Hardball with Chris Matthews, 1/29/13, 7:00 PM ET

New TV series takes on ‘moral conundrum’ of political ambitions

Chris Matthews talks to actor Kevin Spacey about his newest TV series “House of Cards,” a political drama about a House Majority Whip who’s just been passed...

Watch: Kevin Spacey tackles ‘moral conundrums’ in new political thriller

Updated

Political drama lovers, rejoice! There’s a new show coming to town.

Kevin Spacey is the star and executive producer of House of Cards, an upcoming TV series about a conniving congressman Francis “Frank” Underwood (played by Spacey,) who decides to take down the president’s administration after being passed over for the office of secretary of state. The show, airing on Netflix, promises to be packed with scheming, partisan infighting, and moral deviants so corrupt as to practically be Shakespearean in nature. In fact, they are Shakespearean in nature.

“The original book that was written by Michael Dobbs–he based his character largely on Richard III,” explained Spacey on Hardball Tuesday. Dobbs worked in the administration of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and left with what Spacey described as “a bad taste in his mouth.” Dobbs, said Spacey, “wrote this book as a kind of revenge.”

Following the novel’s publication, the story was adapted into a popular British TV series by the same name. Ian Richardson played Spacey’s character in the original series, who was then called Francis Urquhart. “Now I’m called Francis Underwood,” said Spacey. “Which means the initials are still ‘FU.’”

In order to prepare for the role, Spacey met with the real majority whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as well as with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md). Learning about congressional processes, he said, was informative and “fascinating.”

“Thinking about what it must be like to try to corral 218 [representatives] to vote the way you want them to vote is kind of crazy,” said Spacey. “Obviously we’ve seen in this last Congress, it isn’t that easy to do.”

Spacey says the show wrestles with the important question of whether morally questionable tactics are acceptable in politics if they in fact lead to constructive results. “There have been incredible political figures in the past who now are sort of being reexamined,” explained Spacey. “Like Lyndon Johnson, for example. You start to look at how people are saying, yes he was ruthless, but he was also a remarkably effective president in a very short number of years.”

“It’s an amazing question,” he concluded. “If someone does something that is dastardly and diabolical, is it worth it in the end?”

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Watch: Kevin Spacey tackles 'moral conundrums' in new political thriller

Updated