It’s time for a new season of Mr. Machiavelli Goes to Washington. Or as the addictively twisted political thriller is officially known, House of Cards.The Emmy-winning Internet original, starring Kevin Spacey as a power-mad D.C. demon, returns for its second season on Netflix.All 13 new episodes will be available for immediate streaming beginning Friday. One of the new cast members, Molly Parker, is promising a season that’s every bit as explosive as the first one, during which Spacey’s Frank Underwood lied, cheated and literally killed his way from House majority whip to the office of vice president (“one heartbeat away from the presidency,” he gloated, “and not a single vote cast in my name”).Parker, formerly of Deadwood and The Firm, plays Jackie Sharp, a third-term Congresswoman in whom Underwood takes interest. It remains to be seen if Jackie is as cold-blooded as he is — but given that this show lovingly wallows in political cynicism, don’t be surprised if she is.We chatted last week with Parker about the show. What attracted you to this show and to the character of Jackie Sharp?I was a fan before I auditioned. I watched the entire first season in probably three days, like most people. What I want always is to have the opportunity to work on great material with great people. And this show is that.The performances are fantastic across the board. Not only Kevin and Robin Wright [who plays Underwood’s equally duplicitous wife], but also the rest of the cast. The writing is wonderful and it’s beautifully directed. So I’m thrilled to be a part of it this season.I play this woman, Jackie Sharp, who is a third-term congresswoman. She’s a Democrat. She represents a district in California. She comes out of military intelligence. She is a war veteran of the Iraq war. So she is a soldier who has been in politics for five or six years. Francis is interested in her politically because he admires her “ruthless pragmatism.” Years ago, The West Wing filled viewers with pride and optimism about politics. House of Cards does the opposite. It feeds the cynicism we have about the system. Yet we still enjoy watching. Why do you suppose that is?They’re very different shows and it’s a different time, of course. House of Cards is based on a British show from the 1990s. The original took place in the British Parliament.To me, this show has a Shakespearean quality to it. It feels like Richard III, with some elements of Macbeth. So even though it’s set in Washington, to me, the tone of the show is its own dark, beautiful, gothic drama.Also, Washington is a great place to set a show, because it’s a place that’s all about money and power. Do you think Frank Underwood was a good man corrupted by power? Or is he just bad to the bone? And might Jackie Sharp turn out to be just as evil?I don’t believe that anyone is bad to the bone. One thing I like about the writing, one thing I like that [creator/writer] Beau Willimon does, it’s the way he first shows characters making strong, hard moves but then, as the story progresses, their humanity and complexity are revealed.So I stay away from judgment in terms of dark and light. I think that all these characters exist in varying shades of gray. Netflix is a big part of the revolutionary changes in how television is delivered to viewers today. How do you choose to watch your television? Cable, satellite, Internet, rabbit ears?Truthfully, I didn’t watch much television at all until DVRs came out. I was never a person who was going to stay home on a certain night to watch a TV show. I didn’t have that kind of discipline. But with DVRs and now with streaming and having this kind of access, I watch quite a bit of television.Although I’m not sure it’s a great idea to watch the whole season in one day, as some people seem to do. Maybe it’s good if you have the flu and you’re home sick. But I think it’s great that viewers have that choice. You can watch it however you want and I think people like having that freedom. What do you think of Kevin Spacey as a leading man?He’s fantastic. It’s so much fun to work with Kevin. He’s such a powerful actor. He has this incredibly powerful energy. He’s so good at this role. It’s always exciting to get to work with someone when they’re at the top of their game. It just makes you better. Of course, if you didn’t say nice things about him, he might arrange to have you killed.Yes, there’s always that possibility.
House of Cards
Season 2 available Friday on Netflix.
A review of Season 2 of ‘House of Cards’ in Life & Arts