Kevin Spacey Discusses His Career and ‘House of Cards’ at UVa

Kevin Spacey sees Frank Underwood as a “misunderstood” role model in the political arena depicted in the Netflix hit series, “House of Cards.” Therefore, his counterpart would make a wonderful source of information for students looking to be successful at the University of Virginia. At least that’s what the Academy Award winning actor believes. He was in Charlottesville last night as part of the President’s Speaker Series for the Arts, now its second year. The event was held at the John Paul Jones Arena.

Kevin Spacey at UVa - Photo by Pat Cuadros
Kevin Spacey at UVa – Photo by Pat Cuadros.

The series serves to highlight the importance of the arts (music, drama, dance, architectural design, and studio art) in forming the whole person. Spacey applauded the efforts of schools that are working to embrace “STEAM” instead of “STEM.”

Spacey has had an extensive career in film and theater, but he’s well aware of the success of “House of Cards.” It’s clear that he enjoys playing the role, remarking that “It’s great playing a politician who gets s*** done.” (Pardon the masked expletive.) As I mentioned earlier, he even dispenses advice to the students, complete with Frank’s cold, southern drawl. Here is one such inspirational gem:

Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.
Tips for surviving your first year of college, according to Frank Underwood. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

For those weary of spoilers, the advice consisted of quotes from the first season of the show only. All kidding aside, Spacey switched from a lighter tone to a serious, empassioned tone as he shared stories from his life. It’s important to be willing to work hard and take risks to achieve your goals, even if others don’t believe you’re heading in the right direction. And, he certainly has an innovative record to prove the truth of his words: finishing eleven seasons as the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre, heading the first Netflix Instant shows, and even lending his voice to the latest “Call of Duty” video game.

After delivering remarks to the crowd, Spacey was interviewed by Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the arts and Director of the Virginia Film Festival. He regaled the crowd with his celebrity impersonations, running from Jack Lemmon to Bill Clinton. As Clinton, he quipped, “You can never get an education bill passed that fast” when he commented on question of realism in “House of Cards.”

Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros
Kevin Spacey answers questions from Jody Kielbasa at the JPJ, October, 18, 2014. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

As with many actors, Spacey touched on the differences between theater and film. He favors theater over film due to the malleability of the former. “You’ll never be better on film” in the sense that those cuts are final. In contrast, theatrical productions (all the rehearsals and performances) coalesce into an amazing journey that actors shape themselves. He says, “Theater is the actors’ meeting. Film is the director’s meeting.”

Much was made of Jack Lemmon’s role as mentor to Kevin Spacey. Spacey discussed the importance of good teachers in helping young people because they help you maintain a “sense of confidence” to keep you on track with your goals. True teachers are the ones who believe in you even when no one else does. Truly humble and admirable teachers (whether actors or other professionals) who achieve success are the ones who always remember to “send down the elevator” for talented individuals in the next generation.

It’s only fitting to end on the topic of education, given the aims of the President’s Speakers for the Arts series. Kevin Spacey was a great speaker to invite to UVa. Let’s hope next year’s guest will also be an excellent leader and promoter of the arts. Tina Fey was a great choice in the inaugural year, due to her connections to the university. However, the speakers don’t have to be former students, as this past weekend has shown.

Anyone up for watching “House of Cards” again? You can still find the first and second seasons on Netflix Instant through a subscription.


Author: Pat Cuadros

TV & Film Blogger @blogcritics

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