How TV Showrunners Work & Think

No, we aren’t going to bore you with a dissertation on the subject of writers supervising all the production elements of a television series. (Although we’re certainly glad it’s writers who usually get those gigs. Can you imagine what series run by directors would be like? Wait, you don’t have to imagine. Just look at any series produced by Steven Spielberg. Oy!)

Where were we? Oh, right. What we’re boring you with here today is how one specific showrunner works and thinks. Via an interview with Beau Willimon, Big Honcho of HOUSE OF CARDS. Brace yourselves:

Emmys__House_of_Cards__Beau Willimon

Emmys: ‘House of Cards’ Boss Beau Willimon Doesn’t ‘Give a S— Whether Anyone Likes My Characters’
by Lucas Shaw

Beau Willimon has approached White House correspondents, Pulitzer Prize winners and little-known bloggers about the portrayal of journalists in his show “House of Cards,” the Netflix series about the lurid underground of our nation’s capitol starring Kevin Spacey.

The one-time press officer for a number of politicians is particularly sensitive to this subject, not least of which because one of the show’s main characters, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), is a journalist who sleeps with her primary informant.

When Willimon stopped by TheWrap, we had to ask the guy in charge of one of the year’s most buzzed-about series a few questions of our own.

One of the most controversial things about “House of Cards” in Hollywood is that Netflix won’t reveal how many people are watching. What do you make of that
When you’re not selling advertising, is the idea of a hit an antiquated notion? If you’re a company like Netflix, the goal is to provide something for everyone.

Also read: Emmys: ‘House of Cards’ Alcoholic Congressman Corey Stoll – ‘I Know What It’s Like to Be Out of Control’

They’ll make a show knowing that it won’t cause crazy ratings but feed underserved fans and make them loyal Netflix subscribers. Instead of trying to hit as many people with one thing, you try to hit everyone with lots of little things.

Do you get the numbers?
I have a certain amount of knowledge about the numbers, but I held off as much as I could. I’d be happy with Netflix saying, “We’re happy.” I don’t really want to know much more than that.

Was there any sort of line that you couldn’t cross in terms of what you could show — language, violence?

No, I never had a documentation that said, “You can’t do these things.” If we had a guy raping a cow with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, then would someone maybe have said, “We are a little bit concerned about this?” Potentially.

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