Behind the political force of Frank Underwood on the Netflix original series “House of Cards” is the stoic and ever-present force of Edward Meechum. University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow plays Meechum, a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and his wife Claire, portrayed by Robin Wright. It’s a role that the 38-year-old Brooklyn, New York, resident calls “challenging and exhausting” because of the silent internal rumbling of the character he portrays in the political drama series based in Washington, D.C.
Darrow, a native of Kansas City, earned his bachelor’s degree in theater performance and literature from UE in 1998 before continuing his training at New York University where he received his master of fine arts degree. His extensive resume includes starring roles in numerous plays such as, “Richard III,” which was performed at London’s Old Vic, among other venues. In “Richard III,” Darrow acted alongside Spacey, who played Richard, which introduced Darrow to “House of Cards.” The award-winning series debuted in February 2013 and returns for its third season Feb. 27 on Netflix.
How did the University of Evansville Department of Theatre shape your career?
Going to Evansville prepared me to audition for conservatories. I ended up at a conservatory in New York (New York University). I’m sure I wouldn’t have the career I have if I hadn’t come to New York when I did. As an actor, I certainly developed quite a bit (at UE) due to the extraordinary talent and efforts of the faculty.
What led you to your decision to study in Evansville?
I had auditioned for John David Lutz the summer before I graduated high school (Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas). I started talking with him and eventually I visited the campus for a long weekend. I actually will never forget sitting in on John David Lutz’s acting classes and seeing the work to me that was incredibly impressive and mind-blowing and at the end of that work, he was pointing out what was working and him saying, ‘Here’s where you can go deeper. Here’s where you can go harder.’ It confirmed to me that I was at a serious place where the work of acting was viewed as something that could take a lifetime of exploring and finding its roots.
What roles did you play while at UE?
I was in a couple Shakespeare plays. There was an “As You Like It” (Jacques) and “Macbeth” (Banquo). I played Konstantin Treplev in “The Seagull” pretty poorly, but I got the shot to do it, which was cool. I was in a couple studio shows. I had a lot of opportunities there, in fact. I got the chance to do a lot of different things.
What classic role do you really want to play?
There are so many I want to play. There’s a couple I want to do again. I would like to play Biff Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” I would like to play Tom in “The Glass Menagerie.” I would like to play Edmund Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” again. I got to do it once a few years back. I think I got somewhere with it but I would love to get back at it. There are those parts that kind of stay with you in a weird way. They are still offering their secrets and I would love to hammer it out.
Talk about the all-star cast of Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey. What is it like working closely with them?
It’s extraordinary. They are two actors who are really playing above the rim. They work intensely and seriously but at the same time, they work with a lot of joy and fun. They challenge each other and they enjoy that challenge. They really bring all of us up, too. They are actors who really want the scene to happen when the cameras roll … It is very exciting to be making it right there. We are all trying to do our best work, and sometimes, we don’t, and that’s that. They hold it lightly and you count yourself fortunate. They are both fantastic examples of that.
What’s it like to play Edward Meechum?
It is challenging emotionally to play someone who keeps himself so very close to the chest, but still to know that he has come out of an experience — a kind of incredible and intense experience that he lives with — for that to simply vibrate in him and rumble in him without direct expression as of yet is challenging and exhausting. I am really happy to go at it every day I’m on set regardless of what I’m doing. I am very happy for the opportunity to take up the story of this guy right there in the moment. He definitely has stuff in there that’s not worked out and that’s a weird place to inhabit. You have that place in life but to actively go there is kind of something else.
Your role expanded in the second season. Tell me about your screen time and role in the third?
You will find out all that Feb. 27. That’s all I can tell you.
To watch Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum in “House of Cards,” visit netflix.com.