Joel talked with The Hollywood Reporter about the new season of House of Cards, his character, Will Conway, and how the season shares political parallels with the real-life U.S. elections. Just a heads up that this entire interview contains major spoilers!
This season Will’s arc is a bit more emotional and rather devastating. What mind set did you get into the role this time around?
I really settled into the role during the fifth season. It’s always a good experience to come back to a role. When I jumped on House of Cards on season four, I was supposed to have five weeks in between Suicide Squad and House of Cards, but since we went over schedule on Suicide Squad, I ended up having five days in between. I really had to just jump in so when I came back I felt like I settled in. It’s the same thing you get at the end of a film; often you really know the character. That’s what’s nice with doing TV you get the chance to revisit and to let it marinate. [For] Will’s arc in this round, we go much deeper with him. You get to go to his dark place. In season four, it’s more of portraying this worthy opponent [to Frank] in a way. In here, it’s actually more fun to play a character that’s unraveling and we get to peel the layers off and see what’s under the facade.
It’s also interesting with this kind of character that is so polished and that is so much playing a role in his own life and when his narrative isn’t playing out the way he wants, then everything starts to crumble.
Going into season five, how early on did you know how his story would end?
[Showrunners] Melissa [James Gibson] and Frank [Pugliese] told me straight-up way before we started shooting how they envisioned the arc of the character. I thought it was a great idea. It was fun for me and Dominique [McElligott]. They [are] this perfect couple and have this perfect facade where you feel that the image that they are showing to the world. People that are too keen on showing how perfect they are they usually aren’t that perfect and it was really fun for us together to get to play that unraveling. You get to see that actually [Hannah] might have been the more genuine and sincere person and when the game had to be played on such a deep level to be won, she was the one that pulled the plug and [said], “I can’t live like this.” And then they broke.
Frank and Melissa spoke about this season showing the blur between entertainment and politics. How did your character, with his use of social media, the live webcasts, etc., help further that? And why is his story a cautionary one?
Considering where we are now where we have a president that is so flippant with his social media and uses any whim that he gets he will communicate that to the world and conduct the nuclear level diplomacy with his Twitter account we see the dangers of that. (Laughs.) Someone needs to tell that schmuck to stop using his Twitter account to conduct diplomacy with North Korea. He’s going to start a nuclear war because he’s in a bad mood.
You personally wrapped filming before the election was over, but what were the conversations on set while the election was taking place?
We were shooting [during] the conventions. There was awhile there when the “Never Trump” movement was gaining steam and there were Republican fractions that were talking about stopping the delegates from voting for Trump. I thought it was going to be another case of House of Cards predicting the future. There were times where I was wondering maybe we need to go even crazier here because reality is so insane. And everyone who was watching the election was asking themselves, “Is this real life? Is this really happening?” And that feeling hasn’t subsided. It’s still very present. (Laughs.)
Read the full interview over at The Hollywood Reporter.