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‘They don’t understand Russia’s political reality’ Pussy Riot talks about appearing on ‘House of Cards’

Source: Afisha
Photo: Pussy Riot

Netflix has released the third season of its political drama House of Cards, which this year includes a cameo by Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. In an interview with Maria Semendiayeva from the website Afisha Vozduh, the punk rockers talked about meeting the actor Kevin Spacey (who plays the US president on the show), described the filming process, and revealed what you’re fed on the set of an American TV series. 

The show’s creators needed to cast someone in the third season to “speak out against the Russian president” at an official White House banquet. Originally, they thought of inviting opposition activist and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasaprov to play the role, but this idea was scrapped when House of Cards screenwriter Beau Willimon met Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, and decided to offer them the part.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina say the show’s creators don’t fully understand Russia’s “political reality,” and they had to develop their own costumes for their cameo. To design the t-shirts they ultimately wore for the show, they studied many images from the Russian Internet and also examined footage from actual street protests in Russia.

See also: ‘I Can’t Breathe’ The premiere of Pussy Riot’s new music video against police brutality

The people who make House of Cards are quite the perfectionists, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina say, and every scene is re-shot several times, when filming. The scene where Pussy Riot appears alongside Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey’s character) at a photo-op required six takes.

Tolokonnikova says Spacey showed genuine interest in Russia and even invited the Pussy Riot group out to an Irish pub. According to Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s English-speaking husband, Spacey was quite friendly.

A whole section of Pussy Riot’s interview with Afisha Vozduh is dedicated to the food served on set at House of Cards. Tolokonnikova and Verzilov say the refreshments were excellent. “As required by the labor unions, every studio sets up these tents with a huge amount of food, and everyone eats it. There are grilled ribs, bananas, a bunch of drinks, ice cream, and I won’t even say how high-quality everything was—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not even possible to get food this good in a Russian restaurant,” Verzilov said. 

“Kevin Spacey described how he and [director David] Fincher came up with House of Cards. They’re big fans of the original British series, and at some point they decided they wanted to make their own version. The psychological tone is entirely the work of Beau Willimon, who’s not only a talented playwright, but also someone with a firm grasp of politics,” said Alyokhina.