Kevin Spacey and Steny Hoyer recently discussed the question:
“One of the phrases that I hate the most is when people say ‘well, that’s politics,’” Hoyer said, “and your show is a lot about, ‘well, that’s politics.’” People already have an unfairly negative view of politics, Hoyer explained, and “House of Cards” plays into a nihilistic and venal portrait of politics that goes farther than reality.
Spacey acknowledged the point, but chalked it up to the medium, noting that Hollywood makes plenty of movies about the film business than are grimmer than Hollywood really is. That’s drama. And despite Underwood’s tremendous faults, Spacey said he’s found that people appreciate the conniving fictional politician, “because he gets shit done.” The Washington in “House of Cards” may be more morally bankrupt and soulless in the way it does things than the one that exists in reality, but at least it does things — that’s appealing when nothing’s happening in real Washington, he noted. Those are the kinds of roles that appeal to Spacey, he said, noting that he loved “Lincoln” because it grappled with “Lincoln the politician,” as opposed to the saintly figure we usually think.