The Real-Life Hacker Who Worked On ‘House Of Cards’ Explains His Contributions To The Show

02.19.14 4 years ago 18 Comments



One of the more divisive parts of the second season of House of Cards — besides THAT THING that HAPPENED in the first episode — has been the sub-plot involving the guinea-pig-stroking, techno-bumping hacker informant played by Jimmi Simpson (Liam McPoyle from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Especially the thing with the creepy cartoon bird on the iPad. We’re gonna have to talk about that some more at some point. Not now, but soon. Definitely.

But anyway, the hacking. Some people found it a little, well…

Pretty much every computer nerd/hacker stereotype manages to make its way in. A penchant for pulsing, abrasive techno at unreasonable volumes? Check. Monster display setup with streams of code a la The Matrix? Check. Quirky animal friend? Check. A demeanor equally creepy, pompous, and paranoid? Check, check, and… check. [Gizmodo]

Well, in a new essay at The Guardian, the hacker who consulted with showrunner Beau Willimon reveals some of the behind-the-scenes details that went into bringing Gavin (and Cashew) to the screen.

When I was first introduced to Gavin Orsay, a hacker activist forced to work for the FBI, he already had his wine collection and pet guinea pig, but he hadn’t found his moral backbone. Now, I’m not going to go out there and say the final result is a good guy, but initially, he’d committed a cardinal sin of the hacking community: he had betrayed his friends who were fighting the good fight. I explained the significance of that act, how much people in the community would absolutely hate this guy if he went to screen as-is, and I have to say, I was very happy that they chose to make the hacker a more conflicted person fighting to protect some of his friends. […]

So, how do I feel about the final outcome? There are some concessions that had to be made for keeping things visually interesting, and some things where the story had to take precedence over what was most realistic from a tech standpoint, but nowhere near as many as I was fearing.

It’s worth noting here that anyone with any technical expertise in a particular area is almost always going to have a bone to pick with a fictional depiction of that thing. Don’t believe me? Ask a defense attorney about Law & Order, or a baseball fan about Kenny Powers’s throwing mechanics. People are sen-si-tive. But at least it appears House of Cards, like, tried to get it right. Or close to right. That’s worth something, I think. I’ll toss them a couple points for the effort.

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