With CNN se­ries about past elec­tions and film role as Nixon, ‘House of Cards’ star Kevin Spacey not giv­ing up Oval Of­fice yet

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - TV - By Stephen Battaglio

Kevin Spacey has spent so much time around the Amer­i­can pres­i­dency that he should have his own Se­cret Ser­vice code name.

The ac­tor plays Pres­i­dent Frank Un­der­wood on the Netflix political drama “House of Cards,” which re­cently be­gan stream­ing its fourth sea­son.

He also wrapped up his first big-screen pres­i­den­tial role in “Elvis & Nixon,” in­spired by the strange 1970 Oval Of­fice meet­ing be­tween the king of rock ’n’ roll, Elvis Pres­ley, and Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon. Ama­zon Stu­dios is re­leas­ing the fea­ture this spring.

And off-cam­era, Spacey is known to pal around with for­mer White House oc­cu­pant Bill Clin­ton, who is ap­par­ently a fan of the ac­tor’s spot-on im­pres­sion of him.

“He loves it,” said Spacey, sip­ping a large cup of coffee re­cently as he pre­pared for a long day of press in­ter­views at a ho­tel in Man­hat­tan’s No­Mad district. “When we toured Africa to­gether, he used to get up and pre­tend he was hoarse and say (as Clin­ton), ‘My voice is gone, my friend Kevin is go­ing to give the speech.’ So I’d get up and start giv­ing his speech, and he’d go, ‘Sit down, you’re do­ing too good. I’m go­ing to do it.’ ”

Clin­ton, Nixon and even Un­der­wood fig­ure into Spacey’s new CNN orig­i­nal se­ries, “Race for the White House.” Each week, the show looks at a com­pelling pres­i­den­tial cam­paign from the past us­ing some com­bi­na­tion of re-en­act­ments, archival news footage and in­ter­views with his­to­ri­ans, ex­perts and par­tic­i­pants.

The races were se­lected for their his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and, per­haps coin­ci­den­tally, have a high quo­tient of dirty tricks and bare-knuckle tac­tics.

They range from the 1828 re­match be­tween An­drew Jack­son and in­cum­bent John Quincy Adams, which led to the rise of the Demo­cratic Party, to the gen­er­a­tional power shift that came with baby-boomer Clin­ton’s vic­tory over World War II hero Ge­orge H.W. Bush in 1992.

“Th­ese races give you a pretty great swath of time,” said Spacey, who nar­rates the se­ries and serves as co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. “They show that whether some­one’s ideas travel very slowly or very quickly, there is a lot that hasn’t changed in terms of how pol­i­tics works.” about the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of discourse in the cur­rent political en­vi­ron­ment, “Race for the White House” shows how ugly it was back in the day too.

Sup­port­ers of Adams leaked let­ters to the press that showed Jack­son was bad at spell­ing ( just like 2016 Repub­li­can con­tender Marco Ru­bio is do­ing to his tweet­ing ri­val Don­ald Trump). They called the gen­eral a bigamist and a bru­tal killer who ex­e­cuted his own men on the bat­tle­field.

Jack­son’s camp ac­cused Adams of be­ing a pimp, claim­ing he once pro­cured fe­male com­pany for the Rus­sian czar.

Such cam­paign hand­i­work would make Frank Un­der­wood proud. The in­trigue, mu­sic and even the cred­its for “Race for the White House” are bound to re­mind view­ers of “House of Cards,” and that’s just fine with CNN.

“We wanted it to feel like a political thriller,” said Amy En­telis, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of tal­ent and de­vel­op­ment for CNN. “We didn’t want to make it a his­tory les­son.”

The pre­miere episode re­counted Nixon’s loss to years in the San Fer­nando Val­ley. He stuffed en­velopes for Jimmy Carter’s suc­cess­ful 1976 cam­paign and worked on John An­der­son’s in­de­pen­dent White House bid in 1980.

with Clin­ton — his fa­vorite pres­i­dent, he says — back when the Demo­crat was gov­er­nor of Arkansas. The ac­tor was also in the ball­room the night Hil­lary Clin­ton, the 2016 front-run­ner for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, cel­e­brated her elec­tion to the U.S. Se­nate.

His con­nec­tion to Wash­ing­ton has been fur­ther so­lid­i­fied by Frank Un­der­wood. The Smithsonian re­cently added a por­trait of Spacey as Un­der­wood painted by Bri­tish artist Jonathan Yeo.

That blur­ring of art and re­al­ity — no doubt aided by the use of real-life TV jour­nal­ists who ea­gerly ap­pear as them­selves on “House of Cards” — has ad­mit­tedly be­come bizarre for Spacey. He’s been told there are “a great num­ber of peo­ple in China” who be­lieve he is the real pres­i­dent of the United States.

As com­fort­able as Spacey looks be­hind an Oval Of­fice desk, he’s never been se­ri­ously ap­proached about run­ning for any pub­lic of­fice, nor would he con­sider it. Like many Amer­i­cans, he’s an­gry about political grid­lock.

“The rea­son I wouldn’t think of run­ning is be­cause I like to get things done,” he said. “I like to have goals, and I like to achieve them, and I think I’d be very frus­trated by the sit­u­a­tion as it ex­ists now. It doesn’t mean I don’t ad­mire those in pub­lic ser­vice.

“I’d be enor­mously frus­trated by not be­ing able to get ev­ery­thing done that I wanted to get done. I might take on tac­tics of a Frank Un­der­wood.”


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