Stacking the Cards: Michel Gill and Jayne Atkinson Talk Rural Life and Conspiracy Theory
By Nichole Dupont
Great Barrington dwellers Michel Gill and Jayne Atkinson are not your typical Hollywood couple. Sure, they fly to New York and L.A. on a fairly regular basis, but this down-to-earth duo are always on the lookout for the next big role. They may have found it. Both actors star in the Netflix blockbuster politico series “House of Cards” (directed by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright), which follows the dark career of Senator Frank Underwood as he vies for power in the White House. While Gill hails from a career in theater and Atkinson has enjoyed roles on several key television series including “Criminal Minds” and “24,” both agree that “House of Cards,” which just got the green light to start shooting a third season, is a game changer for them and for television as a whole. With a generous budget, film-quality cinematography for every episode and a cast of heavy hitters, the series is upping the ante for entertainment, one conspiracy at a time. The second season will be released via Netflix on Friday, February 14. Atkinson will be in town on Friday, March 28 at BTG’s Unicorn Theatre to present “Motherhood Out Loud” as part of the month-long Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
ND: What brought you to the Berkshires? It seems very un-Hollywood…and far away from the epicenters, so to speak.
MG: We relocated here seven years ago. It’s definitely not New York or L.A. I grew up in New York and my family would visit the Berkshires. Since I was a little boy this place has been my backyard. Jayne and I were naturally charmed by this area. When we first moved here my mom didn’t want to come visit us for a while. She had her mind set that this was the sticks and not the cultural hub that it has become.
ND: What are your local haunts when you want to get away from everything?
ND: So, “House of Cards”…is amazing. How has landing a role on that series changed things for the both of you?
MG: Well, Jayne’s been doing some pretty high profile stuff all along while I’ve tucked myself away in the theater, doing that work in an insulated environment. When I first saw what was going on with the series, I knew already that I was in a situation that was quite unique and unusual. You’ve got people like Kevin Spacey – he’s a rock star in D.C., owns that town! – and Robin Wright and Jayne Atkinson (laughs) and the fact that Netflix has given full creative control to Beau (Willimon) and the others. The show isn’t beholden to ‘the suits.’
JA: Turns out the brew-ha-ha in Washington isn’t so different from the hierarchy in Hollywood!
ND: Speaking of Washington, how much of House of Cards is based in reality do you think?
MG: Jayne and I don’t live with rose-colored glasses. I’m a political junkie. We have varying different conspiracy theories.
JA: With House of Cards there is a different sobering quality to the material, maybe because we all think it could be real. Look at what’s happening with Chris Christie. This stuff is really going on. This is real corruption.
MG: I think with Kevin’s character [senator Frank Underwood] he’s sociopathic. We’re not talking just corrupt. He is a broken human being. This is classic Shakespearean drama. Is it happening now in Washington; who knows?
ND: What’s next? You’ve got this addicting series that everyone is anticipating, where do you take it from there?
JA: It’s exciting to feel like part of the hottest thing going but we’re still living a real life as opposed to a reel life. We’re so grounded here. And we try to find ways to pay it forward in our community.
MG: It’s such a self-involved world, the key to keeping us real is no drama. We’ve got a 14-year-old son. How’s that for keeping it real?