neve campbell joins the house of cards
As our favourite political drama returns tomorrow, we sit down with the newest cast member, original teen scream queen Neve Campbell, to discuss making her comeback.
She ruled the 90s TV and movie scene through starring roles in Party of Five, The Craft, Wild Things and Scream before turning her back on the "rat race" of Hollywood and moving to England to try her hand at theatre. Whilst she's had roles in Grey's Anatomy and Mad Men since her return to America, Neve Campbell has been keeping a relatively low profile, mostly "to be present" for her baby son. "I stepped out for a while and unfortunately this business is fickle and your success is based on how well your last job did," she explains cross-legged and barefoot on a sofa in Fitzrovia. "I haven't been in something that's done really well, unless it's doing guest things. I haven't had a box office. So for me this job was really great."
The job she's referring to is a role in Netflix's highest-profile drama, House of Cards, where she plays Leann, a savvy political consultant hired by the cold, conniving Claire Underwood. In an early episode, she says that she doesn't want to be caught in the lethal crossfire between Claire and husband Frank, but inevitably the black hole of the President and the First Lady is impossible to escape. Here Neve Campbell - the woman responsible for the arguably the most famous fight-turned-lesbian kiss in a pool in Wild Things -- tells us about joining an award-winning show in its fourth season, Kevin Spacey's incessant pranking and how Hollywood remains male-driven.
What's your take on your character Leann?
Leann is a strong, intelligent, focused, ambitious person. And she is invited into the fray of this election. I was imagining what it's like to be a woman amongst men in a very male-driven world. And how you would have to portray yourself in order to get respect.
I think you've captured really well the efficiency of language and movement of someone from that political world. Did you spend much time in Washington DC?
No I didn't. It was just in having conversations with the creator Beau Willimon, who really has his ear to the ground when it comes to politics. We had a lot of conversations about who she would be, what her energy would be like and where her mentality and her strength would come from.
Have you had many brushes with political establishment or political life?
No I hadn't. It's all very new to me, but I'm learning a lot. It's very intriguing, especially with everything that's going on in the real world at the moment. It was very interesting to learn about the electoral process and the way the elections work, which is so fascinating and confusing.
The timing is so good with the show and the election.
But that's Beau. He always seems to make it current and present.
House of Cards has always felt quite extreme and dramatic, but now it doesn't seem so crazy compared to what's happening in real-life American politics.
It's not dramatic enough compared to the tragedy that's actually happening before our eyes! It's a fascinating world, and that's why these shows about politics do well. To have a certain behind-the-scenes view of the machinations of politics is interesting and intriguing. I think that's why people get into it.
This is a big comeback for you, does it feel good to be back?
Yeah it feels great. I couldn't ask for a better job, honestly. I mean other things have come along, but I didn't wanna carry a show on a network. I didn't wanna do 24 episodes a year, 17 hours a day, 10 months a year. I've done that, but I'm a mum now and that's not the kind of mum I want to be. So ideally for me, I wanted to be a part of an ensemble where I wasn't working every day, a great character amongst a good cast on a show that's respected. And this came. So I'm very happy.
What's the atmosphere on set like? Obviously the show's very heavy and serious.
That's not the atmosphere on set! People are serious in their work, in the sense of they want it to be quality and they keep up the standard, but no, it's a lot of joking around on set. Kevin Spacey cannot turn himself off! He likes to entertain everyone all the time, even when we're shooting during takes. He can't help it and starts joking around. He's a prankster, for sure. A lot of fun, so talented and so great to work with.
What did you make of Claire Underwood, the character you play against?
I love the character. It's so creepy! Good and cold and solid and intelligent and scary and confusing. Because she's a woman, she shouldn't behave that way - we think! But you know what? It takes all kinds. It's interesting because Leann is not dissimilar to Claire in the sense that she's ambitious and intelligent, and working in a world of powerful men, and does what it takes to do that. So it's going to be interesting to see how their relationship is going to develop.
Does working on a Netflix show feel any different to working in film or television?
It feels like an extension, except that working on a series you normally have a beginning, middle and end to every episode and you have to tie everything in a pretty bow. But because this drops in the way that it does, you can instead have an arc that goes over five years instead of one episode, which is lovely as an actor.
How was it going on Air Force One?
It's so cool. It's a proper replica. It's crazy. When I first got to Joppa, the town outside of Baltimore where we shoot, it was really exciting and exhilarating to step into those sets. They have the second largest working sound stages in America. They're massive. And they've gone and built the White House, the Oval Office and Air Force One.
Do you see any parallels between the political world and film/TV?
Yeah absolutely. You mean with the women in the industry? Well unfortunately we have a long way to go, everywhere in the world. But certainly in our industry it's still male-driven and the majority of films and majority of characters are male. There's this old mentality that women can't bring bums on seats to theatres and it's just not true. You look at some of the really great leading TV female roles those women are going to have an audience. Those people are tuning in. There's a lot of fear about making a change and taking risks, and it's gonna have to happen at some point. Things have got to swing because I'm getting bored, honestly.
Bored with the roles you get sent?
I get a lot of horror films, a lot of thrillers and leading female cop roles. Nothing really that I wanna do. And then I wait and then things like this come around once in a while, where it feels right.
Text Stuart Brumfitt
Photography David Giesbrecht/Netflix