Kevin Spacey, who plays Francis Underwood, the Machiavellian Democrat in “House of Cards,” was on set in Baltimore shooting the third season of the show when he heard he'd received an Emmy nomination for best actor in a drama series. It's exactly where we found him last year after he was nominated in the same category. The show made television history then, as Netflix was the first online-delivered TV series to be recognized by the Academy with an Emmy nod. At the time, Spacey called it "a game changer." In the last year, he says, things have changed even more.
Last year you said that the "House of Cards" crew felt a little like 'the new kids on the block,’ in terms of pioneering a new model for television. Do you still feel that way, like the new kids, in wider TV realm?
I think the leap from Netflix getting 14 nominations to 31 this year is a big leap, it says something, and I’m very delighted, particularly in the case of “House of Cards” to see so many of our fellow collaborators nominated who weren’t nominated last year. It’s fantastic.
I think the industry is going: “Wow, this is really happening -- this new shift, this new platform and this new way of watching TV. I’m just enormously honored to be included in so many nominations.
You also mentioned last year that the creative process was looser than traditional television, in your experience -- and that got everyone’s creative juices flowing. Is it still that way now?
Absolutely. We’re now a little more than a month into shooting the third season and we continue to be given such complete free rein in the way we want the story to develop and the arc of it. I’m having an even better time this year than last year. It’s a dream job!
Your character continues to develop in interesting ways.
It’s incredibly fun for me, and I learn more about him as we go along and things continue to get revealed. From the creative perspective of the writing process, we’ll go over how complex and entertaining we want it to be -- and we’re just having a blast.
Were you surprised at all this morning by your nomination and the number of nods your show got?
I don’t tend to spend a lot of time musing about it. There were certainly a lot of actors in my category who do wonderful work and some who weren’t recognized. I don’t think of this as an individual achievement -- it’s always odd to be pulled out when you think of it as teamwork. You watch the Wimbledon finals and you see two guys or two ladies out there and it’s an easier way to judge who wins the game. In this, it’s apples and oranges -- I’m thrilled but it’s odd to be singled out of such a team effort.
Anyone in particular you were excited to see nominated?
You know, I’m honored and pleased to be among a group of actors who’ve done such great work -- and not just on this crop of shows, but their entire careers. I don’t want to point out anyone; but I’m delighted and honored.
In terms of digital entertainment and innovation, where do you think we are headed? I think we happen to be on one of those remarkable apexes. There’s an incredible creative excitement that’s building and growing, and more content is interesting and diverse, and audiences are digging the complexities; and, at the same time, technology is exploding. And when all that comes together, it’s an exciting moment. I think we’ll see more original programming from, in the next five or ten years, outfits we’ve not even heard of. I think the Netflix model has proved the audience wants to be in control.
Are audiences getting smarter?
I think the last 15 years of television proves that audiences have demanded the kind of anti-hero characters that, 25 years ago, TV would have steered away from -- characters that were likable and good at their jobs and family men. Now we see more complicated characters who aren’t necessarily good at what they do -- or even good people -- and audiences seem to dig it. We can all tip our hats to HBO and “The Sopranos” which, in 1998, paved the way -- and paved the way for us, too.
Anything you can share with us about season three?
Oh, I appreciate the question but, like a good politician, I have to dodge that question. I cannot and will not be the spoiler in chief!
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on NBC on Monday, Aug. 25. The ceremonies, which are being held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, will be hosted by Seth Meyers.