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29 Ruthless Facts About House of Cards

Mathew Burke

 “Democracy is so overrated.” – Frank Underwood

Created by Beau Willimon, House of Cards is an American political drama about the political machinations of an ambitious and ruthless South Carolina Democrat, Frank Underwood.

Here are a few things you might not have known about the critically-acclaimed Netflix drama House of Cards.


House of Cards Facts

29. Nice Suit

Each season of House of Cards has thirteen episodes, one episode per card in a suit of playing cards.

28. America is Britain’s Greatest Spin-Off

House of Cards is based on a 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name. That was only a four-episode series though, perhaps because British political intrigue isn’t nearly as complicated and generally solved over a cup of tea.

27. Write What You Know

The UK House of Cards was adapted from a novel by Michael Dobbs who served as Margaret Thatcher’s chief of staff from 1986 to 1987 and as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party from 1994 to 1995.

26. Where There’s a Willimon…

Beau Willimon, creator of the American version of the show, also worked for a range of well-known political figures including Chuck Schumer, Hilary Clinton, and Howard Dean. Yeeeeeeeaaaaaah!

25. Carson Daily

In order to really nail the political backstabbing, Willimon hired Jay Carson, his former college buddy and current political strategist who had previously worked with Michael Bloomberg, Howard Dean, and the Clintons.

24. But Is He As Sexy?

Carson was apparently the inspiration for Ryan Gosling’s character in The Ides of March, which was written by, guess who? Beau Willimon.

23. Go With the Stream

Kevin Spacey and David Fincher developed House of Cards without a network commitment, but soon had a number of high-profile suitors, including AMC and HBO. Netflix came out on top by committing to two seasons. If you know anything about Kevin Spacey as an actor, you know that the way to his heart is through commitment.

22. Like a Drive-Through at an Art Gallery

Netflix changed the game with House of Cards by releasing the entire season at once, kickstarting the whole binge-watching craze, and somehow managing to make television watchers fatter and lazier.

21. Breaking the Digital Ceiling

House of Cards was the first online series to win an Emmy, paving the way for other online series such as Transparent, Orange is the New Black, and Master of None.

20. A Woody for Woody

Kevin Spacey used House of Cards as his… calling card to try and convince Woody Allen, who he greatly admired, to work with him. He sent Allen a Netflix subscription and a note that said, “I don’t know if you’ve seen my work, but you might want to watch this series.” Allen replied that he would love to work with him in a film. There’s more of that political maneuvering at play.

19. But Who Directs the Directors?

David Fincher, no slouch in the director’s chair himself, recruited an all-star group of highly-acclaimed directors including James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), Carl Franklin (Devil in a Blue Dress), Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever), and Jodie Foster (The Beaver). “I felt like we were telling 13 stories that are all part of one big story,” Fincher said, “and I was handing off movements to people whose work I admire.”

18. Whip it Real Good!

In order to better acquaint himself with the character of Frank Underwood, Spacey spent some time with Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Majority Whip from California. Hmm. Whip meetings in the House Chamber. Sounds less like House of Cards and more like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Kevin McCarthy

17. The House That Netflix Built

Although much of the show is set in Washington, DC, much of the White House is just a recreation on a soundstage in Joppa, Maryland. “We’re making it last for what will hopefully be a very long run.” Don’t tell the Canadians. They burned it down once. They’ll do it again.

16. A Wee Bit Premature

Season three was accidentally released to Netflix two weeks before the official release. It was taken down 17 minutes later, but not before it had been fully ripped from the site and illegally made available to all those who couldn’t wait to see what Frank Underwood was up to next.

15. Choice Words

Fincher swears that every one of the show’s principal actors was the first choice for the role. So when he walked into the first meeting, he got to say “the thing I’ve always wanted to say to a cast, which is ‘Every single person in this room represents our first choice, so don’t screw this up. ‘Cause if you do, I will never forgive you.’” And we all know what he did to Gwyneth Paltrow in Seven.

14. Steady as She Goes

One of the directorial edicts from David Fincher is that there is no need to have moving shots unless there’s a “damn good reason to.” Probably also because they didn’t want to be like every other political drama where they include pointless shots of their actors walking down endless corridors.

12. We Didn’t Start the Fire

Whilst filming promotional stills, Kevin Spacey burned his hand while holding up a burning flag. To cover it up, he “conveniently” burned his hand with coffee and had to wear a bandage in episode nine of the third season.

11. Russian Dressing

In the third season, the name of the Russian president is Viktor Petrov. His initials are VP. As in Vladimir Putin. Or Vice President. Or Villain Pudding. Who knows?

Someone mentioned pudding?

10. Like a Boss

During a meeting, Underwood offers Peter Russo a drink, which he accepts. But when he asks if Underwood will have one, he says that it’s too early to be drinking. Kevin Spacey does the same thing to Jason Bateman’s character in the film Horrible Bosses.

9. Thanks Gepetto!

Rachel Posner, Doug Stamper’s call girl/weak spot, was never meant to be a regular character. The plan was for her to do two episodes, say five lines, and then disappear. However, the actress did such a good job that Willimon decided to see what it would be like to turn her into an actual three-dimensional human.

8. The Couple Who Plays Together

Michael Gill and Jayne Atkinson, who play President Garrett Walker and Secretary of State Catherine Durant were both hired independently, while the rest of the cast and the production team had no idea that they were actually married.

7. Dealer’s Choice

Willimon’s favorite show is The Wire. His fanboy-ism for one of television’s greatest series of all time is clearly evident in his choice of locations and cast, as Doug Stamper’s favorite diner was also an oft-used location in The Wire. Cathey, the actor who played Norman Wilson on The Wire was hired to play Freddy Hayes, owner of Freddy’s BBQ.

6. Where there’s Smoke

Unfortunately, Freddy’s BBQ Joint is not an actual restaurant in real life, however, the set can be visited at 2601 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore, MD. You’ll have to bring your own ribs though.

5. The Three Little Pigs

Cashew, the best friend/guinea pig pet of hacker Gavin was played by three guinea pigs – Oscar, Lucas, and Encore. However, Oscar was used for 90% of the scenes, because he’s the only one of the three who really knew how to capture that role.

4. A Bit Over the Line

One of Frank Underwood’s most iconic lines actually was a direct quote from David Fincher. Early on in the first season, Underwood turns to the camera and, breaking the fourth wall, delivers the line, “You know what I like about people? They stack so well.” The line was actually uttered by Fincher to a line producer on the set of Alien 3 after it was suggested to him that he try to be more of a people person. Success?

3. Here Lies Zoe

Kate Mara knew from the get-go that her character, Zoe, was going to die. However, she was sworn to secrecy and even promised to lie to anyone who asked her about the show, including her family. Mara said she tried to throw people off by saying she was on break from shooting when asked why she wasn’t in Baltimore. Hard to find a new job when you’re not allowed to tell people you’ve lost the old one.

2. House of Mahjong

House of Cards is hugely popular in China, where it streams of Sohu, the Chinese Netflix. One of its biggest fans is Wang Qishan, a senior leader of the Communist Party of China. A show devoted to brazen political corruption, back-stabbing leadership purges, and American hypocrisy resonates with audiences in China? How shocking.

1. Obama Loves Drama

President Barack Obama was also a huge fan of the show and went so far as to Tweet “No spoilers, please,” prior to the season two premiere. Must have been a refreshing change to watch a bunch of horrible politicians stabbing each other in the back and not being the one getting stabbed.

Sources: 1 2


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