The best revelation from Wednesday night's New York Times-sponsored TimesTalk with Emmy-nominated "House of Cards" stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and series creator Beau Willimon: They're halfway through filming on Season 2, which will premiere in 2014.
In the first ever on-set version of a TimesTalk, Spacey, Wright, and Willimon also talked about the real-life counterparts to their much-nominated series (nine altogether, including a best drama series nod), the comparisons between Spacey and Wright's Underwoods and the Clintons, and the significance of Frank Underwood's rowing machine.
Five things we learned from the TimesTalk, which took place on the "House of Cards" set in Baltimore:
1. Spacey knows people see parallels between "House of Cards" power couple Frank and Claire Underwood and real-life power couple Bill and Hillary Clinton (who admitted to Spacey that he had binge-watched the Netflix series):
"I suspect while Bill and Hillary might be the most well-known, I think there are probably a lot of Washington couples that you could look at and say 'That is a marriage that works, that's a marriage about what they're doing and about what they care about,'" Spacey told Times Magazine Chief National Correspondent Mark Leibovich, who moderated the talk. "It's extraordinary, I think, to see two people who are able to survive as long as they survive, particularly Bill and Hillary. And both are, I think, better people today than they were when they started. They're doing incredibly effective work, and, you know, we may yet see whether she decides to run for that funny little office."
2. Wright, whose character, Claire, is cheating on husband Frank (who is cheating on her), says the Underwood marriage is representative of some real-world political couples:
"The notion that a wife would just turn a blind eye to the dalliances that her husband has because it's for the betterment of us ... all I've ever heard is that this is so apropos of what goes on on a daily basis. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors between a politician's wife and her husband, but the way the system is run, it's a business," Wright said. "And this is the way Washington is run ... it's a business."
3. Spacey and Willimon think fictional Washington, D.C., is a lot better than real-world Washington, D.C., at least in one instance:
"At the moment, we have — and I'm not saying this as a criticism; this is a fact — the most unproductive congress in the history of the United States," Spacey said. "It must be interesting for people to watch a fictional Congress that gets stuff done."
Added Willimon, "History will not remember those who have nothing to offer but stagnation. So that means there are many out of 535 people there in Washington who will not be remembered. And what (Frank) offers, for whatever his personal motivations may be, is a form of progress. He makes the argument for the ends justifying the means, and I think that's attractive to a lot of people."
4. Despite his progress, Frank's frequent use of the rowing machine to get his fitness on has a deeper meaning that reflects an ongoing frustration with the political world:
"Originally, I wrote it as a treadmill ... the notion of doing something and not getting anywhere felt a little bit like a hamster on a wheel," Willimon said. But he changed it to a rowing machine at the suggestion of Spacey, who'd been using a rowing machine in his own workouts and saw the machine, and the idea of rowing forward but not actually going anywhere, as the perfect metaphor for the political drama.
5. The term "House of Cards" has become an adjective:
"There is a term inside of Washington, whenever someone behaves outwardly politically or in a very opportunistic way on the Hill, I've heard people describe it as, 'That's so 'House of Cards,'" Leibovich told a delighted Spacey, Wright, and Willimon. "So once you've entered the lexicon, that's a good thing."
The entire TimesTalk "House of Cards" session is available at Livestream.com.
The first season of "House of Cards" is available to stream on Netflix.