'House Of Cards' Stands Without Spacey, As Claire Underwood Brings Closure Frank Underwood is dead and his wife Claire is the country's first female president. Actor Robin Wright and showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese talk about bringing the show to a close.
NPR logo

'House Of Cards' Stands Without Spacey, As Claire Underwood Brings Closure

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/660436868/660436869" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'House Of Cards' Stands Without Spacey, As Claire Underwood Brings Closure

'House Of Cards' Stands Without Spacey, As Claire Underwood Brings Closure

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/660436868/660436869" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So in the final season of the hit Netflix series "House Of Cards," Francis Underwood is dead, and the spotlight now turns to Claire Underwood, the first woman president of the United States. She's played by Robin Wright.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

ROBIN WRIGHT: (As Claire Underwood) My first 100 days as president have been difficult. I lost my husband.

GREG KINNEAR: (As Cody Fern) Your husband and I had an agreement.

WRIGHT: (As Claire Underwood) Francis is dead.

KINNEAR: (As Cody Fern) Promises were made.

WRIGHT: (As Claire Underwood) Not by me. Here's the thing. Whatever Francis told you the last five years, don't believe a word of it.

GREENE: Now, the death of her husband was a rewrite. The showrunners, Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson, had to re-envision their Emmy Award-winning show after Kevin Spacey, who played Francis Underwood, was accused of sexual harassment and assault last year. They were determined to continue "House Of Cards" without him. Robin Wright, Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson all sat down together in our studios in New York City to talk with Rachel Martin.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Robin, if I could ask you about the allegations, who told you? Or did you find out in the press?

WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah, we all found out through the press. And, you know, of course, shock and surprise and then you're pulverized as a team. What's the moral and ethical thing to do? And they made an executive decision, MRC and Netflix, and all of us, deciding to close out this beautifully operatic show. And what it also would've meant to shut down is that we would've been putting almost 2,000 people out of a job in the state of Maryland, where we shoot. And that was security that people were dependent on.

MARTIN: Did you essentially have to go back to square one? I mean, how much had you already started to think about the upcoming season, or even - I think I read you'd started shooting it, right? Melissa. I'll put you on spot.

MELISSA JAMES GIBSON: We had started shooting it. And we'd thought it through, really - boy, just about the whole thing (laughter). But all of the DNA was there. You know, Season 5 ended with Robin's character, Claire, turning to the camera and saying, my turn. So that was indeed what we continued to serve and explore.

FRANK PUGLIESE: And I will say just because the character Francis Underwood is not on the screen doesn't mean his essence is not on the screen, and it doesn't mean that it's not still being dealt with. And in his absence became a dramatic opportunity to see who would try to fill that space.

GIBSON: Right. We knew to deny the existence of Francis Underwood would be dishonest, you know, to the history of the show. There's no way that Claire isn't in dialogue with her past with him as she's forging a future for herself.

MARTIN: And she may be comfortable in this position, but others around her are not. And there is this scene early on when Greg Kinnear's character, this D.C. powerbroker, he has cajoled Claire, President Underwood, into signing a bill. And when she finally agrees, he physically grabs her hand and covers it with his as she signs it. And I found this so disturbing to watch (laughter), maybe because of everything else that's around the show, but, like, this idea that he feels he could manipulate her. What was that scene like for you, Robin?

WRIGHT: There was a lot of discussion around that, remember, where Robin - would she ever let him do it? And the decision behind saying, yes, let him do that, was because in politics, and what so much the backbone of this show is about is, you always have to sacrifice something to get what you want.

PUGLIESE: I mean, we always knew that we wanted this season to be an exploration of who owns the White House. So no matter what - and that was a physical manifestation of a theme we were working on.

GIBSON: And, you know...

MARTIN: Melissa?

GIBSON: ...Is this country, (laughter), you know, within the world of the show, ready for a female president?

MARTIN: If I could ask you, Robin, just about your relationship with Kevin Spacey. You've talked about it before as something that was a professional relationship. You didn't really know him socially, but you told Variety last month, and I'm quoting here, that you "feel sorry for anybody whose life is in the public arena," that you hate that part of the industry. And you also said you believe in second chances. Do you still feel that way about Hollywood writ large and about Kevin Spacey?

WRIGHT: Yes. I hate what the media does with our sentiments and our words. And I didn't say just that sentence. This is the problem, (laughter), with being extracted. You know, that's one sentence out of a paragraph that I said. I said I believe when people do the work and they reform, I think everybody has the ability to do that - do the work and reform. That's what I said. And in that instance then you should be given a second chance in life if there's true change that occurs.

So I wasn't pinpointing any specific human being. I was talking about humankind and their abilities. So when I was paraphrased, I've just decided to not comment anymore because I'm so sick of being taken out of context, and then that's being insensitive to victims out there that I'm not insensitive to.

MARTIN: As you all move away from this project, what have you learned from this show, these characters?

WRIGHT: Normally, you're making a movie for six, eight, 10 weeks, and then you say goodbye to those people. This was a six-year relationship that we had. We spent more time with each other than we did our own families. And people would come on set, and they'd walk off and they were like, wow. It's palpable how close everyone is. You can feel how everyone has each other's back. They just want all of you to do the best work.

I mean, we would crack up after certain scenes, the lines that you guys would write. And we were like, we just actually said that (laughter)? That line came out of my mouth? I can't believe it. It was fun.

MARTIN: The last day of shooting, I imagine, was full of a lot of emotions.

WRIGHT: It was the jumping up and down and sobbing at the same time.

PUGLIESE: Yeah.

WRIGHT: 'Cause it's good to put characters to bed. I'm sure it's the same for you guys as writers, right?

PUGLIESE: Yeah, but that night, nobody wanted to go to bed.

GIBSON: Nobody did go to bed.

(LAUGHTER)

PUGLIESE: People did not want to leave the set. It wasn't till daybreak that people actually finally left 'cause we just didn't want to go.

MARTIN: Well, it has been a pleasure talking with the three of you.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

GIBSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF "'HOUSE OF CARDS' (MAIN TITLE THEME)" )

GREENE: That was our co-host Rachel Martin speaking with Robin Wright, who stars in the Netflix show, "House Of Cards." She was also joined by the showrunners, Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.