‘House of Cards’ star Michael Kelly on Kevin Spacey’s exit, season 6 (EXCLUSIVE)

It’s been six months since Kevin Spacey was ousted from “House of Cards,” the Netflix political potboiler that helped put the streaming service on the map when it launched five years ago. The cast and crew are now in production in Maryland on the sixth and final season — without the Emmy-nominated actor at the top of the call sheet.

After allegations of sexual assault and harassment came to light against him, Netflix and studio Media Rights Capital first shut down production, then announced that they were severing ties with him. When production resumed in January, the new scripts featured Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood taking center stage in the Oval Office, alongside Michael Kelly’s chief of staff Doug Stamper. Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear also joined the cast, alongside Jayne Atkinson, Patricia Clarkson, Constance Zimmer, Derek Cecil, Campbell Scott and Boris McGiver.

Here, Kelly — who’s been nominated three times for his role — talks for the first time about “House of Cards” since Spacey’s departure, saying he “couldn’t be happier” that the show was able to resume production and put the crew back to work, getting to end the show on their own terms.

How is production going? Last season ended with Robin Wright installed as the new President, which I would imagine sets the stage for the new season. 

The crew was out of work for a long time, and when everything went down, it was sort of like, “How do we do it? How do we keep it going?” Thank God she was President at the end of last season or else we might have found ourselves doing pretty badly. But it all worked out, and Robin is so frigging talented. I don’t want to say effortless because she works her a– off, but the way she portrays that character, it just … you work with her, and now the two of us have a lot together, where everything before was with Francis (Underwood). Now everything is with Claire, and it’s really been an interesting time. To have all those years to have learned from Kevin, and now all this time to learn from Robin, it’s just like as an actor, you can’t ask for anything more than that, to learn under those two people. (It’s been) the greatest acting classes for the last six years.

64 PHOTOS
Kevin Spacey through the years
See Gallery
Kevin Spacey through the years
Kevin Spacey (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actor Kevin Spacey holding his black dog while sitting on bench outside restaurant. (Photo by Ian Cook/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 2: Playwright Neil Simon, actor Kevin Spacey and actress Mercedes Ruehl attend the 45th Annual Tony Awards on June 2, 1991 at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City. (photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - JULY 21: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the 'Afraid of the Dark' New York City Premiere on July 21, 1992 at City Cinemas in New York City. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Kevin Spacey and Dianne Dreyer during 'Glengarry Glen Ross' Screening for Actors Fund Benefit at Ziegfield Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 27: Actor Kevin Spacey arrives from New York City on September 27, 1992 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 88 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Kevin Spacey during an interview with host Jay Leno on October 8, 1992 -- (Photo by: Alice Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 16: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the 'Suddenly Last Summer' Special Screening on December 16, 1992 at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center in New York City. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Kevin Spacey during 'House of the Spirits' Benefit Screening for American Cinematheque at Cineplex Odeon in Century City, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - circa 1995: Kevin Spacey (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA,CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actor Kevin Spacey and mother Kathleen Spacey attend the Second Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on February 24, 1996 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS,CA - MARCH 12: Actor Kevin Spacey and guest attend the 68th Annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon on March 12, 1996 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Kevin Spacey during The 68th Annual Academy Awards at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 5: Actor Kevin Spacey receives a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on October 5, 1999 at 6803 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. (photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Kevin Spacey during Kevin Spacey Party to the Residents of The Motion Picture & Television Fund's Retirement Community at Private House in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Kevin Spacey and Michael J. Fox (Photo by RJ Capak/WireImage)
Bono, Winona Ryder, and Kevin Spacey backstage after U2 concert (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
381683 02: Actor Kevin Spacey attends opening night of the off-Broadway play 'COBB' November 8, 2000 in New York, NY. Spacey produced the off-Broadway show. (Photo by Robin Platzer/Liaison)
Kevin Spacey during 2002 Tribeca Film Festival - 'About A Boy' Premiere at Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the Music Industry Trust's Awards and Dinner 2002 at Le Meridien Grosvenor House, Park Lane in London. (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Kevin Spacey during Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Hosts the Closing Party for the Tribeca Film Festival at Atrium in the Embassy Suites Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti during 2003 Toronto International Film Festival - Budweiser/TriggerStreet.com Party at Lobby in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)
Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey during Beyond the Sea New York City Premiere - Outside Arrivals at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 8: (U.S. TABS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT) Singer Peter Cincotti, actor Kevin Spacey and singer Michael Stipe of R.E.M. attend the 'Beyond The Sea' New York premiere afterparty at the Starlight Room in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel December 8, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 8: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the 16th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival at the Palm Springs Convention Center on January 8, 2005 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Kevin Spacey during Kevin Spacey Announces The Launch of The New Triggerstreet.com and Their Latest Venture With Budweiser Select at Social Hollywood in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Kevin Spacey and Eve Best during Opening Night Curtain Call and Press Room for A Moon for the Misbegotten - April 9, 2007 at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
GENEVA - APRIL 17: Actors Kevin Spacey, Elliot Cowan and Cate Blanchett attend the IWC Da Vinci Launch party held at the Geneva Palaexpo on April 17, 2007 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for IWC)
Actor Jim Sturgess and actor Kevin Spacey attend the premiere of '21' at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on March 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the premiere of the film '21' in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images)
Kevin Spacey attends a photo call for 'Recount' during the 34th Deauville American Film Festival. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Actor Kevin Spacey (L) and actress Laura Dern attend the HBO EMMY Party at the Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on September 21, 2008 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Media Placement)
LONDON - OCTOBER 15: Kevin Spacey at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel in London, England United Kingdom on October 15, 2009. (Photo by Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images) Reproduction by American tabloids is absolutely forbidden.
Stars of the film 'Men Who Stare At Goats' George Clooney (right) and Kevin Spacey during a photocall at Vue West End in Leicester Square, central London. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 27: Director of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival Amanda Palmer and actor Kevin Spacey arrive at the 'Casino Jack' Premiere during the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival held at the Katara Opera House on October 27, 2010 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for DTFF)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 28: Actor Kevin Spacey poses for a portrait during the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival held at the Katara on October 28, 2010 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for DTFF)
CENTURY CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 04: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Actor Kevin Spacey onstage during the BAFTA Los Angeles 2010 Britannia Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on November 4, 2010 in Century City, California. The BAFTA Los Angeles 2010 Brittania Awards will be aired on the TV Guide Channel on November 7th, 2010. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For BAFTA Los Angeles)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 370 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Kevin Spacey during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on January 4, 2011 (Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
(L-R) Director JC Chandor and actors Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons attend the 'Margin Call' Premiere , during the 61st Berlin Film Festival. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the 'Margin Call' premiere at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on October 17, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the opening night of 'Richard III' at the BAM Harvey Theater on January 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the BAFTA LA TV Tea 2013 presented by BBC America and Audi held at the SLS Hotel on September 21, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage)
'JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: AFTER THE OSCARS(r)' SPECIAL - The 9th annual 'Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars(r)' Special airs Sunday, March 2 after the late local news ET/CT and at 10:00 p.m., PT on ABC. Broadcasting from Disney's El Capitan Theater located on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of L.A.'s star-studded Walk of Fame, the studio is just steps away from Dolby Theater, home to the Academy Awards(r). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) JIMMY KIMMEL, KEVIN SPACEY
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the 86th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LA QUINTA, CA - MARCH 04: Kevin Spacey attends 10th Annual Desert Showdown at La Quinta Resort and Club on March 4, 2014 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Robin Marchant/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Kevin Spacey visits at SiriusXM Studios on April 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
US actor Kevin Spacey poses on the green carpet at the Raymond James Stadium on the fourth and final day of the 15th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in Tampa, Florida, April 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - Emmy Award-nominated 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight (11:35 p.m. - 12:41 a.m., ET), packed with hilarious comedy bits and features a diverse lineup of guests including celebrities, athletes, musicians, comedians and humorous human interest subjects; The guests for MONDAY, APRIL 27 included actor Kevin Spacey ('House of Cards'), Ioan Gruffudd (ABC's 'Forever') and musical guest Stromae. (Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti attend the World Premiere of 'House of Cards' Season 3 at The Empire Cinema on February 26, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Spacey attends the Goldene Kamera 2015 on February 27, 2015 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Spacey attends the Goldene Kamera 2015 on February 27, 2015 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 25: Honoree Kevin Spacey (L) and actor John Stamos attend the 4th Annual 'Reel Stories, Real Lives', benefiting the Motion Picture & Television Fund at Milk Studios on April 25, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Motion Picture & Television Fund)
US actor Kevin Spacey performs on stage during the amfAR's 23rd Cinema Against AIDS Gala on May 19, 2016 at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d'Antibes, France. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Kevin Spacey attends the amfAR's 23rd Cinema Against AIDS Gala at the annual 69th Cannes Film Festival at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 19, 2016 in Cap d'Antibes, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20: Kevin Spacey seen during the annual 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Robino Salvatore/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 22: Actor Kevin Spacey (L) and Singer Andra Day perform at the The Apollo Celebration of Ella at The Apollo Theater on October 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0656 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Kevin Spacey during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on April 18, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 2: Oscar, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey will host THE 71st ANNUAL TONY AWARDS, live from the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Sunday, June 11 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Joe Pugliese/CBS via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 08: Actor and Executive Producer Kevin Spacey (L) and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos attend Netflix's 'House of Cards' For Your Consideration Event at Netflix FYSee Space on May 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: Kevin Spacey attends the European Premiere of 'Baby Driver' at Cineworld Leicester Square on June 21, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David M Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage )
ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 26: Kevin Spacey looks on prior to the Serie A match between AS Roma and FC Internazionale on August 26, 2017 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 27: Kevin Spacey speaks onstage at the 2017 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards Presented by American Airlines And Jaguar Land Rover at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

What have you learned?

I think that it doesn’t have to be so damn hard. I’ve always been someone who pushes myself really hard, and it’s not that I try any less. It’s that I don’t put as much stress on myself anymore. I don’t make myself mentally go through the things that I used to go through, which was just torture. It was senseless torture, and it was added pressure at work. I saw how the two of them did their work, and you can’t help but to learn and take from what they’re doing. So I still do the same prep work. It’s just the mental prep that I do with myself on set is a little bit different now. I think that also comes with knowing and learning about a character, and growing with that character over these six years. It’s a combination of both, probably.

Is it going to be hard to say goodbye to Stamper?

I can’t even imagine. Robin and I both asked to be the last scene on the last day because we want to be there with our crew, but at the same time, now that I’ve asked them, I’m somewhat apprehensive. I know it’s going to be so hard to not just break down and cry. My son, he’s six now. He was born when we started that show, and I’ve watched all the crew have babies, and they’re my second family. My wife and kids stay in New York, and I drive back and forth to Baltimore, and I keep an apartment there. Just to say goodbye to that chapter of your life, it’ll be tough. To say goodbye to that character will be tough. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll know what it’s going to be like until it actually happens.

What was it like coming back to the set after the news broke about Kevin Spacey?

It’s such a mixed bag of emotions because I was with that guy every single day. Almost the majority of my work other than the Rachel (Brosnahan) stuff, most of my stuff was with Kevin. To go back to the same stages, to the same sets, slightly altered with a new President obviously, but to go back to those sets and all of a sudden be with completely different people, it was a strange feeling. I don’t even know how to put it into words because you know one thing for so long and then all of a sudden it’s a completely different world you’re living in. There’s obviously a million emotions that I went through, that I processed during this whole thing. I don’t want to talk too much about it because it was heartbreaking in so many ways.

12 PHOTOS
A look inside 'House of Cards' power house's sleek interior
See Gallery
A look inside 'House of Cards' power house's sleek interior
Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

Photo credit: Jared Block

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Do you still talk to him?

I haven’t, no. All I know is what I hear, but I don’t know. It’s tough. You go from talking to someone often to not at all, and in any profession, in anything, circumstances removed, what happened removed, it’s strange … and I’m still processing. I haven’t formulated any opinion, and I haven’t talked publicly about it. This is the first thing I’ve ever said. I think I’m still going through a lot, processing the whole thing. It’s tough.

What does the future hold? What are the next steps to be taken? 

How do we, as a country, as a people figure out what’s right for everybody, for the safety and well-being of all people, no matter what you are, no matter what your sexuality is, no matter what your race is? I think sometimes you have to take steps backward before you take steps forward. I can’t speak for the whole country, but with this current administration, it’s like we are seeing that good will rise to the top, that the right thing will happen. Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for a little bit before the right thing happens. The youth proved with the marches after the shooting in Florida, the youth of this country I truly believe is going to save us. The old mentality of that whole “Make America Great Again” thing, that was offensive to me. This is the greatest country in the world, and to say we’re going to make it great again, is what you’re saying, “Make the 1950s great again?” Because that wasn’t great for all of us.

Well, it was for old white men.

I’m an old white guy, and it was fine for me, but not for the whole country. I think what the youth is saying in this country right now is it’s us, and that’s what we need. We need someone who can address all of us and care for all of us. It’s kind of why I want to throw my hat in the ring politically, but I’m not done acting yet.

Would you seriously do that? Are you going to go into politics?

I do spend time on the Hill. I lobby for seniors. I do a lot of work for seniors in the country. That’s a bipartisan issue. I’ve met with Republicans and Democrats every time I go down there, and what I see is that people have hearts. What I see is the biggest problem in this country right now is that Republicans and Democrats, voters, and senators and congressmen and women is that they’re just voting their party line. Sure, the Democrats might take the house in 2018, and they might take everything in 2020, but then what? Are the Republicans then just going to say no to everything that they put forward? When is this cycle going to end?

So what’s your solution?

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about these past few years is why don’t we have a third party? Let’s just say hypothetically, and I’m not saying it’s me, but why don’t we have someone who could get up and talk publicly, who could get in front of people and convey the message that I want to do what’s right for all of us as a country. So what if we had someone like Bill Gates that came along and found a candidate like Michael Kelly. I’m not saying I want to do it, but found someone like that who had a personality, who could speak to people honestly and openly, and hear them all, and runs as an independent. Then they get to put bills forth and the Republicans and Democrats don’t have to vote their party line. I can say, or that person can say, “Vote from your heart on this issue.”

We can all agree that AR-15s are bad machines and we don’t need them in this country. So just eliminate that. Sure, the NRA is always going to be in someone’s pocket, but just what if. I asked Mike Bloomberg at the (White House) Correspondents’ Dinner after party one year, I said, “Sir, would you run?” He said, “Why?” I said, “Because I think you’d make a great President, and I think you would be fiscally what a lot of people on the right want, and socially what a lot of people on the left want, and you could run as a true independent and pull the two sides together.” He said, “I think I’d be the first person to get one vote.” I was like, “No, you can do it.” I was like, “I’ll be your staffer.”

After so many years of playing Stamper, you’ve got on-the-job training.

Yeah, but right now I’m having so much fun acting and getting into things like “House of Cards,” and then getting to do something like “The Long Road Home.” I’m living the dream, man, and I don’t want to give that up for politics yet. Maybe one day.

Read Full Story