If you didn't already know...spoiler alert... House of Cards' Doug Stamper, played by Michael Kelly, is alive but not so well.
The last we saw of Frank Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) right-hand man, he was lying wide-eyed in the woods after being hit in the head with a rock by Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), which left many of us believing that that was it for the loyal lieutenant.
Surprise! He made it, but not without a debilitating head injury that required months and months of physical and mental therapy. But like that was going to stop the work-obsessed political veteran...
We chatted with Michael Kelly about season three of the Netflix original series and got the juicy scoop on how he killed his addiction, literally.
But seriously, if you haven't finished season three, do not read any further. Major spoilers ahead!
I feel like I have to ask the question: Is Rachel really dead? We saw Doug, he looked dead as a door nail but he came back…
Yeah. [Laughs] It's all there on screen. You see him shovel the dirt on her head.
So how did Doug do it? How did he kill Rachel? The last thing we see is him driving back towards her.
I always thought of it as being quick. He knocked her out again with the chloroform, or whatever the potion he created there, and then just choked her to death until she was gone.
Whoa, very intimate. Do you think killing her gives him closure?
Do I think it's going to haunt him? Yeah. Do I think it's going to haunt him on the show? I don't know. But I think he's always going to carry that with him. She was so many things to him, however weird and bizarre and all the different things that she was to him over the course of the three seasons. Everything from the bizarre mom thing to a love figure to someone he cares deeply about to someone who tortured him… She was so many things to him and what made him so complex in many ways. Rachel was sort of the symbol of all of that.
With Rachel gone, does this give him the ability to 100% focus on Frank?
Yeah. He couldn't go back to Francis and be like, "I'm here, I'm ready, everything's taken care of, we're back," unless he did that thing. She had to be gone.
What sort of reactions have you seen to the new season?
Overall pretty positive. I'm so thankful. I was scared to death to be honest. Taking it on. Spent a year of just being scared to death of what it was going to be and how it would turn out. I never saw it. I was very happy for it to turn out like it did. Literally, last night I watched the first episode. It's so hard to watch to be honest. I'm so used to seeing Doug in the way that he is, the way that it's been. For it to stay on him for 30 minutes or however long it was... You're always beating yourself up as an actor. It just doesn't cut away from him. It was kind of bizarre to see that.
Was there any special kind of preparation you did for this season? It's such a different side of Doug that we've never seen before.
The really fortunate thing for me was that it was the first episode. The whole recovery and what someone goes through when they suffer a brain injury like that. We had the director John Coles' good friend Dr. James Schumacher, one of the leading brain surgeons in the country. In the month or two leading up to it I was able to get on the phone with him at any time. He's the coolest. He was actually there for the whole first two episodes. I was very, very grateful to have something like that. I could say to him, "Would I really like smack a doctor? Would I really just scream out of nowhere like that?" It felt so big. I'm so used to everything being so internalized and small with Doug. To have loud outbursts like that. He would just reassure me, and just say like, "Dude, that's exactly like one of my patients. You're doing it exactly right." To have someone there to tell you, "Yes, that's the way that someone behaves," was so great because it gave me the freedom to be like, "OK, I know I feel like I'm being silly but this is what really happens." The preparation was long. I was so thankful that I had time to prepare. I was very thankful for that.
What was the thinking behind Doug spraying the alcohol in his mouth with the syringe? Did he really view it as "medicine"?
The interesting thing is that that's not the moment he falls off the wagon. The moment he falls off the wagon is when he takes the pill. There are ways to deal with pain when you're an alcoholic and an addict. You can take a non-narcotic pain reliever, but he knows how bad that pain is when he breaks his arm. He's so low at that moment, post that first meeting with Francis. He just says, ‘whatever' and takes the pill. That's when he falls off the wagon. The alcohol is his medication. He throws away the prescription, he doesn't have the pills, the pain is too much, so he gets the alcohol and that's why he measures it exactly. That's why I wanted that shot to be the way it is. I wanted to get a really close shot of him examining exactly how much he's drawing into the syringe because all he's doing is self-medicating at that point. Of course he's not thinking rationally and that's a slippery slope and things get worse.
Was there any way that Doug would work for Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel)? What would he do if Frank didn't take him back?
I think he knew the whole time if he could just do what he had to do, Frank would have to take him back. He's watching Frank fall as he's recovering and he knows if he just does the right thing, if he can get himself back, that Frank will have no choice but to take him back. At least that's the way that he's thinking. The Dunbar thing, from the very first second, he was never going to work for Dunbar. It was always exactly what he told Francis, "I'm just trying to find the silver bullet, I'm trying to find the one thing that was going to put her away and basically prove to you that I'm ready to be back at work. Look what I did."
There's this rumor out there that because each season has 13 episodes and 52 cards make a deck, the show will be ending after 4 seasons. Have you heard that rumor? Any truth to that?
No I haven't. That's interesting! [Laughs] I think as of right now, the story's not done. Me, personally, Michael Kelly, I want this thing to go on for as long as it can possibly go on for because it's the greatest job I've ever had. I love it. I love going to work every day. But I know that [show creator] Beau [Willimon] is smart enough to say "the story's told." I don't think we're there yet, so I imagine we'll do a season four. Whether there will be a five or a six, I don't know. But I would never question Beau, because that dude is a genius.
Personally, what job would you want in the White House?
Uh, probably president. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to go for it all! [Laughs] With Chief of Staff, it's kind of funny, you take all the blame and none of the credit. That's your job. You're a soldier and if someone has to go down, it's going to be you. I'd rather be the guy putting somebody down than going down.