If William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth got turned into a Hollywood-run political drama, it would be called House of Cards.
Based off the BBC miniseries and author Michael Dobbs’ novel of the same name, House of Cards is one of today’s most popular and most anticipated shows, having debuted its fourth season this month. Filled with political intrigue, scandal, and sometimes murder, we follow Congressman Frank Underwood (portrayed by Kevin Spacey) as he climbs the ladder from House Majority Whip all the way to United States President with the help of his beautiful wife Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright). Even if you don’t understand politics, you are captivated by these two evil players as they manipulate their way through Washington- all for the taste of power.
Since its debut on Netflix, it has gotten much critical acclaim for its writing, production, and stellar performances. Heck, it’s so good Kevin Spacey, as Frank Underwood, crashed CNN’s Republican Debate to announce the release date of the current season, which says a lot about the political climate in America today and how our pop culture is affected by it. Today, shows like Homeland, for example, reflect the international and domestic issues that plague our country and its politicians. House of Cards reveals mainly Washington’s darker side, which may be the reason why it’s so fun to watch. In fact, there’s so much that goes into the Netflix original that most fans are unaware of.
So here’s a list of 15 facts about House of Cards that will surprise you. Happy reading!
15. No Moving of the Camera!
Have you ever noticed that the camera in House of Cards hardly ever moves? Creator David Fincher wanted the series to be, according to Mental Floss, “director-centric.” He believed the show was to be shot in a specific way and shaky camera, something that we see in a lot films these days, was not going to cut it. James Foley, one of the show’s many directors, said this of Fincher in the DGA Quarterly, “I remember David saying something like he would only move the camera if there was a damn good reason to.” Though this came with a lot of self-discipline, he knew that Fincher was all about style and consistency.
14. The Network Battle For The Show
It appears everybody wanted this show and who could blame them? Media Rights Capital (MRC), an indie studio, bought the rights to House of Cards so it could create a series. David Fincher was approached by his agent about the U.K. version of the show. Having an interest in working in television, Fincher turned to screenwriter Eric Roth about turning it into a long television series. The series caught the attention of many studios such as AMC, Showtime, and HBO. But it was Netflix who won them over since they were already in the process of producing fresh, original content.
13. The Production Set Once Belonged To Macy’s
Pretty much all of the interior scenes in the Netflix series were filmed in a huge warehouse located in Joppa, Maryland just several miles outside the city of Baltimore (where the show is primarily shot). Iconic shots were filmed there such as scenes of the West Wing and the Oval Office of the White House. Congressional rooms, and rooms from the Underwoods’ fancy townhouse are also some examples. The set was once part of a distribution center for Macy’s because the warehouse is in the fashion district. The driving scenes, however, were shot in a green room. That room was once used as the department store’s refrigerated room for fur coats.
12. Fincher Chose Robin Wright Specifically for Claire
Claire Underwood seems like the perfect role for Robin Wright. And according to creator David Fincher, she absolutely is. She and Fincher had worked together on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where she played Erika Badger, the sexy editor in chief of a magazine and lover of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Apparently, Fincher liked her so much, she was offered the role of Claire Underwood. In addition to that, he allowed her to help create the character itself. Wright has won a Golden Globe for portraying the powerful Mrs. Underwood, becoming the first actress in a streaming television series to do so.
11. Fincher Had Some Choice Words for the Cast
Whatever David Fincher says, it goes. I’m pretty sure the cast of House of Cards felt the same way. The thing is, every single main cast member of the original Netflix series were his and the producers’ first choice. On the day of the first reading, he turned to them and said “I want everybody here to know that you represent our first choice – each actor here represents our first choice for these characters. So do not f**k this up. ‘Cause if you do, I will never forgive you.” So far, it seems that Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and the gang are doing just that – not messing the “f**k up”…obviously, it shows.
10. Yes, the Politics in the Show Are Real
We often look at a television show and think most of what we see is made up. True, but with House of Cards, it’s quite different. Most of the politics discussed on the show are based on reality. The book series, which the original show was based on, was written by Michael Dobbs, a former MP speechwriter in parliament. The books dealt with behind the scenes revelations from parliament. So, since the show is based off the British drama, which was adapted from the books, it would make complete sense that the American version would follow suit. Beau Willimon, the showrunner, has a political background, having worked in Democratic political campaigns from 1998-2004.
9. It’s One of President Obama’s Favorite Shows
If there’s one thing you could have in common with our current president, maybe it’s that you both have good taste in television. Not only does this man enjoy shows such as Homeland, House of Cards is also one of his favorite shows. He also really, really hates spoilers. According to Mental Floss, just one day before the second season of House of Cards premiered, President Obama took to Twitter to send a daring message to his millions of followers that said, “Tomorrow: House of Cards. No spoilers, please”. Hey another thing we have in common with the president is that he also doesn’t get to view the show in advance. Awesome!
8. Frank Underwood Is Based On A Couple of People
We know that Frank Underwood is based on the original British series’ own Francis Urquhart, portrayed by Ian Richardson. That character is a Tory, who loved breaking the fourth wall, and much older than Kevin Spacey. However, Underwood is influenced by a couple of political figures. One of them is President Lyndon B. Johnson. Spacey also did his own research and took some inspiration from Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Majority Whip. He and McCarthy spent some time together before the first season started so that Spacey could get a good idea of what it’s like working in Congress.
7. The First Netflix Show To Win an Emmy
This one is a bit of a no-brainer but it’s still a big achievement for Netflix. Granted there have been other streaming series that have achieved fame such as Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove, but House of Cards blew the arena open for Netflix, becoming the first Netflix production to be nominated for the award. That first season alone garnered nine Emmy nominations. It became the first streaming series to receive such an honor. The first episode, “Chapter 1,” got four nominations at the creative Emmy Awards, becoming the first webisode to do so. Some of the show’s nominations included directing, cinematography, editing, and music composition.
6. President Walker And the Secretary of State Are Married?
You’d have to be a real TV nerd to know this one and if you already knew before, give yourself a hand because not many people know that Michael Gill, who plays President Walker, and Jayne Atkinson, as Catherine Durant, are a married couple. They are so married that it’s been over twenty years since they tied the knot on October 3, 1998. During the shoot, this fact was unknown to both Spacey, Fincher, and the rest of the cast. In an interview with the New York Post, Gill said he never met either of them and the two “got it within four or five days of each other.” He said it was at the end of the auditions that their marriage was revealed.
5. The Show Shares Similarities With “The Wire”
Fans of the critically acclaimed HBO drama The Wire are sure able to spot the similarities between that and House of Cards. Most notably, they are both shot in and around Baltimore, Maryland. There’s also some familiar faces on House of Cards, such as Reg. E. Cathey who portrays Freddy. Freddy is the proud owner of a BBQ hangout. He also appeared on The Wire for two seasons. The Stamper, a diner located in Baltimore, was also featured on The Wire.
Fincher was unaware of this at the time but loved the place. The owner went over to him and said, “Oh yeah, The Wire shot here three times a week.” Not to mention, the showrunner himself, Mr. Willimon, is a fan of the HBO classic. He even declared on Twitter in the middle of a conversation with a fan that it was his favorite show of all time.
4. Very Popular in China
Though America loves Frank Underwood, so does China, apparently. Since its debut, House of Cards has gained a strong international audience, especially in China. It streams on Sohu, which is essentially Netflix in China. Over 24.5 million viewers watched the series in 2014. It’s main demographic – government workers! One of China’s most influential political figures in the Communist party, Wang Qishan, is known for being one of the show’s biggest fans, according to the Washington Post. A fan also noted that this kind of show doesn’t normally get aired in China because there aren’t any shows that are based on the Chinese government due to strong censorship.
3. Millions in Tax Credits Were Spent on Production
By the looks of this show, it’s obvious it doesn’t look cheap. It’s so expensive that the state of Maryland helped subsidize production costs running in the millions. The first season got about $11.6 million in tax credits. The cost of production was $63 million. In addition, about 2,200 Maryland citizens were employed and 1,800 of the city’s businesses got involved. Season Two got a $15 million tax credit on production costs of $55 million. Season Three could be seeing a $15 millon tax credit for 2014. Now that is expensive but it’s great to know that it impacted Maryland’s economy in a big way.
2. Rachel Was Supposed To Only Have 5 Lines
Played by actress Rachel Brosnahan, Rachel Posner was the troubled call girl to Doug Stamper. Originally, Rachel was only supposed to appear in a couple of episodes, with a total of five lines. But producers decided they wanted more. In the Chicago Tribune, Willimon said, “She had done such a fine job those first two episodes that I started exploring what would it mean to bring her character back and fully three dimensionalize her.” He continues, “Rachel was so fantastic when we brought her back that I just wanted to write for her more and more.”
1. Underwood’s Portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery
You can’t get any more legit than this. You know that as an actor you have made a significant impact on pop culture if you get the opportunity to have your face hanging in one of the world’s most famous galleries. According to Mental Floss, just in time for the season four premiere of House of Cards, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery debuted a portrait of Frank Underwood. Located in Washington D.C., the gallery exhibits portraits of our nation’s presidents. Albeit, he is fictional, but apparently Frank Underwood is a good enough president to be included. Jokingly, Spacey commented, “I’m one step closer to convincing the rest of the country that I am the President.”