Why 'House of Cards' actor Michael Kelly still roots for Doug Stamper

House of Cards star Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper) Gets Political
House of Cards star Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper) Gets Political

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    House of Cards star Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper) Gets Political

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House of Cards star Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper) Gets Political 02:15

Story highlights

  • Michael Kelly talked to CNN about how he still roots for his "House of Cards" character Doug Stamper
  • Kelly is currently nominated for an Emmy in the Best Supporting Actor in a drama category

(CNN)In the roughly five minutes Michael Kelly lingered in the hallway at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, four people approached him to tell them how much they loved his work on "House of Cards."

Among them: Mike Colter -- star of Netflix's "Luke Cage" -- and Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel TV.
    Netflix had many of its stars on hand on this particular day -- and the approachable Kelly was a beacon for well wishers.
    That's because the Emmy nominee couldn't be any less like the morally ambiguous White House staffer he's played for four seasons on Netflix's political drama.
    In an interview with CNN, Kelly talked about how he channels Doug Stamper and why after all this time, he still has a soft spot for one of fictional Washington's toughest characters.
    I just saw so many people come up to you in just a few minutes. Do you get that a lot from your peers in the industry?
    Yeah. You know, I feel so blessed to have landed this job and to be able to play him for as long as I have. They haven't killed him. I feel so fortunate [to] have respect and admiration from [my] peers. So to meet all these great actors, it's incredible.
    Season 4 was a great season for you and Doug. When you begin a season, how do you psych yourself up to get into Doug's mind again? Or is it something you can turn on and turn off at this point?
    Turning it on and off is kind of reality. But the drive to Baltimore that I do every time [we start a new season] that's my time to sort of slide back into Doug. I sort of drive in silence or I listen to my lines. And while I'm there, I'm not method. I don't have to live that. But, yeah, it is easier as the years go on. Honestly, I love it so much that when I'm in Baltimore -- and this is no offense to Baltimore because I love it there -- but I'd rather be at work than not. That's how great it is to work on our show.
    Last season, Doug fell in love with a widow, he almost killed Seth (Derek Cecil) ...
    I fell in love with a widow [and] I indirectly killed the husband...
    [Laughs] Of all of that, what was most daunting to you once it was in front of you?
    Hands down it was the scene with Seth Grayson where [Doug] put the glass over his mouth and try to intimidatingly suffocate him. [Derek Cecil] and I didn't see eye to eye on that scene going into it. For days leading up to it, we were talking about it and hashing it out it out with the writer, Beau Willimon.
    It was the physicality of that — for the character to go from zero to 60 in one second ... it was hard.
    Did you all just see the scene differently?
    Yeah. He's probably a few inches taller than me; he's a big guy. And he was like, 'Seriously, look at you and look at me. How would you take me down?' And I said, 'Because I'm f—ing Doug Stamper, dude.' [Laughs]
    A lot of times it's in the mind, not in the physical.
    At this point, do you still root for Doug? Did you ever?
    Yeah, I always have. I completely understand everything he's done. I'm not saying that I would do it, but I completely understand Doug Stamper. I understand his addiction issues. I mean, addiction in that it's to everything -- it's to Frank, it's to Rachel, it's to alcohol, it's to the job. His work ethic is something I completely identify with, so you make that applicable to each of the situations, and it works.
    What do you think almost losing Frank last year did to him?
    As far as the toll it took on him?
    Yes.
    A lot. Francis is a massive part of his life in so many ways. Those two men trust each other to the ends of the Earth. They're the only two people that each of them could count on. We saw Claire turn on Frank last year. You've never seen Doug turn on Frank. We've never seen Frank turn on Doug. And they trust each other to the ends of the Earth so that's where Doug belongs. That's where he is. That's where he thrives in life.
    Lastly, how's it going with the new showrunners?
    It's great, man. I'm always going to miss Beau Willimon. I think he's the brightest writer I've ever worked with and just an incredible human being. That's been hard. But Frank [Pugliese] and Melissa [James Gibson] are incredible. I love them, and I love that they love it like Beau loved it. I trusted that [Netflix and Media Rights Capital] would do the right thing, and they did. They hired from within. We're chugging along.
    This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.