Netflix’s House of Cards is one of the most acclaimed television series on air. The streaming services’ flagship series that has paved the way for much more original (and equally highly-praised) Netflix content has unraveled a dark tale involving an ambitious (to say the least) politician played by Kevin Spacey and his scheming wife, as played by Robin Wright. As Frank and Claire Underwood, these two have been in the position to rule Washington D.C. for a few seasons now.
However, many other players have their own stories to tell – and while some have sat under the foot of power that is controlled by the Underwoods, few have been more comfortable than Frank’s fiercely loyal Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper. Portrayed with searing intensity by Michael Kelly, Doug began this series shrouded in mystery, but his character has slowly opened up over the course of four seasons. With a fifth season on the way, Kelly has now revealed some insight into Doug’s mind.
During an interview with Deadline about House of Cards season 5, Kelly spoke of what goes into being Doug and how he was initially setup. In terms of where the character came from, Kelly described what series creator Beau Willimon told him:
“He was like, ‘Well, two things. Season 1, just don’t emote. I want everyone to go, ‘what the fuck is up with that guy?’’ It’s funny, because those two notes gave me the foundation to build that character. His voice came from that, the way he holds himself. Everything came from those two simple notes, and from that and their incredible writing, came the character…”
“You know, Stamper, everything is so internalized always. So to go outside that box and then have to explore that other side of Doug that’s like, we saw, yes, he could exist doing another job and being with his family, and his niece, and his nephew, and his brother, and all that. That’s another world in which he could live, but it’s not what makes him tick. So it was interesting to explore that and to honestly be the same guy, but a different character almost from what I was so used to playing, the guy who didn’t emote, who didn’t do anything. So that was a big challenge.”
When asked what Kelly personally thought makes Doug tick:
“Addiction. I mean, at his core, he is a guy who just battles massive addiction. He was addicted to Rachel. He was addicted to Frank. He’s addicted to the job. Everything for him is 100 percent. You know, he doesn’t half-ass anything.”
As fans of the series know, that last bit about addiction seems quite clear. While there were gripes by many about season 3 and the increased focus on Stamper’s attachment to prostitute-on-the-run Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan), it did highlight the drive to do his job and some of the complexities that come with it. This was highlighted once again in season 4, as Stamper forced his way into getting a gun-shot Frank the organ transplant he needed, causing another man to die in the process. Following this act, Stamper had to battle his emotions for the family he had affected, based on his actions to protect Frank.
With all of this, Kelly has been terrific in the series. Even while season 3 dipped a bit in quality, Kelly remained committed in a series of episodes that had him recovering from head trauma. That certainly helped for season 4, which found the show firing on all cylinders once again and Stamper being back in full force. Exploring his internalized empathy has easily been one of the highlights in this recent season, even if it does come off as creepy when looking at Stamper’s interactions with other characters, particularly those not involved with politics. With season 5 drawing near, it will now be a wonder of what kinds of major decisions Stamper will have to make next, as far as serving his master.
House of Cards seasons 1-4 are currently available on Netflix. Season 5 will premiere sometime in early 2017.