Wed October 30, 2013
Kansas City Actor Goes From Shakespeare To ‘House Of Cards’
In the Netflix series, House of Cards, actor Nathan Darrow, a native of Kansas City, plays Edward Meechum. It's an understated role, but he's the keeper of secrets as the bodyguard and driver for ruthless Congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.
Darrow graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kan. He earned a bachelor's in theatre performance and literature at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., and continued his training as an actor at New York University in New York City.
After graduate school, he returned to Kansas City in 2003, performing at Kansas City Actors Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Unicorn Theatre and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, including the roles of Romeo and King Henry V.
In 2009, Darrow moved to New York. He says it was another Shakespeare play, Richard III, that led to House of Cards.
Interview Highlights: Nathan Darrow
On the House of Cards casting process
Shakespeare's Richard III opened at the Old Vic in London in 2011, and then toured internationally. Nathan Darrow played two roles: Lord Grey and Henry Tudor. The production ended its run in March 2012 in New York.
"It (Richard III) was a co-production between the Old Vic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music," says Darrow. "Sam Mendes directed, and Kevin Spacey played Richard (III) in that.
"And he (Spacey) was already about to do House of Cards and they were casting it around the time we were touring Richard III. And he kind of put me up for it. So I went in for (director) David Fincher and the folks, and that's how I got on the show."
On the role of Meechum
The character Edward Meechum, a U.S. Capitol police officer, is an observer, charged with keeping lots of secrets.
As Underwood (played by Spacey) tells him: "You are a rock. You absorb nothing, you say nothing, and nothing breaks you." Meechum is clean cut and wears a dark suit, but viewers aren't told a lot about him as a character.
"I was originally up for a different role, but then this one became the one that was right," says Darrow. "His mystery appeals to me, possibly, his loneliness."
Darrow says he had loosely created a backstory for Meechum, including a military background, that was confirmed by the writers of the show.
"Even before we shot that scene, and I got those pages where he says he was in Afghanistan, I was already thinking that could be it," he says. "I was already trying to imagine that, and trying to let it just feed me physically in the work. The writing and what I had invented sort of met, which was nice."
On working with actor Kevin Spacey
"He's a very, very special force as an actor. On stage, especially, and in that part (Richard III), all of his physical gifts could really, just really, kind of carry it," says Darrow. "And then, going into House of Cards...he almost seamlessly re-calibrates. And then he can take all of that and turn it into this brilliant cinematic focus.
"He takes his position as kind of a mentor really seriously. And also, he understands that this is all a very long tradition. And he was kind of given opportunity and given attention as a young actor, and that's very important for him. He kind of sees that as part of his job, really, to continue it, to pass it along."
On differences between theater and television
Darrow has played a wide range of roles on the stage, but House of Cards marks the "first sustained experience" he's had in front of the camera.
"In the theater, it's almost like they give the actors the play, more or less," he says. "The lights go up and the actors are kind of in charge. A lot of the other work has maybe kind of already been done.
"But, on a film set, you have all these artists working with you in the moment. And they're there with you."
The second season of House of Cards premiered Friday, February 14, 2014.