For the inaugural episode of Trail Talk, Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin spoke with Beau Willimon, screenwriter and show runner of the Netflix hit political thriller, HOUSE OF CARDS. Following are excerpts of his interview where he discusses why there are currently so many DC-based political TV shows, shares his perspective on the evolution of TV, and explains how House of Cards prevents leaks.
WHY SO MANY DC-BASED POLITICAL TV SHOWS
“I would say that really over the past 15 years or so, the American public seems to be more politically conscious than it was in the decade or two prior to that, and that’s largely because of 9/11, of the War on Terror, number of wars overseas, an election in 2000 that was highly disputed. Politics became a big part of everyone’s life because there were real stakes, attached to it, in ways that there hadn’t been to the same degree in years previous and maybe that heightened political consciousness has led to a deeper interest in these sort of stories.”
EVOLUTION OF TV/NETFLIX
“I don’t think you can really draw a distinction between Internet television and other forms of television at this point. I would say you can’t even really draw a distinction between television and film. You have so many types of distribution, so many different types of networks and broadcasters. Formal differences between film and TV are falling away in terms of the way that they’re filmed, the sort of talent that TV is drawing to it. You’ve got a bunch of limited series which seems to be the new fad now. They used to be called miniseries. There might be four or six episodes, which are essentially just long movies.
“I think that what’s most exciting is that you have a technological and a cultural paradigmatic shift happening at the same time and they’re intertwined. Netflix has expanded at a speed that you really haven’t seen in Hollywood before, at least not for a very long time. It was only three-and-a-half years ago that Netflix got into the game, and now they have dozens of shows that they are launching and are in development, major franchises, a huge diverse slate. Other competitors are getting into the game in a serious way like Amazon, Hulu. I don’t think that Netflix or Amazon, for instance, is going to replace all of the hundreds of networks that we have on cable but I do think that those networks may adapt to the new environment. HBO is a good example. They now have their own streaming service, specific to their network. And I think things are just changing very fast. It’s difficult to predict what it will be. I think what it is now, in ten years will probably seem antiquated to what it will be, and we can’t even imagine what it will be. I think the only thing we can count on that it’s going to continue to evolve at a very fast pace.”
SEASON 4 OF HOUSE OF CARDS – NO LEAKS
WILLIMON: There’s plenty of leaks in Washington but we’re pretty good at “House of Cards” keeping leaks from happening, and I’m certainly not going to be the one who breaks ranks.
HADDAD: Do you lock up that writers’ room at night?
WILLIMON: Oh, yeah, we do lock it up.
MARTIN: Do you have your own e-mail server?
WILLIMON: There are a lot of security precautions. I mean, we don’t know how well we can protect ourselves from PRISM, but they haven’t let the cat out of the bag yet so…
MARTIN: You haven’t done anything to upset the North Koreans, then, too. Right?
WILLIMON: Well, see, like you’re trying to ask sneaky questions. You’re thinking that in a dispositive way of however I answer that might say something about Season 4, so, no comment.