Ross Marquand has talked himself into a frenzy.
The Los Angeles actor's spot-on impersonation of Kevin Spacey's conniving politician Frank Underwood has turned "House of Thrones," a mashup video spoof of "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones" on Quiznos ToastyTV, into a viral sensation with nearly 1.2 million views and counting.
In the video, Frank smooth-talks his way through Westeros, dispatching rivals to the Iron Throne—from Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen and the current King Joffrey.
"Why have one little ol' presidency when you can have seven entire kingdoms?" says Marquand, as Frank, in the video's introduction.
It's an impeccable impersonation of Spacey's impeccable portrayal, one that had Marquand answering calls, responding to emails and taking meetings a good part of Monday.
"This day just blew up out of nowhere," he told me on the phone Monday evening. "Kevin Spacey actually saw the spot and he tweeted about it. It's crazy, yeah. So I've been in phone calls and people have been wanting to meet. It's just like, 'Aghhh!'"
The Colorado native isn't complaining; he's just a little surprised. He got involved when friends of his, Oren Kaplan and Devon Kelly, approached him about doing the video. He'd worked with them before and they were well aware that he could impersonate Spacey and many other actors. When they gave him the script he thought it was a fun idea, so he canceled his weekend plans to prepare. Doing Frank was not exactly the same as doing Spacey.
"It's Spacey, but it's a distinct style of Spacey, obviously with a Southern, South Carolina accent. I literally sat down, watched 'House of Cards' Season 2 in almost an entire evening," he said, and then started practicing in front of a mirror. "I'm not too ashamed to admit [it]."
Marquand, who played Paul Newman in a "Mad Men" episode last season, also stars in the Rainn Wilson-produced comedy "The Impression Guys," in which he and costar Jim Meskimen play heightened versions of themselves—two actors who don't want to be known only for their impersonations. The half-hour show can be seen on Wilson's Soul Pancake YouTube channel.
He also has a couple of films in the can, including a psychological thriller called "Camera Trap" and "Sam & Amira," a comedy with Martin Starr and Paul Wesley from "The Vampire Diaries."
In the impersonation area, he's shot another spoof, this one mashing up HBO's "True Detective" with those AT&T "It's Not Complicated" commercials starring Beck Bennett. He'll channel Rust Cohle, Matthew McConaughey's out-there detective, as he talks to a group of kids about existentialism and other advanced topics.
The actor has been doing impressions since high school, he said, but for many years never considered the gift something to be done beyond except as a party gag. He left Colorado for Hollywood after college about 8 1/2 years ago and for the first five years he worked as an actor in various dramatic roles. Then his agents saw a video he created in which he did impersonations and asked him to make another video with more of his celebrity impressions. He came up with one titled "Impress-A-Vention," in which he plays himself coming home to an apartment full of angry actors—including Al Pacino, James Gandolfini, Harrison Ford and others—who want him to stop impersonating them.
That video still gets views and has helped Marquand get seen as a comedic actor as well.
"It's funny how I was hiding my impressions for so long because I thought it was going to pigeonhole me," he said. "And it wasn't really until I started doing them that people started offering me roles for other things that were not impression based at all. So it's cool."
Spacey himself has taken notice, tweeting Monday, "We weren't sure what should happen in #HouseOfCards Season 3 but I think I've figured it out," and linking to the "House of Thrones" video on kevinspacey.com.
Marquand, who has been a fan of Spacey's since high school, couldn't be happier. They haven't talked, but he knows what he'd say if he ever meets Spacey.
"I would just tell him that he really is the No. 1 reason why I decided to pursue acting professionally," he said. "I remember reading an article ... about his struggles growing up and how he just said, 'The hell with it. I'm gonna really give this all I've got and just go for it.' ... It was a really inspiring."
4 SILLY QUESTIONS
Before channeling Frank Underwood in Westeros, Ross Marquand already was "a huge fan of both shows." Here are four questions I asked him about the real "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones."
What "Game of Thrones" character has the best chance of power in "House of Cards?"
Oh, wow, that's a really good question. I've gotta say, just because it's all about duplicity, I'm gonna go with Littlefinger. I mean Littlefinger just plays that the politics of that world so well. I think he'd be the one to survive.
What House of Cards character would do well in Westeros?
Hmmm. Well Frank would. [Laughs.] I actually think Doug Stamper would do really well. He's smart and he's obviously got the physical chops to fight if he needs to. He's just kind of no-nonsense and I think he would do well there, yeah.
Who is a slimier henchman—Lord Varys or Doug Stamper?
Lord Varys, of course. There's a degree of humanity in Doug Stamper. But Varys, he's such a slimeball.
What would you rather have, a seat in the Oval Office or a claim to the Iron Throne?
Oh, a seat in the Oval Office for sure, because even if you make it to the Iron Throne, there are going to be people trying to kill you all the time. At least in the Oval Office you've got a buffer, a security detail watching you at all times. It's a little bit better.
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