How Stephen Colbert ended up on season 3 of 'House of Cards'


Colbert on house of cards


"House of Cards" showrunner Beau Willimon explained at Vulture Festival over the weekend

There are some minor spoilers ahead for "House of Cards" season 3.


One of the biggest surprises of the season 3 premiere of "House of Cards," which debuted on Netflix back in February, was an appearance by Stephen Colbert reprising his role of "The Colbert Report" host.

Comedy Central had previously aired the final episode of Colbert's talk show in December 2014, so it was a big shock to see him back as host one last time while grilling Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) over a controversial jobs' program.

During a talk at Vulture's second annual pop culture event Vulture Festival late Sunday afternoon, Vulture editor Gazelle Emami asked "House of Cards" showrunner Beau Willimon if the dialogue from Colbert on air was scripted. 

Willimon went into great detail telling the audience how the Colbert cameo came about and was filmed.


"I fully expected Stephen to say no. And, Stephen said yes, and I said, 'Look, you're going to be way funnier than anything I can write," said Willimon. "I will send you a sort of sample script of what the shape of the scene is going to look like." 

Willimon said he sent Colbert over about four pages of the scene along with material on Underwood's fictional jobs' program, America Works, and more. 

"I thought, if you guys can ad-lib then I don't care ... that'll be way more authentic than if we just script everything," Willimon continued.

Willimon said he later got on the phone with Colbert and his people who told him he thought they should use most of the script. He couldn't believe it. He said everyone reassured him there were some good jokes in the script.

"I'm going to change a few [jokes] if that's okay with you," Willimon recalled Colbert asking. 


The "House of Cards" showrunner was more than okay with that request. "Please! Please change whatever you want." 

beau willimon house of cards

Kirsten Acuna/Business Insider

Beau Willimon with Vulture editor Gazelle Emami Sunday, May 31 at Vulture Festival.

Willimon told the crowd they ended up filming the scene between Kevin Spacey and Colbert at the actual Colbert set in front of a live audience.

"We said to them, 'All right, none of you can say anything.' We didn't tell them it was for the show. We said, 'We're going to do a couple of bits ... None of you don't ever tweet about this or talk about this at all," he explained. "Miraculously, none of the audience did for months and months."

One of the bits that was taped ended up being shot for "The Colbert Report." Willimon says the "House of Cards" team had nothing to do with it though. Willimon said what we ended up seeing in the season three premiere was part of an eight-minute set that was filmed using the Comedy Central show's cameras and crew. 

"There's a mixture of script and improv," said Willimon. "A lot of the things that Stephen said that were used were things that we kind of co-did together. The line about the lampreys sucking a crouton ... that was all him."


You can watch Colbert's appearance on "House of Cards" below:


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