TV Writer Podcast 074 – Beau Willimon (House of Cards)

From never being on a TV staff, to becoming the creator and showrunner of “House of Cards,” Netflix’s original foray into dramatic television and the corrupted world of politics… this week’s interview with screenwriter, painter, and playwright Beau Willimon is sure to inspire you!

Beau Willimon is a screenwriter, playwright, producer and most recently, an executive producer, showrunner and creator of Netflix’s original series “House of Cards,” a wicked one-hour drama, from Media Rights Capital, that slithers behind the curtain of power, sex, ambition, love, greed and corruption in modern Washington D.C.

His play “Farragut North,” became the basis for the motion picture screenplay “Ides of March,” which he co-wrote with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. “Ides of March” earned Willimon Academy Award®, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it won The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Award for Best Screenplay.

Other plays include “Lower Ninth” (Flea Theater, 2008; UK premiere, Donmar Warehouse, 2010), and “Spirit Control” (Manhattan Theatre Club, 2010). Subsequent productions of his plays have been mounted across the U.S. and overseas. Willimon was a recipient of the Lila Acheson Wallace Juilliard Playwriting Fellowship, named 2008 Playwright-in-Residence at the Donmar Warehouse, and he is a two-time winner of the Lincoln Center Le Comte du Nouy Award. Current theater commissions include works for the National Theatre of Great Britain, South Coast Rep, and the Flea Theater.

His most recent play, “The Parisian Woman,” premieres at South Coast Repertory in the spring and will star Dana Delany, Steven Culp, Linda Gehringer and Rebecca Mozo. The play was inspired by Henri Becque’s “La Parisienne.”

Recently Willimon co-founded Westward Productions, a film and television production company, with co-founder Jordan Tappis. Among Westward Production’s current projects is the forthcoming “Wally and Andre Shoot Ibsen” – a film adaption of Ibsen’s play “Master Builder” developed by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, directed by Jonathan Demme. Willimon is an Executive Producer on the film. Other projects in development include a documentary about adventure traveler Karl Bushby’s quest to circumnavigate the globe on foot over the course of two decades, and a documentary about Westerly Windina, a transgender Australian woman formerly known as legendary pro-surfer Peter Drouyn.

In addition to his career as a writer and producer, Willimon served on a number of political campaigns, including Chuck Schumer’s 1998 senate race, Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s 2000 senate race and Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race.

Willimon graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University in 1999 and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in 2003. A St. Louis native, he now resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Beau’s Twitter: @BeauWillimon

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3 thoughts on “TV Writer Podcast 074 – Beau Willimon (House of Cards)

  1. Erica S

    Wow, the best 45 minutes spent listening to wise wisdom from a master craftsman. “House of Cards” is one of the best shows produced in a long time and I look forward to the second season!

    Beau shows that you need to put in the work, write the terrible plays and then rewrite them or throw them out, and (hopefully) produce eventually something that kindles the same interest and desire in the audience as you had as the author. He has had the training and obviously the smarts and talent to deliver it, so his advice to quit is a cautionary flag for delitants…

    And then it’s a long row to hoe to get to that critical point where preparedness meets opportunity: to find yourself in the situation that is generally known as the “lucky break”.

    Thank you for sharing this freely.

  2. Gray JonesGray Jones Post author

    Thanks so much for your comments!

    I liken it to a great coach or military trainer — telling us how easy it is does us no favors. Telling us how hard it is, or to give up, weeds out those who shouldn’t be doing it anyway, but puts fire in the eyes of those who really have the passion to do it. Also, it makes us take the task much more seriously, and dig deeper.

    Glad you enjoyed it!


  3. Patrick Mahon

    I am constantly impressed by how often successful screenwriters advise new and aspiring screenwriters to ‘GIVE UP!’ Just as Beau does here, towards the end of an enlightening podcast.

    It’s a challenge. It’s a dare. It’s bait in the bear trap.

    And it’s oh so very tempting…

    With a reported 2% chance of success, even after putting in the 10 years of hard slog first, it does boggle the mind why we willingly sign on to such a masochist marathon.

    But Beau’s follow up thought that you have to do it for its own sake, first and foremost, is an even bigger challenge. Can I commit to this with the acceptance that I may never receive any financial reward or recognition as a result?

    Wow… Now that really is a challenge. And something I think I will wrestle with for a long time to come…

    Thank you, Gray Jones, for such an in-depth look at Beau’s process and point of view.