The following story contains a major spoiler about House of Cards‘ just-released fifth season — proceed at your own peril.
House of Cards co-showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese admitted to TVLine that the decision to have Robin Wright’s Claire murder her longtime side piece Tom Yates at the end of Season 5 was as agonizing as it was inevitable. “It had to happen, as difficult as it was,” Pugliese shared. “So much of the arc of the season is Claire coming to terms with her ambition and embracing it.” Surprisingly, the EPs did not have any trouble convincing the victim’s portrayer — Boardwalk Empire alum Paul Sparks — that Tom needed to be whacked. In fact, in the below Q&A, the actor gives his deeply unsettling mid-coitus death scene two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
TVLINE | When did you find out Tom was going to die? Was it before you started shooting Season 5?
No, I did not know before the season started. I [found out] about midway through the season.
TVLINE | What was your reaction?
I was OK with it. I’m a total slave to a good story. I’m down with a good death. [Laughs] At the same time… it’s disappointing because [the cast and crew] are like family and you get used to being around them.
TVLINE | Well, you certainly got a memorable death scene. What was it like shooting it with Robin?
She was directing that episode as well, so there was the added aspect of her heading back to Video Village and taking a look at [the footage] between takes. But those scenes are always hard. Death scenes are hard. Sex scenes are hard. And…
TVLINE | … when you mash them up…
… just multiply it. [Laughs] But Robin is a great director and a great actress, so I felt very taken care of through all of it. It was fun. It worked out that it was kind of the last thing I [shot]. I don’t know if warm and fuzzy was the right word, but it felt like [a nice conclusion to my time] on the show.
TVLINE | Melissa and Frank told me that killing off Tom was painful for them. Did you get the sense that this was not an easy thing for them to do?
That’s nice to hear. [Laughs] There was a lot of agony over wanting to do the right thing. Wanting it to make sense in terms of the story, knowing that it would be a big part of Claire’s journey.
TVLINE | Melissa and Frank also didn’t rule out my theory that Tom had a contingency plan in place that ensured his manuscript would be discovered in the event something happened to him. What’s your take on that?
Tom was a consummate artist. His writing was very important to him. And that’s what artists do — they show what they’ve done. So it would not surprise me if those words found their way [out into the world].
TVLINE | What did you think of Tom’s brazen dalliance with the White House tour guide? I wonder if in a way he was hoping Claire would find out about it.
Tom always seemed to have a samurai spirit in that he felt like he was living on borrowed time. He wasn’t confined by hierarchy or power struggles or any of that stuff. He was very much his own entity. Claire’s attempt to have this double life, one of which did not include him, I think made him reckless; he had a a devil-may-care attitude. Also, [he had sex with the tour guide] in the press room. It’s not like there weren’t cameras in there. He was always looking for ways to prick her attention.
TVLINE | Will you continue to watch the show?
To be totally honest, I watched the show until I started doing the show. And I have never watched it since; I have not watched myself on it. But now that I’m off of the show, I might zoom through and catch up. And if they do another season, I’ll watch it, sure. I’m curious just like everybody else.