The “House of Cards” showrunners weren’t exactly sure how to proceed with the Netflix hit after Kevin Spacey was accused of numerous instances of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
The only thing they knew for sure: The show must go on.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Melissa James Gibson called the allegations “highly distressing,” while Frank Pugliese expounded, “It was disappointing, and yet at the same time there was work to be done, and there was an attitude of trying to finish the story that we began. So that was a priority.”
Gibson claims that she and Pugliese, who signed on to the series in its third season, were completely shocked at the reports of Spacey’s alleged behavior, despite the crew reportedly accusing Spacey of sexual harassment on the set of the show.
“Even though we started writing for this show in season 3, we weren’t on set until season 5 when we took over as co-showrunners [from creator Beau Willimon],” Gibson told the magazine. “If we had ever had anything reported to us or been aware of anything, of course we would have reported it because we took that seriously as our jobs and our position of authority.”
Spacey, 59, was written out of the upcoming final season of “House of Cards,” a move the showrunners agree needed to be made, but wasn’t necessarily easy. A recent teaser trailer for the series shows Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright‘s Claire Underwood standing by the grave of Spacey’s character, President Frank Underwood.
“Look, it was a significant pivot, obviously,” Gibson said. “We had to rethink to a profound degree. However, I would say thematically and what it felt like the show needed to grapple with, at the end of the day didn’t change so much. It was just the elements changed.”
Pugliese added, “We had an idea how to finish this story, and maybe the specifics of it had to change, but it would be disingenuous to change that so we had to complete it where it felt true to the story we were telling.”
Pugliese admitted that they considered ending the series immediately after the sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey first emerged.
“That probably was a thought,” he said. “The truth is, there was a story that was initiated — a story about a marriage and what was happening to the partnership. Even where season 5 ended, with Claire saying, ‘My turn,’ it seemed impossible not to tell her story. So whatever the conditions, however it broke, we had to tell her story.”
Wright, 52, reportedly “led the charge” to save “House of Cards.”
The actress previously said the allegations against Spacey left a feeling of “shock and fear” on the set and the cast and crew worried about losing their livelihoods.
“Because of the climate at that time … People were [saying], ‘We have to shut everything down or otherwise it will look like we are glorifying and honoring this thing that’s dirty,’” Wright told Porter Edit last month.
“Our show’s not dirty! I believed we should finish. I believed we should honor our commitment. To the people that loved the show, also. Why quit? They printed that it was ‘only’ 600 people out of work, but if you include security, cops, shooting on location in Baltimore, everything, 2,500 people would have been out of a job. And that’s not fair – to take that security away from those people.”
“Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp was the first accuser to come forward about Spacey’s alleged sexual misconduct, claiming that the “American Beauty” star attempted to seduce him when they starred in a Broadway show together in 1986 when Rapp was 14 years old.
Spacey said he didn’t recall the incident and came out as homosexual, a move that GLAAD slammed as a mere deflection from his sexual assault accusations.
Since then, sexual assault investigations have opened in Los Angeles and London, where one theater reportedly received 20 complaints about his conduct.
Spacey’s maintained his innocence of all sexual misconduct allegations and sought unspecified treatment.