“Of course you release this on Valentine’s Day!” laughs Michel Gill, who returns in Season Two of House of Cards as President Garrett Walker. “Even though it’s not billed as a romantic comedy, it’s a subliminal thing. This is just a romantic comedy about Frank.”
It’s an interesting take on the dark political drama from Netflix, who will release the acclaimed show’s second season in its entirety this Friday. And while Gill jests about the rom-com nature of the back-alley dealing, congressman-murdering kingpin that is Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood, he also might be on to something.
“Netflix has probably connected the algorithm of the romance of Claire and Frank mixed with the romance of people out there who have been dying for a year to see the new season,” Gill reasons. “Frank and Claire are a formidable team, and people really want to be in on their dirt.”
Indeed. Last year, Netflix made waves with House of Cards, their first foray into original programming. They released the entire season at once, giving viewers the choice between binge-watching or dragging out the suspense for as long as they desired. Although Netflix doesn’t release data on their shows, it’s safe to say they were pleased with the results: Season One became a social media Goliath, and the show garnered nine Emmy nominations (plus three wins), including nods for leads Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
And, as Gill points out, some of us (spoilers ahead!) have been waiting a full year to see how Frank, the former House Majority Whip, will exploit his newly appointed role as Vice President. “Everyone walks on eggshells around Frank,” Gill says. “He has it out for everybody. In a very Shakespearean way, he just wants to kill everyone who crosses him in any way.”
Of course, we’ve already seen that Frank’s not above murder: After promising to help a recovering-addict Congressman climb the political ladder, Frank snuffs him out in a very Macbethian power-grab. But would he go after a sitting president, now that he’s – in the words of his foreboding aside in Season Two’s trailer – “one heartbeat away from the presidency, and not a single vote cast in my name?“
“I mean, look at our history,” Gill says. “We’re so jaded now as a culture, you’d say, ‘I find it hard to believe’ rather than ‘there’s just no way.’ We know that there’s always the possibility [of an inside job] because we’ve read all of the conspiracy books, and we know about the faction of people who believe that Johnson had everything to do with Kennedy’s death. With Frank, it’s just a matter of calculation.”
That said, Gill doesn’t seem to be too worried about his character’s mortality. “Presidents are pretty insulated, and Frank is just one person who comes in and has an opinion,” Gill explains. “The show is sort of surgically created so that the audience has a specific experience with Frank’s character – so they don’t see the mass of advisors who would come through the Oval Office. But everyone is out for themselves, including President Walker.”
Ultimately, whether one views House of Cards as a rambling romantic comedy or a modern tragedy, Gill knows we tune in because there’s something about how the fiction reflects our reality. “We all want to enjoy Frank’s rise and relish in his fall, ” Gill says. “And that’s what we do every day of our lives with our own politicians.”