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Spacey More Spooked by 2016 Than ‘House of Cards’

"House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey poses at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., beside a painting of his character Francis J. Underwood. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Playing a power-hungry pol with a predisposition for sacrificing anything (or anyone) to sate his oversized ego is all fine and good on the small screen. But “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey doesn't enjoy watching the presidential vetting process spiral out of control in real life.  

“It’s getting less amusing,” the actor, who Monday visited Washington to attend the unveiling of a portrait of the fake politician Frank Underwood scheduled to hang in the real National Portrait Gallery (more on that in a second), told reporters of the dizzying electoral contest.  

The veteran actor has over the past three years exemplified our worst political fears, chewing up the scenery — and some of his fictional colleagues — as the amoral opportunist Underwood.  

As Season 4 gets underway — the new series is to premiere March 4 on Netflix — his rise from conniving House Majority Leader to hell-bent-on-staying-put-in-the-Oval-Office has clearly taken a toll, leaving Underwood to mount a re-election bid without his equally devious better(?) half, Claire, by his side.  

For Spacey, dealing with political dysfunction in the abstract is much more palatable than contemplating the actual state of affairs.  

“I have an election to win myself. I can’t spend any time thinking about what’s going on in the real world,” he quipped when pressed about where the fictional Underwood might fit into the totally surreal 2016 race.  

He brushed aside queries regarding his own candidate of choice. “It’s nothing but a trap door for me that I don’t want to fall through,” Spacey said.  

He was much more forthcoming about his make-believe self, heaping praise on artist Jonathan Yeo for capturing the essence of the shady Underwood in so many carefully calculated brush strokes.  

The presidential portrait of “House of Cards” protagonist Francis J. Underwood is expected to be on display in the National Portrait Gallery from February through October 2016. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The presidential portrait of “House of Cards” protagonist Francis J. Underwood is expected to be on display in the National Portrait Gallery from February through October 2016. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The image is rather arresting. Spacey, as Underwood, occupies the bulk of the frame, a smug look stretched across his face, while his right hand — sporting a signature signet ring — rests on his Oval Office desk, the knuckles positioned squarely towards the viewer, almost as if waiting to strike.  

“I think that when it is hung at the right height you may wonder if I’m about to kick you in the face, which seems appropriate for this particular character,” Spacey said of the intentionally aggressive pose.  

Yeo thanked Portrait Gallery staff for allowing him to play with perception, noting that he relished the opportunity to advance the “deliberate lowering of the distinction between reality and artifice.”  

The Underwood piece marks the second time Yeo and Spacey have come together for the sake of art. Yeo captured Spacey in his role as Richard III. Their most recent collaboration (not yet released) features Spacey in character as attorney Clarence Darrow from “Inherit the Wind.”  

And while he has no aversion to sitting still for hours as some of his most memorable alter egos, Spacey insists he has no interest in being immortalized as himself.  

“To me it would be a relatively dull image,” Spacey said, stressing that the real excitement comes from inhabiting richly detailed characters.  

Related: ‘House of Cards’ Premiere Brings Stars to D.C. Fact-Checking ‘House of Cards’ and Its ‘Senate of Cards’ Sequence See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. NEW! Download the Roll Call app for the best coverage of people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill.