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