‘House of Cards’ halts production amid Kevin Spacey sexual misconduct allegations

The sixth season of the Netflix series started filming two weeks ago.

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood on "House of Cards." CREDIT:  David Giesbrecht/Netflix
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood on "House of Cards." CREDIT: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

Two weeks ago, shooting began in Baltimore on the sixth season of House of Cards, the Netflix series starring and executive produced by Kevin Spacey.

Two days ago, actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey made a sexual advance on him when he was only 14 years old.

On Monday, Netflix announced that the sixth season would be House of Cards‘ last. Lest anyone think the streaming giant was chucking its Emmy-nominated star onto the Cathedral Heights Metro tracks, a Netflix representative assured Newsweek that the show’s ending and the allegations against Spacey were “not related.” Multiple sources told TV Line the decision was made months ago.

But this afternoon, Netflix and Media Rights Capital, the independent production company behind HoC, announced they were halting production immediately:

“MRC and Netflix have decided to suspend production on House of Cards, season six, until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.”

According to an earlier statement from Netflix and MRC, “executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore” on Monday “to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported.” Spacey was not on set at the time.

As Buzzfeed reported, Rapp claims that Spacey, then 26, “befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance.”

“I still to this day can’t wrap my head around so many aspects of it,” Rapp told Buzzfeed. “It’s just deeply confusing to me.”

Spacey, who was 26 at the time of the alleged encounter, responded with a statement in which he insisted he had no memory of the incident in question, apologizing to Rapp for “the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” and pivoting to some questionably-timed personal news: “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

The language of Spacey’s apology — euphemistically referring to the allegation that he molested and attempted to sexually assault a minor as “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” — was discomforting for many. But what really made Spacey’s statement blow up in his face was his attempt to draw a connection between his sexual orientation (another one of those “open secrets” of Hollywood that’s gotten a lot more open as of late) and his alleged misconduct.

Was Spacey hoping that media outlets would bury the lede of his alleged crime and instead trumpet the news that Spacey was coming out? Both Reuters and The Daily News framed their pieces on Spacey’s response as primarily a PSA about his sexuality. A viral post by Tom and Lorenzo (within six hours of posting, the piece reportedly became their most-read story on the site from this year) summed up the general sentiment quite nicely: “On Behalf of the LGBT Community, Fuck Off, Kevin Spacey.”

“We vehemently reject the use of the standard celebrity coming-out announcement to distract from the fact that serious allegations have been made against him. Worse, the statement made it sound like feeling up 14-year-olds is just a thing that happens when gay men – pardon us, men who “choose to live as a gay man” –  get drunk.”

It is, of course, entirely plausible that the sixth season was slated to be House of Cards‘ last outing anyway, as sources have said was the plan. Netflix doesn’t release ratings, but based on the available metrics (buzz, media coverage, awards haul), the show doesn’t seem to be occupying the pop culture perch it used to. The series relies on the idea that everyone in its version of D.C. — the Washington of the Upside-Down — was more sinister, more ruthless, and more outlandish than actual D.C. House of Cards did not anticipate President Trump’s White House, and it shows. In 2017, nothing is more surreal than reality. 

Though, if co-showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson were game to keep going in Spacey’s absence, it is not difficult to imagine House of Cards without Spacey’s Frank Underwood in it. Spoiler alert: Last season ended with Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) in the Oval Office and Frank on the outs. For all we know, she offed him in the off-season. It wouldn’t be the first time someone on House of Cards, upon becoming a liability, kicked it at the opportune moment.