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Kevin McCarthy Was an Inspiration For Kevin Spacey on "House of Cards." "He Stole My Quote!"

The actor follow politician around during the show's development.

As he assumes the office of Speaker of the House, more elements of Rep. Kevin McCarthy's biography will become familiar to the nation at large. But there's one fact that might be surprising even to members of the California Republican's district. McCarthy says he provided inspiration for a famously controversial—some might even say ruthless and villainous—TV character by allowing the actor who portrayed that character to follow him around for research during the show's development. Read on to find out who it is, and why McCarthy said the character "stole" one of his trademark expressions for the show. 

How He Inspired This Infamous Character


To prepare for his role as conniving House majority whip Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards, Kevin Spacey shadowed McCarthy before the series' debut in 2013, the real-life politician told People magazine the next year. McCarthy said that as part of that research, Spacey was particularly interested in how McCarthy brought recalcitrant members of his caucus into line—essentially, how he twisted their arms into voting along party lines.

"He Stole That Line"


"I told him I say to members, 'You vote your district, you vote your conscience, you just don't surprise me.' And he stole that line for the show," McCarthy told People. In the otherwise light-and-fluffy piece, McCarthy said he only learned "things not to do" from Spacey's character. In the show (spoiler alert), Frank Underwood ascends to the presidency. At the time, McCarthy's wife, Judy, told People she and her husband "haven't even considered" a bid for the White House.

Who Is Frank Underwood?

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards.

Frank Underwood is a fictional character from the American political drama television series House of Cards. He is portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey and is the main protagonist of the series. Underwood is a Democrat from South Carolina who begins the series as the Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives. He is a ruthless and cunning politician who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, even if it means breaking the law or manipulating those around him.

Underwood is a master at playing the political game and is able to climb the ranks of government through a series of Machiavellian schemes and backstabbing. He is known for breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, giving them insight into his thoughts and plans. Frank's relationship with his wife, Claire, is a significant aspect of the show and is one of the most intriguing and twisted relationships on television.

Kevin Spacey won Golden Globe Award for Best Actor-Television Series Drama for his portrayal of Frank Underwood in 2013,2014 and 2015. The show premiered in 2013, and ran for six seasons, ending in 2018.

More McCarthy-Underwood Similiarity


Almost a decade later, McCarthy, now 57, is about to assume his post as the most powerful Republican in Congress—second in line to the presidency. Last month, the UK Times unpacked more details about how he and Frank Underwood are similar. "Both made it to the top starting from humble backgrounds and McCarthy, a Californian, comes from a state where most of his fellow politicians are Democrats," wrote Alistair Dawber. "Underwood was a Democrat in otherwise conservative South Carolina. The most striking similarity, however, is their boundless ambition."

McCarthy Perhaps Didn't Learn Enough From Underwood


Since launching his political career in the California state house, then going national, McCarthy has had "an almost seamless path to the top, becoming the Republican deputy chief whip in 2009, majority whip in 2011 and majority leader by 2014," wrote Dawber. However, bumps just surfaced on that path.

Any arm-twisting skills he learned from Spacey took their time to work. It took 15 votes for McCarthy to be elected speaker—the most in a century—and holdout members of his caucus (dubbed the Never Kevins or the Taliban 20) ultimately extracted concessions in exchange for their votes that may make it difficult or impossible for McCarthy to hold House Republicans together to pass meaningful legislation—their House majority is a razor-thin nine seats.

Trump vs. McCarthy?

donald trump looks serious in navy blue suit, white shirt, and navy and red tie

Additionally, McCarthy will have to determine how closely to work with Donald Trump, who is facing potential legal action for inciting the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol last year. "After the Jan. 6 riots, McCarthy was recorded saying 'I've had it with this guy,' referring to Trump, after a mob of the president's supporters ransacked the Capitol," the Times points out. "Trump has previously called McCarthy 'my Kevin.'" "It remains to be seen if they can work together, but as Frank Underwood said: 'Friends make the worst enemies,'" the Times says.

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