House of Cards' Michael Kelly: "Donald Trump Is A Clown And A Racist"

The man who plays Doug Stamper on US politics, Spacey and playing TV's most slippery strategist

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With political Greek tragedy House of Cards set to return to Netflix on 4 March, we met fan favourite Michael Kelly - best known as Frank Underwood's ambiguous Chief of Staff Doug Stamper - for a chat about TV, politics and where Frank goes next.

What can fans expect this season?

Frank and Doug are a team again - so you know, we're going to get s**t done!

In previous seasons Frank destroyed everything in his wake, whereas this time around the show focuses more on his internal struggle, how he deals with that spotlight and everyone circling around him. There are also some great new characters. I feel like we're going back to season one, where you finish an episode and you can't wait to start the next one. It has that same gripping narrative to it.

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What is it like working so closely with Kevin Spacey?

Kevin has a lot to memorise, a lot of notecards, but when he comes into a scene, he steps up to the camera and just becomes Frank. I'm like: "How do you do that!?" I'm sweating every night, agonising over every word, because I'm trying to feel the way he feels. You're never held up at work waiting for Kevin, he just does it, he's incredible.  I'm there just hoping some of that rubs off on me. Plus, he's a great guy, which always helps. 

As a political strategist, how do you think Doug Stamper would advise someone like Donald  Trump? 

If I was approaching the strategy from Doug's perspective, I'd encourage him to disclose a lot of information that I feel will be brought to light anyway. I'd make sure it was done quicker and we took the hit early.

Really, the whole scenario is insane. This is a guy who's flirted with the WWE, with reality TV. He's a clown and, in my opinion, a very vocal, open racist who has a short fuse. Basically he possesses none of the things that people want in a President. I think that the American public has more sense than to vote him in. At least I hope they do.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given in your career?

Something [director] Arthur Penn told me at the actors studio in NYC. I moved to New York and I was an 'observer' - which meant I had to scrub toilets, clean windows, change beds. I worked so hard there, and he told me: "The more of yourself you can bring to a role, the more grounded and human they'll be." 

That's really influenced how I play Doug Samper, because on the one hand he's this nefarious, murderous, despicable man, but there's still a compelling human element to him,  you don't hate him - at least not all the time!

House of Cards Season 4 is on Netflix from 4 March