In a sitdown interview with NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie, Wright says of her former co-star, “We were coworkers, really. We never socialized outside of work. [It was a] respectful, professional relationship. He was so great with me. He was never disrespectful to me, so that’s my personal experience. That’s the only thing that I feel I have the right to talk about.”
Adding, “Kevin and I knew each other between action and cut and in between setups where we would giggle. I didn’t know the man. I knew the incredible craftsman that he is.”
The Monday interview, which aired during the Today show, marks the first time Wright has gone behind the scenes to shed light about the disgraced actor’s departure from the series that has won him a Golden Globe and five consecutive years of Emmy nominations. Spacey, who was also an executive producer, played Wright’s onscreen husband for five seasons. Now, for the show’s sixth and final season, Wright is firmly taking her place as the show’s leading actor.
“I think we were all surprised, of course, and ultimately saddened,” she says of finding out about the allegations. “We forged ahead and we were so thankful that we were able to complete the series as planned.”
As Frank and Claire Underwood, respectively, Spacey and Wright play a team of political masterminds in the Washington, D.C.-set thriller. The fifth season of House of Cards, which released in May 2017, ended with Claire becoming president and effectively pushing her husband out of the White House. The season ended with a quote from Claire that has taken on a new meaning since: “My turn.”
Months later and in the height of the #MeToo movement, Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct by Anthony Rapp. On Oct. 29, the Star Trek actor claimed Spacey made unwanted sexual advances toward him in 1986, when Spacey was 26 and Rapp was 14. At that point, production on the first two episodes of House of Cards season six, originally scheduled to run 13 episodes, had already been completed and the season was almost entirely written.
Production on what would later be confirmed as the final season was suspended the following day, leaving hundreds of people on the cast and crew potentially without job security. Spacey responded by apologizing for “inappropriate drunken behavior” and coming out as gay, while Netflix said those at the streamer were “deeply troubled.”
Days later, as several House of Cards employees also accused the star of inappropriate behavior, Netflix officially cut ties with the show’s star. Producer Media Rights Capital announced the show would be shutting down in order to give the writing staff the opportunity to rework the season and later announced that the eight-episode final season would now revolve around Wright’s character.
Behind the scenes, Wright spoke of Netflix’s decision to severe ties: “The shock was so intense all over the nation for many reasons; many stories, many people. I think that everybody felt that it was respectful to back off.”
Spacey’s character was written out of the show (a plot development that is not entirely a stretch, since in the Michael Dobbs book that inspired the series, Frank dies). Around the same time, Spacey was being replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s film All the Money in the World.
“The first table read was always Robin, Kevin and me at the head of the table,” says co-star Michael Kelly, who was joined by Constance Zimmer when speaking with Guthrie. “The first time we sat down, it was me and Robin and both of us looked at each other and it was like, ‘Wow, we’re doing this.'” Zimmer added for clarification, “We already knew that this season was the final season before all of this happened.”
Wright was elevated, both on- and offscreen, to the starring role; she is also returning to the director’s chair for the finale. The marketing for the final season of House of Cards, meanwhile, centers on Wright’s Claire, the new President Underwood.
Since Rapp’s initial allegation, more than 15 men have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey, who is being investigated over at least three cases by the London police. Spacey has disappeared from the public eye since November, when his rep said that the actor would be seeking “evaluation and treatment.” He has denied the allegations through his lawyer.
“I haven’t heard from him and I don’t even know how to reach him,” says Wright of Spacey, who could not be reached by Today for comment.
Of the #MeToo movement, Wright says she, too, has experienced harassment, “Who hasn’t?” Adding, “Seduction, I don’t care who you are, it’s about power. And once you overpower someone, that person then becomes vulnerable. This last year has shined the light in a new way to allow us to start a new conversation, so we just need to shift the paradigm.”
House of Cards played a pivotal role in putting Netflix on the map with two film actors, Oscar-winning Spacey and Wright, in lead roles and becoming Netflix’s first major awards contender when it launched in 2013. With the show now wrapping, the streamer is said to be mulling potential spinoffs, one of which would center on loyal sidekick Doug Stamper (Kelly). For the final season, set to release in the fall with returning showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear have added their star power to the cast.
The full interview with Wright and the cast will air closer to the show’s premiere. Watch the clip here or below.