What was the biggest disagreement you two have had?
DANIELS [About] some music things. But I don’t want to fight with my partner! Let’s fight with the network, you know?
WILLIMON I don’t think that there has to be a ton of conflict in collaborations for them to be successful. I go to great pains to make sure that the drama stays on the page as much as possible and it’s not on set or in the writers room.
DANIELS Does it ever happen?
WILLIMON No, I’m the guy without the juicy tales. When I’m working with actors and directors, I’m very interested in input. In the 10th episode, there’s a very intimate scene after Frank has fired his own wife and asks Tom Yates, played by Paul Sparks, to come over because he needs to unburden himself. I thought I’d written a really good scene. [Then] Kevin [Spacey] reads it, and he says, “I don’t think where we get to in the scene is earned. I don’t know why I would trust this man to the degree that you’re saying I trust him.” The insecure side of me at least said, “Well no, this is a good scene.” But when I was honest with myself, he was right.
DANIELS Spacey and you don’t fight at all?
WILLIMON Our blood will get up.
DANIELS So you all fight.
WILLIMON No, it’s not fighting it’s …
WILLIMON Let’s both struggle to get to the thing that we need to get to but knowing that there’s no animosity and there’s nothing personal about it. We both want the same thing.
DANIELS Well, I fight with my actors. We get down. Pulling weaves, rolling on the floor.
From left: Michelle King (The Good Wife) and Beau Willimon (House of Cards).
What is your favorite scene you wrote this year?
TREEM I really liked when Helen [Maura Tierney] asks Noah to come home even after he’s put her through everything. I felt that scene was so honest. It pointed to what happens in a relationship after 20 years of marriage. You have to forgive people to stay with them for your whole life.
GANSA Carrie having the moment with her baby in the bath was a scene without any dialogue at all. It was sort of written in the editing room because there were so many questions to ask: Is she really drowning her baby? Is she just considering drowning her baby? How are we going to play the scene so not to make it exploitative but to make it a thought that might occur to somebody?
TREEM Did you get a lot of notes on that scene?
GANSA We didn’t. The first draft, which is the first time I saw it, the camera was the baby’s point of view. The camera went underwater and stayed underwater for 15 seconds and so you were shooting up through the water at Claire [Danes]. I was like, “She’s drowning the baby; that’s not going to work.” The problem was, that was the best take of Claire. We must have been in the editing room for four days trying to make that work, and ultimately the camera went underwater for a split second and then we just reversed the film, so you’re actually watching Claire’s expression twice. It’s just enough to make it feel like she actually seriously thought about it. It was a risk because it was like, are people going to come back and watch this character after that? The hysterical thing was that in the previous episode, Carrie Mathison had killed 40 people at a wedding and nobody even blinked an eye, but the thought that she might do some damage to her child and, my God, people were like, “We’re never watching this show again.”
What’s been your most embarrassing moment on your show?
KING [I have them] every day!
GANSA It’s usually a scene that I’ve written and actors come in to audition for it and I feel like crawling under the table because I can’t write, obviously. Nobody can make the scene work.
TREEM There was just a lot I didn’t know. You’re sitting there saying, “No, we have to have that angle because that person’s important in the scene.” And then you realize [the director is] 10 steps ahead of you. I’ve had to learn to keep my mouth shut on set.
WILLIMON Pussy Riot was on the show this season, and we decided we were going to shoot a punk video that we would roll over the credits. We got 300 people in downtown Baltimore, in ski masks and drag, and a couple of cars that we could completely destroy. We had orange fog machines and shot in 95-degree weather. I came down toward the end of filming, and they said, in their very persuasive Russian accents, “Beau, you must be in video.” I have a rule: I don’t do any cameos. The moment I start doing that, I won’t be able to stop myself. They said, “You must, you must.” I thought, “Well, when am I ever going to get the chance again to dance shirtless, in a ski mask, on top of a car, with Pussy Riot?” So I took off my shirt, put on a blue ski mask, got on top of the car and danced my ass off.
DANIELS That’s beautiful, dude.