By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Forget about likeable, upstanding characters doing what is right.
Kevin Spacey is convinced that like the ruthless, morally corrupt politician he portrays in Netflix's Emmy Award-winning political drama "House of Cards," the anti-hero is here to stay.
"The third season explores what happens to these people when they suddenly are in the hot, white spotlight of being president and first lady," Spacey told Reuters. "That's a very interesting dynamic to start to investigate."
When the third season of Netflix Inc's online streaming series premiered on Feb. 27, all 13 episodes were immediately available to subscribers, enabling millions of fans to binge-watch the show that follows Spacey as President Francis Underwood and Robin Wright as his ambitious first lady, Claire.
Like the first two seasons, which saw the couple destroy anyone who obstructed their path to the White House, the latest episodes find them conniving to consolidate their presidential power base.
Underwood embodies the character to whom audiences are both repelled and attracted.
Spacey, 55, who has won Oscars for "American Beauty" and "The Usual Suspects," credited the groundbreaking 1980s police drama "Hill Street Blues," as well as HBO's "The Sopranos," with its anxiety-ridden, overweight mob boss and other shows for changing television and introducing anti-hero characters.
"It seem to me the runway had been very well paved by the time we arrived," he said. "I think it is what audiences are demanding, not what we are. This is what people want."
"House of Cards" made history in 2013 when it became the first online series to win three Emmys and established Netflix as a leader in original entertainment.
It also provided audiences with a novel way to watch the series by streaming it online, and gave writers and actors alike a longer creative arch to develop characters.
Wright, 48, who directed an episode of the current series, likened the format to building a 13-hour film.
"It's a novel that you, the public, can pick up when you want it, read as many chapters as you want in whatever format, put it down for six months and then return to it," she explained.
And Spacey believes the format is here to stay.
"Creatively, it is the best it can get," he said. "I also think that whether people want to admit it or not, the days of appointed viewing (times) are more behind us than ahead of us."
(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and G Crosse)