Beau Willimon's House of Cards

By Castillo, Michelle | ADWEEK, April 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Beau Willimon's House of Cards


Castillo, Michelle, ADWEEK


Before Beau Willimon created the American version of House of Cards, Web TV (not including YouTube) was largely made up of network program outtakes--or worse, discards. But the writer behind the Netflix series as well as the Broadway play Farragut North (later adapted into George Clooney's Ides of March) disrupted that notion. In its first two seasons, HoC gleaned the first Emmy noms for an Internet-first show and took home the first acting Golden Globe for an online property. Adweek spoke to Willimon about how the online cosmos have evolved since his days on the Howard Dean presidential campaign.

ADWEEK: House of Cards really elevated the Web video sphere. Were you always behind the idea of the show going to the Internet?

Willimon: No. When we first started out, we just set out to make a great TV show ... and find the appropriate place to license [it]. At that time, we had in mind the usual suspects: HBO, Showtime, AMC. When we sat down with Netflix, we weren't really quite sure what they had in mind. It's sort of funny to think about several years later. Internally we debated whether it made sense to release a show exclusively on the Internet, to do so with a company that was just getting into the TV business. At the end of the day, a few things sort of played into the decision to want to team up with Netflix, not the least of which was two seasons guaranteed, which was huge, and creative control, which was huge, but also the opportunity to do something new and different. We suspected that if this all worked out, it would possibly be a paradigmatic shift in television, and that excited us. I think the rebels in us were very excited about teaming up with some rebels. In a lot of ways, we were in the right place at the right time at the right project. We didn't start out on Day One that this would end up on the Internet, but we're thrilled that it did.

That must have been an interesting conversation to tell the stars of the show: "Hey, so remember that TV show we were doing? Yeah, it's going on Netflix."

Dana [Brunetti, executive producer] has always been forward-thinking in terms of technology and where the industry is going. I know that he spoke directly to Kevin [Spacey, the show's star], and said, "I think there is an opportunity there to do something exciting and new." Kevin has always been progressive and forward-thinking and a risk-taker himself in art and producing. [Co-star] Bobin [Wright], she trusted David [Fincher, executive producer]. She trusted the strength of the story, and realized no matter where we were there was an opportunity to dig her teeth into a character she was really excited about.

You've always used real world events to inspire your work. Has the prevalence of the Web changed over the course of your career?

The [Howard] Dean [2004 presidential] campaign revolutionized the way campaigns engaged with the Internet. Now, it's a matter of course. At the time it was an extraordinary thing that [campaign manager] Joe Trippi pulled off where he created an online grassroots movement by making supporters part of the conversation. If you go back to 2004, we did something on the Dean campaign that no one had done before. …

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