PARIS–“House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey said Monday that the Netflix series has made him a star in China — including with the mainland’s Communist leaders — even though the service is not available there. The actor, who plays the ruthless American political operator Frank Underwood in the series, said that he was greeted like a superstar on a recent trip to the country. “They tell me House of Cards is a huge success in China, that the government like it a lot and that for the man in the street Underwood is seen as a man who fights corruption,” he told reporters in Paris at a European launch of a new wave of Netflix series. The political drama, adapted from a BBC series of the same name, is the internet platform’s flagship series, winning both Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
Despite — or maybe because of — storylines that include cyberwar with the U.S. and a corrupt Chinese Communist Party insider, the show has been a big hit in China, with streaming service Sohu buying the rights to show it soon after its U.S. premiere. The chillingly Machiavellian congressman Underwood “is one of the most remarkable characters I have ever been able to play,” Spacey said. “The show has been so successful in so many countries. It seems to translate and (cross) borders, and it is not just because people are fascinated with American politics,” the actor added.
“There are many times when I leave the set and go to my hotel room and I wonder, ‘Have we gone too far?’ Then I watch the news and I think, ‘Maybe we haven’t gone far enough.’” He said some politicians had told him that the series “was too cynical. (But) others have told me that it was closer to reality than they would like it known,” he said. Spacey, who left Hollywood to run the Old Vic theater in London for 13 years, said he would have been incapable of playing Underwood without that time on the British stage. “It changed me … 15 years earlier I would not have been able to play him,” he said. “House of Cards” has also been a major success for Netflix in Europe, which claims to have two million subscribers across France, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. It hopes to up those numbers with its first French-based show “Marseille,” starring Gerard Depardieu, which premieres in May, and the German series “Dark” which will follow in 2017.