little cabal were saying, “Oh, you kill you an animal in the first 30 seconds, you’re going to lose your audience,'” said Willimon. “I’m in David’s office one day, and I say, ‘What do you think?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t give a shit.’ Not that we were that flip or blase about it, but that’s the show we wanted to make. And if you’re not down with the dog getting strangled in the first 30 seconds, this isn’t the show for you.”
It was quite apparent that House of Cards is the show for Spacey. The Oscar-winner, whose colorful language and one-liners had the crowd in hysterics for much of the hour-long Q&A, seemed to fatigue just mentioning the process of shopping the project around before its Netflix order.
“We went to lots of cable networks, and we knew one thing starting out — which was that we didn’t want to do a pilot,” said Spacey. “We just wanted to start telling the story. One of the things about pilots is that you’re obligated, in a sense, to audition all of the characters.”
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