Photo by Nathaniel Bell
With the third season premiere of Netflix’s House of Cards fastly approaching, expectations are definitely high.
After last season’s wild opener, which saw the shocking death of Kate Mara’s Zoe Barnes at the hand of the show’s villainous protagonist Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), fans are no doubt ready for plenty of twists and turns this time around.
One such twist—and perhaps the most curious scene not involving a subway murder—found Vice President Underwood and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) involved in an unexpected but tender sexual moment with their bodyguard Edward Meechum, played by Nathan Darrow.
While the scene was over just as soon as it began, Darrow says it was “actually really well-choreographed,” explaining it had a “rhythm” to it.
“It was shot kind of in two parts,” he says of the scene, speaking with Variance a few days after Spacey’s Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Drama Series. “When we got down to the oh-my-goodness-what’s-happening part, it was maybe seven takes total. It was like a very careful dance. Everything was plotted out, but of course, some things change in the moment. So we made some slight adjustments and kept exploring until we got it right. It was mostly methodical but fun.”
Darrow admits locking lips on screen with such a storied actor was initially intimidating, but the Kansas City native says having work history with Spacey made it easier. The pair performed together in the theatrical production of Shakespeare’s Richard III in 2011.
“At first, yeah, you’re thinking, ‘Is it going to feel awkward?’” he recalls of the first time he learned about the scene. “But it was easy. Kevin is such a professional and we’re friends.”
Photo of Kevin Spacey and Nathan Darrow in 2014, by Slaven Vlasic
Of course, the “Threechum” carries a little more weight now that Frank has suddenly become commander-in-chief. But as Darrow sees it, “that moment between them was also a sign of loyalty. There are still a lot of open questions surrounding him. But it’s clear that what [the Underwoods] want becomes what he wants. To serve them and be depended on seems crucial to his existence. But the stakes are higher now that they’re in the White House.”
Given the events leading up to Frank’s presidency and the scrutiny likely to present itself now, it’s possible Meechum’s allegiance to this nefarious duo could backfire. And Darrow suggests nothing is off the table.
“Everything comes into play this season,” he teases. “But I don’t think it’s obvious yet if Frank and Claire have genuine tenderness towards Meechum or if they’re using him. And I don’t think you can really pin down yet whether Meechum himself doesn’t have darker motives. I mean, he’s a smart guy.”
A challenge going into the third year of what’s become one of Netflix’s tentpoles is that it’s only season three and Frank is already in the Oval Office. But it’s hardly a dream presidency, Darrow warns.
"He’s worked everything behind the scenes, out of the spotlight ... Frank got away with a lot last season. But there must be consequences.”
“It wouldn’t be a very fun show if Frank just knocked down paper tigers in every episode,” he quips. “And the writers get that. It’s interesting that he sits in that chair without having gotten one vote. And in fact, he wasn’t even a senator; he’s a congressman, so his constituency has been, maybe a few hundred thousand [people]. He’s worked everything behind the scenes, out of the spotlight. And then boom! He’s in the biggest spotlight of all. So there’s a learning curve for him. Frank got away with a lot last season. But of course there must be consequences.”
Darrow says he himself was surprised by some of the scripts when the show resumed production, joking: “I don’t know what [the writers were] doing over there, but I was caught off guard with some of this stuff.”
While he’s careful not to spoil anything, he says this season “digs deeper into the story and the characters, but it also kind of digs deeper into our lives—the viewers. That’s just my observation. But even with House of Cards being a darker fantasy with all this political craziness, sometimes there are these shows where you realize, ‘This is actually more about me than I thought.’ And it kind of gets to you. I think that happens with this season. It’s truly brilliant and special.”
House of Cards’ third season premieres Feb. 27 in its entirety on Netflix.