Netflix released all 13 episodes of House of Cards on Feb. 1, and almost immediately the political thriller became one of TV's most addictive dramas. Most viewers watch multiple episodes in one sitting, and fans share stories of lapping up the entire season in just a few days. Kevin Spacey stars as Frank Underwood, a crafty politician bent on revenge, with Robin Wright as his cunning wife, Claire. House of Cards was adapted by executive producer Beau Willimon from a BBC series; Willimon is a recovering politico, having worked on several campaigns before turning to writing. He took time out from working on Season 2 to tell us why we should start playing House of Cards.
TV Guide Magazine: I've got time to watch one more show. Tell me why it should be yours.
Beau Willimon: You sound far too busy. Take a sick day. Sleep in. Call your mother. Then log in to Netflix and check out House of Cards. You don't even have to get out of bed. You can watch it on your phone. It's diabolical and delicious, and Kevin Spacey talks directly to you! He'll haunt your dreams...in a good way.
TV Guide Magazine: Who should be watching?
Willimon: Everyone, of course. And their extended families. And their pets. You might have heard that our show is a "political drama," but it's not just for political junkies. The show is really about power. We all experience power struggles in our lives — at the workplace, with our friends, in our love lives. In a way, we're all politicians. That's what makes our show universal. It's about people navigating one another to get what they want, and we can all relate to that. Our characters are probably just a little more ruthless than you are...or a lot.
TV Guide Magazine: What happens if we don't watch?
Willimon: When people ask you what episode you're on, you'll have to say, "I haven't started watching yet." Then they'll glower at you with pity or disgust, or both, and who wants that?
TV Guide Magazine: What's the best thing anyone has said or written about your show?
Willimon: When my mom finished watching all 13, she called me. She was crying, she was so proud. Nothing beats that. Sometimes the best scenes don't have any dialogue, they just have tears. (I also breathed a sigh of relief that she didn't disown me for having such a dark, twisted mind.)
TV Guide Magazine: What's the worst thing?
Willimon: My own neuroses generate more scathing criticism than anyone could ever sling my way. The flaws keep me awake at night. I'm always seeing ways I could have improved a scene or lamenting a lost opportunity in the storytelling. The flip side is that it motivates me make Season 2 even better than Season 1.
TV Guide Magazine: Who was right?
Willimon: Moms are always right. Despite my neuroses, I'm proud of our show. I think it's good, and our fans seem to agree.
TV Guide Magazine: What's an alternate title for your show?
Willimon: Had David Hasselhoff played Francis Underwood we might have called it Binge-watch. It's okay, you can groan. Puns make me ill too. (No offense to The Hoff, but thank heaven and hell we got Spacey. The show wouldn't be worth doing without him.)
TV Guide Magazine: What Washington and Hollywood figures is Frank Underwood he modeled after?
Willimon: Two scoops of LBJ with a dash of Richard III and a pinch of Hannibal Lecter.
TV Guide Magazine: Knowing Frank as you know him, would you vote for him?
Willimon: You mean for the Emmys, right? Wish I could, but I'm not a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. I am, however, a card-carrying member of the Academy for Getting-Things-Done-in-a-Washington-Paralyzed-by-Political-Gridlock. So if what you mean is, would I vote for him as my Congressman? Well, you might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment.
TV Guide Magazine: Come up with a premise for the spin-off.
Willimon: Stephen Colbert usurps power from Francis Underwood in a violent coup and uses public office to wage all-out war against Jon Stewart.
TV Guide Magazine: What credit of yours would you prefer we forget?
Willimon: The Reverend John Hale in my 9th grade production of The Crucible. Photos will verify that I wore tights and pilgrim buckled shoes.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your preferred method of consuming House of Cards?
Willimon: Honestly, I have no preference. I think it's cool that viewers get to decide how, when, where and on what device they want to view the show. Some people like to binge, others to space it out over time. Some watch on their TVs, others on their tablets or laptops. I think it works all ways. Although I got to watch it as it was filmed, which is probably the coolest way of all.
TV Guide Magazine: For everyone who has already binged on House of Cards, what do you suggest they now do with their time?
Willimon: Find a loved one and cling on for dear life until Season 2 arrives. Or read that novel you've been putting off forever. Or call your mother (sense a theme?). Or volunteer at your favorite charity and make the world a slightly better place (you can't always count on our politicians to). Or go back to the first episode and binge the whole thing over again.
TV Guide Magazine: If you weren't producing this show, what series would you most like to be an executive producer on?
Willimon: It's a tie: either David Simon's The Wire or David Milch's Deadwood. Both of which are masterpieces, but neither of which, sadly, is still being made. Who knows? Maybe Netflix can bring them back the way they have with Arrested Development!
TV Guide Magazine: Finish this sentence: "If you like _______, you'll love our show."
Willimon: If you like bad people doing very bad things and getting away with it, you'll love this show.
TV Guide Magazine: Pick another show and start a fake feud.
Willimon: New Girl, because Liz Meriwether is a dear friend of mine, and it's about time we had a good fight. She's brilliant and witty and hilarious when she gets ornery.
TV Guide Magazine: How will your show change the face of TV as we know it?|
Willimon: We didn't change the face of TV, the viewers have. If our show has proved anything, it's that people want to decide their viewing experience for themselves — whether that's binging or a slow burn or somewhere in between. Netflix has placed that power in their hands. Our job on House of Cards is to create a great story that makes their experience worthwhile.
TV Guide Magazine: You have no ratings pressure and were already renewed for Season 2. Is there anyone with a better gig in Hollywood?
Willimon: No. None. I feel like I won the lottery. Twice.