The House Of Cards showrunner is looking to expand his political influence from the White House to the union hall. Beau Willimon is among the candidates announced today for a two-year term on the WGA East Council. Fifteen other candidates also will vie for the seven open Freelance seats including incumbents John Auerbach, Jenny Lumet, Terry George, Richard Vetere, Patrick Mason and Walter Bernstein, the 94-year-old Fail-Safe and The Front scribe who was blacklisted during the 1950s. The other candidates are Kyle Bradstreet, Andrea Ciannavei, Timothy Cooper, Marin Gazzaniga, Chris Kyle, John Marshall, Jo Miller, Oren Moverman, Danielle Paige and George Strayton. The four candidates for the three open Staff seats are Gail Lee, Patrick Mason, Kathy McGee and Cath Twohill. Balloting will begin August 27 and run through September 18. The winners will be announced September 19.
As far as Jay Carson knows, none of the 435 representatives and 100 senators who make up the United States Congress has resorted to murdering reporters. “But then, there are so many of them,” he jokes. Still, with 15 years in politics under his belt, including his current stint as senior adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the consultant on Netflix’s House of Cards understands why lawmakers have fallen in love with Kevin Spacey’s murderous Machiavellian despot Frank Underwood. “Frank’s ability to get things done, even if some of his actions aren’t so legal, might actually be a nice antidote to the gridlocked Washington we have right now,” Carson insists. “He’s a man of action, as (showrunner) Beau (Willimon) says. He runs up against a wall and he’s not thinking, ‘Oh well.’ He’s thinking, ‘OK, I can go under it, over it or knock it right down.’ ”
Carson and Willimon met while in college at Columbia University. The seeds that became House of Cards were planted when Carson started interning for Chuck Schumer’s successful Senate campaign. “No one thought he would win,” says Carson, who brought Willimon onboard. “We became this inseparable duo. You can see from House of Cards how important it is to have someone around you can trust.”
When writer-producer Beau Willimon adapted the black-as-pitch British miniseries House of Cards for a ground-breaking deal with Netflix, he introduced U.S. audiences to the anti-hero power couple Francis and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright), both so bent on rising to the top of Washington power circles that their ambitions trump their morals. By the end of season two, they had reached their goal, moving into the White House. Willimon first explored political cynicism and boundless ambition with the play Farragut North, which became the 2011 film Ides of March with George Clooney. Now, heading into a third season of an award-winning blockbuster, Willimon explains how Frank Underwood is actually as optimistic a politician as they come.
DEADLINE: Early on you worked on Chuck Schumer’s campaign, and then with Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. In your adaptations, politicians just seem like such awful people. What the heck did you see that informed such a cynical view of politics?
BEAU WILLIMON: Well, I don’t have a cynical view of politics. I don’t see Francis Underwood as being cynical at all. He doesn’t have an ideology. He’s not driven by idealism, but he is an optimist at heart. He says, “Forward progress, momentum. Do something instead of nothing.” That’s an optimistic point of view. Admittedly, both Ides of March and House of Cards are a dark take on the political process, but the subject isn’t politics, it’s power. So, there are no politicians that I worked for that, in any way, are parallel to Francis Underwood. Now, the more you become acquainted with the political world, you see people who are constantly faced with ethical choices, who wield a great deal of power, and with that power, comes a huge amount of responsibility, and you’re more often than not in that gray area instead of a black-and-white dialectic. I like to amplify the grayness. I like to really dig into those forks in the road, those moments where someone becomes a monster or plays into the darker side of power. But that’s not meant to be reflective of the entire political process.