House of Cards is a show of mystery, betrayal, and darkness at the highest level. Sadly, we’re not just talking about the plot of the show.
When the Kevin Spacey-led drama dropped on February 1, 2013, it literally changed the face of television. It was Netflix’s experiment with binge-watching, the first time all episodes premiered at once, giving people a chance to fully immerse themselves in the shady world of Washington politics, and it was a blast. As creator Beau Willimon notoriously said in 2012 before the show even premiered: “Streaming is the future. TV will not be TV in five years from now … everyone will be streaming.” How right he was.
The next time you sit down and binge watch an entire show in a night, you can thank House of Cards. It’s a show that continues to shock five years later, both on screen and, sadly, in real life. Perhaps a show this dark had to have a few skeletons, none of us could have seen just how malicious life behind-the-scenes was. With the state of the show now in flux, we took a deeper look into the darker side of this beloved series.
Here are 16 Dark Secrets Behind House Of Cards You Had No Idea About.
16. The Death Of That Dog
It was a long time ago now, but if you can remember, House of Cards actually begins pretty shockingly. Frank Underwood discovers an injured dog out on the street, whimpering after being hit by a car. After having one of his now-trademark conversations with the audience, he strangles the dog, putting it out of its misery.
This almost didn’t happen. Producers were very worried about Frank killing the injured dog, as they were worried they’d lose half of their audience in the first few minutes. However, Beau Willimon and David Fincher fought to keep it in: “That’s the big rule, right? Don’t kill the dog? I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t see any problem with it. The dog’s going to die anyway, it’s not a human. You can kill as many humans as you want, that’s no problem, but a dog?” he mused to Empire. “We did think, ‘If this isn’t the scene for you, this isn’t the show for you.’ So at least you know in the first 30 seconds.”
15. Robin Wright was secretly paid less than Kevin Spacey
Frank and Claire Underwood are a team and for seasons were unable to function without each other, each playing an equal and important role to the show. Sadly, it seemed like the producers didn’t feel the same way.
“I was told that I was getting equal pay, and I believed them, and I found out recently that it’s not true,” Wright said said to The Edit. Spacey was reportedly making $500,000 per episode ahead of the season 3 debut in 2014. In comparison, Wright made 5.5 million from the show between 2014 to 2015, which comes out to only $420,000 per episode.
14. Kevin Spacey’s hand injury from flag-burning
Promoting a show can be dangerous work.
In putting together promotions for season two of his show, Spacey did a photo shoot holding a flag on fire. A powerful statement for sure, but clearly also a hazardous one. During this, Spacey actually ended up burning his hand and was forced to wear a bandage around the injured body part.
Instead of stopping filming for House of Cards though, they actually worked it into the season. In episode nine of the season, Frank Underwood burns his hand pretty badly while drinking coffee. For a little while after this, he has his hand wrapped up, and you catch it in scenes like when he and Claire go out to a baseball game. It looks like that, in this case, it’s clearly art imitating life.
13. Frank’s creepiest line was really said by director David Fincher
Frank Underwood has had some seriously memorable lines during his run in House of Cards, but one we have particularly come love comes from season one, where he goes, “You know what I love about people? They stack so well.”
Turns out, this wasn’t just a dark quote dropped into a dark show. Instead, it comes straight from the mind of David Fincher. Apparently, while telling a story about an interaction with a producer, Fincher said that exact thing to Willimon. Since he wasn’t just creator, but writer of most of the episodes as well, Willimon slipped that line in. It remains today one of the creepier things that Frank Underwood has ever said and now it additionally lives forever in infamy.
12. The show is based around “shocking moments”
Feel like you’ve gasped at House of Cards a lot? Then Beau Willimon is completely satisfied with his work.
There have been a lot of shocking moments in House of Cards, from Zoe being pushed on a train, the killing of Peter Russo, Claire confronting her rapist, and of course, Frank literally spitting on Jesus. Yikes.
These are very intentional.
Willimon said it best in an interview with Empire: “When we decide on a ‘shocking moment’, my mind goes from childish glee to self-doubting fear to a calm, zen-like approach of ‘Ah, well, we’re going there…’ At times there’s even a mechanical craftsmanship.” he said. “Usually, if we’re not doing something that really has me worried at least once an episode, then I don’t think we’re doing our jobs.”
11. The creator left after season four
Willimon had been as a vital part of House of Cards since its creation. He was a man who was not afraid to speak and was, often times, truly outspoken in his opinions. So it truly shocked fans when he said he was leaving the show at the end of the fourth season.
The reasons of his departure remain a mystery, even today. His official statement was that he was leaving to work on “new endeavors”. Originally, this seemed like it may be a plan to go back to his playwright roots, but now it’s been announced he’s switching streaming services. His new set-in-space show The First, staring Sean Penn, will debut on Hulu in 2018.
10. Banned from filming by Russia
Although a lot of it is filmed in Baltimore, House of Cards works tirelessly to get the D.C. details correct. They want to make sure everything feels as authentic as possible. Unfortunately, just like a lot of situations the world is facing today, there was an issue with Russia.
In 2014, the show asked if they would be allowed to shoot in the United Nation’s Security Council when the organization wasn’t in session. Russia’s answer: “Nyet!”
While countries like England encouraged it, thinking it was a raise awareness about The World Security Council, Mikael Agasandyan, UNSC coordinator for the permanent Russian delegation to the U.N., made a statement saying, “We consistently insist that the Security Council premises are not an appropriate place for filming, staging, etc.”
9. The Lies Kate Mara Tells
It’s hard enough to keep the secrets of a show secure when you’re still on it, which we think makes Kate Mara the real hero of House of Cards. Mara knew from the start that her character was going to die in season two, and couldn’t tell anyone – not cast, crew or family.
“I can’t really believed it happened either,” Mara said on Live With Kelly and Michael. “It’s hard, I had to be really creative with people asking me how things were going on the show… but my family members didn’t even really know. They were swearing at me… I kept apologizing to people… I was being paid to lie.”
This only got worse when the show was in production and, obviously, she wasn’t in Baltimore on set. She had to tell people that she was on break from filming and was going back. “I took bunch of random pictures on the set in the two weeks that it took me to shoot my final episode and then throughout the months when I wasn’t shooting we’d tweet a picture as if I was on set and I really wasn’t,” Mara said in an interview with TVLine. “Very Zoe Barnes.”
8. It costs $4 million per episode
As previously mentioned, when Netflix bought House of Cards before anything had gone into production, they paid a whopping $100 million for the two-season series, making it the most expensive thing the streaming service had done. It also turned Cards into one of the most expensive shows ever produced.
House of Cards still costs a reported $4.5 million per episode. The only thing beating it on Netflix was Sense8, which was shot for $9 million per episode. This may explain why they only got two seasons and a handful of movies.
The cost of making a television show is always high, but House of Cards spends theirs like they’re using taxpayer money to get things done. (Come on, we had to get at least one political zinger in this article, right?)
7. Season Three Leaks
Netflix has truly embraced and promoted the idea of binge watching, dropping every episode at once to give you a chance to go as fast or as slow as you want. Sadly, though, this can also lead to issues.
Due to what Netflix claimed was a “bug in the system,” all of season three of House of Cards actually dropped two weeks before the premiere date. They pulled it minutes later but that was still enough time for people to catch a glimpse at what was to come (and, it goes without saying, to illegally pirate the season online.)
Netflix, of course, handled the situation with grace. An official tweet about the incident on the Netflix account said, “This is Washington. There’s always a leak” and asked for “#nospoilers.” For you, Netflix, anything.
6. Bidding War
You may not know this, but House of Cards is actually based on a very successful British show – but then again, what isn’t? When creator Beau Willimon and executive producer David Fincher began to put it together, they had no network in mind and no deals in place. It’s an almost unheard of way to create a show, but they banked on the successful original BBC series and big names like Kevin Spacey behind it.
The gamble worked, as a bloody and brutal bidding war commenced for the program, with networks like AMC and HBO throwing their proverbial hats in the ring. In the end, as you now know, Netflix took home the prize by not offering just over $100 million, but agreeing to make two seasons without even seeing a pilot. Another risky move, but clearly, one that paid off and helped create the streaming giant we know today.
5. Spacey’s Target
One of the best parts of House of Cards is the interactions and intense relationship the audience has with Frank Underwood, especially when he turns to the camera and talks to the viewers directly, often in a downright chilling manner. Turns out, he wasn’t talking to us at all. He was talking to a future President.
Years ago, Spacey went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he told the host that every time he spoke to the camera, he was pretending to speak directly to Donald Trump. Following up after Trump had been elected, Spacey went back on the show to say, “What has become clear since then is that he’s just not listening at all.”
4. The current presidency makes it harder to write the show
Think whatever you’d like about Donald Trump as President, it has been, without a doubt, a very strange year, filled with moments that would be too ridiculous even to show on television.
Sadly, the House of Cards cast agrees. Robin Wright, who plays the fantastic Claire Underwood, said that our President is ruining the show because they can’t top the things he’s doing in the actual White House.
“Trump has stolen all of our ideas for season six,” Wright said during Variety and Kering’s Women in Motion talk at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
3. No Spacey, No Show?
As we mentioned previously, Willimon and Fincher had started to put together the show, write the episodes, and cast the show before they knew it would actually happen. In fact, had casting gone differently, we may have never seen House of Cards.
Both men have outright started that had Kevin Spacey not signed up to be Frank Underwood, they would not have done the show. Period. It was going to be him playing Frank Underwood or the show would not have gone forward.
Spacey hadn’t actually hadn’t done any television since 1990’s Wiseguy, where he played a notorious mafia boss, so there was no guarantee he was coming along. However, Wilimon and Fincher not only got him to star but be an executive producer, which helped the show get made in the first place.
2. The Allegations Against Spacey
In October of this year, actor Anthony Rapp sat down with BuzzFeed to report that Spacey had sexually abused him when he was only 14. The following morning, Netflix announced that the already-in-production season six of House of Cards would be the last, something they said they were already planning.
However, days later, Netflix and MRC, the production company behind the show, decided to suspend the show indefinitely: “(We) have decided to suspend production on House of Cards season six, until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew,” the companies said in a statement.
Even Willimon made a statement about the issue: “Anthony Rapp’s story is deeply troubling. During the time I worked with Kevin Spacey on House of Cards, I neither witnessed nor was aware of any inappropriate behavior on set or off. That said, I take reports of such behavior seriously and this is no exception.”
1. More Allegations On Set
While Rapp made the most public allegations against Spacey, he was in no way the first. Now with all eyes on the situation, more news from the set of House of Cards are coming out.
CNN reported that eight cast and crew members from the set had come forward and allege about Spacey’s behavior. In the article, an unnamed production assistant gave specific details about his own experiences with Spacey on set and the experiences of others: “I have no doubt that this type of predatory behavior was routine for him and that my experience was one of many and that Kevin had few if any qualms about exploiting his status and position. It was a toxic environment for young men who had to interact with him at all in the crew, cast, background actors.”
The allegations against Spacey are as disheartening as they are disgusting and are helping fuel a much-needed national dialogue about sexual abuse.
Do you have any other House of Cards trivia to share? Leave it in the comments.
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