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Kevin Spacey says he simply 'serves the writing' in 'House of Cards'

This image released by Netflix shows Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, left, and Kevin Spacey as U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood in

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This image released by Netflix shows Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, left, and Kevin Spacey as U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood in "House of Cards." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon

TORONTO - Kevin Spacey says he's relishing his return to the small screen as soulless Washington power broker Francis Underwood on the serial drama "House of Cards."

The movie star-turned-Netflix ambassador would reveal nothing ahead of the Season 2 premiere Friday, preferring to keep his focus on the streaming service's emergence as a slick alternative to traditional network and cable television.

"If I could have ever imagined finding myself in a situation where I was doing a series I don't think I could have hoped for better collaborators, a more interesting character to play," Spacey said during a recent phone interview from New York, adding that there's no question the Netflix model is a success.

"Maybe we've learned the lesson that the music industry didn't learn — and that's give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price. And the chances are they'll buy it and not steal it," he adds.

"I think that for audiences, the platform just doesn't matter anymore."

Expectations were high when "House of Cards" debuted last year as the online service's marquee property, a star-stacked political saga that promised to reinvent home entertainment for good.

Bolstered by Spacey's star power and the added pedigree of Oscar-nominated director David Fincher, it drew an immediate following but also divided critics over whether it lived up to all the hype.

Spacey says he never felt any pressure to make sure the dark series succeeded, placing his attention solely on the work and his appreciation for TV's upswing into "a third golden age."

"(It's an age) where you have characters that are very complex, that are not perhaps winning characters the way that for many, many years television executives did everything they could to make all the characters on a TV show likable," says the "American Beauty" Oscar-winner.

"We've had a kind of remarkable, impressive, daring programming in which clearly audiences love stories that take long periods of time to tell, love them being character-driven, love the complexity, the dark humour, the anti-hero. All of this seems to me the groundwork (that) was laid for us to be able to create a show long before we even knew we were going to do it."

Spacey's shrewd congressman Francis Underwood remains ever-focused on cementing the vice-presidential post, no matter the cost, when the action resumes in the Season 2 premiere.

It begins with Francis and his icy wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, still out on the early morning run they began in the previous episode.

Doug Stamper, Francis' right hand man, is waiting at their home when they return — with news that requires immediate action.

Canuck star Molly Parker joins the cast as a third-term congresswoman who figures prominently in Francis's quest for power at the White House, and Spacey hints that she could prove a worthy adversary to Francis's manipulations.

"She's a wonderful actress, we've had a terrific time working together," Spacey says of his scenes with the B.C.-bred Parker, whose credits include "Dexter," "Deadwood" and the TV adaptation of "The Firm."

"I think (her character) will prove to be a very formidable woman in Congress."

Parker's Jackie is a battle-scarred veteran from Afghanistan and Iraq who earns praise from Francis for her "ruthless pragmatism."

Of course, Francis has proven to be ruthless himself in eliminating enemies with hardly a qualm, but Spacey refused to offer any hints of what's ahead as loose ends from Season 1 threaten to undo the politician's schemes.

Nor does he spend much time trying to rationalize Francis's actions as he tackles each fresh episode. Spacey says there's no point.

"I never put myself in the position where I judge the characters I'm playing," says Spacey, whose unscrupulous alter-egos also include crippled con-artist Verbal Kint in "The Usual Suspects" and manipulative supervisor Dave Harken in "Horrible Bosses."

"I don't have a moral dilemma about playing a character, I just play the character and I serve the writing. And it's entirely up to an audience to decide how they feel, what moral conundrum they might have about things that a character does in order to move forward."

Season 2 of "House of Cards" debuts Friday.

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