'House of Cards': Nathan Darrow on THAT scene and the future of Meechum

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Image Credit: Nathaniel Bell/Netflix

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t finished season two of House of Cards, you probably shouldn’t continue reading.

You’ve now had two full weekends to binge-watch the second season of House of Cards, and if you did in fact finish all 13 episodes, you’ve no doubt got one question on your mind: Who is Meechum, and where can I get one for myself?

The Underwoods’ stoic bodyguard is played by Nathan Darrow, a trained stage actor from Kansas City who first worked with Cards star Kevin Spacey in a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Toward the end of the play’s international tour in 2011, Netflix was starting to put together the cast of House of Cards, and Spacey submitted Darrow and other company members for roles in the series. “It was stacked with some very talented actors who were really right for House of Cards, so Kevin put a bunch of us up for it,” recalls Darrow, who actually read for another role prior to being cast as Meechum. “I went in for casting and later for [executive producer David] Fincher, and that’s just how it happened.”

In the show’s first season, Meechum was largely a subdued presence, with the occasional “Yes, sir” uttered as he slowly earned his position as a trusted bodyguard in Frank’s innermost circle. Some would argue that said circle is really just Frank’s wife Claire (Robin Wright) and Meechum anyway, and that theory was ostensibly proven after Meechum’s major moment in the 11th episode of Cards‘ second season. At the onset of filming, Darrow didn’t exactly know where Meechum would go in season 2 (“He’s not in the ground quite yet!”), but he had an idea.

“I knew the relationship between high-level security and client was going to be explored, but I wasn’t sure in what way, and it’s an interesting one,” he says. “Here’s the fellow that’s ready to take a bullet for you and that actually, on a day-to-day basis, is probably as in tune with your mood as anyone. But that could be as far as it goes.”

Indeed, Meechum’s steady ascension into Frank’s inner sanctum paid off in the bombshell scene in episode 11, in which a drunk and injured Meechum is tended to by Frank. The moment turns into a ménage a trois with both Frank (whose bisexual leanings were explored in the first season) and Claire, and it’s the kind of slow-burn sexual moment where the audience isn’t quite sure whether the thing that’s happening is actually happening until wow, yeah, that just happened.

“I thought it was very much in line with the surprising, ambiguous nature of the show,” says Darrow, who admits that even he’s not sure which member of the threesome really initiated it (for what it’s worth, Meechum sure looked like he was making the first move). “The show traffics in ambiguity on so many levels — the ambiguity of our moral life, our sexual life, our life in relation to power. So I thought it was right down the alley.”

Off-camera, there was no funny business, if you were maybe expecting Spacey and Wright to be cracking jokes pre- and post-menage. (Not that you, or anyone, would expect that.) Instead, Darrow acknowledges that the moment was just like any other scene in the bigger picture.

“I think certainly there’s a sensitivity to a scene like this because we all walk around with our own issues around sexuality. It’s this thing that is at once very potent within us and then of course at once very guarded, maybe because it is so potent,” he says. “I guess maybe there was an extra focus on finding the expressions, the physical expression that was right, for lack of a better word, and that involved all of us: myself, Robin, Kevin, the director John Coles, Beau Willimon. It was collaborative.”

Sexuality aside, there are still a slew of questions surrounding the motives and background of the mysterious Meechum, but Darrow approaches the character with an invented backstory that he keeps close to the chest (“I don’t think it would be helpful to me nor to the consumers of the story [to reveal it]. One can always remember that there’s plenty of people walking on this earth that don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing.”). On the viewers’ end, we’ve learned that the character is a former Marine who served overseas, is fiercely loyal, has powerful friends beyond the Underwoods, and is perhaps quick to draw his gun without thinking of the consequences. His precise motivations in life — and whether this threesome has much greater implications in the future — remain to be seen for both actor and viewer.

But here’s the best part: Darrow (who says he’s only been recognized once by fans on the street) hasn’t actually seen the big threesome scene in question, or at least not at the time of this interview. “I’m not so good at binge-ing things!” he says with a laugh. “Even stuff that I love, I just don’t tend to consume like that, but that’s just me. I would like to, because I think there’s a great satisfaction in being neck-deep in story. I think I heard Philip Roth say that if it takes you more than two weeks to read a novel, you probably haven’t really read the novel.”

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