When Mahershala Ali was in the BuzzFeed offices just a few weeks ago, we asked him to describe what his character would be like in real life, react to situations from the TV show he stars on, and try to build an actual house of cards. (Let it be known that it's impossible to build a house of cards on a shaky table, but that's not to say he didn't try.) Between the GIFs and the cards, we spoke with Mahershala about his inspirations for playing the political powerhouse that is Remy Danton. In asking him about what Remy would be like in real life, it became very clear that Mahershala gets in the proverbial zone by listening to a particular playlist of music, which he very kindly shared with us.
In your own mind, what kind of car would Remy drive?
I think Remy would drive a Jaguar, like an F-Type or something. Something masculine but quick and sporty.
What neighborhood would he live in?
Honestly, I would put Remy in Clinton Hill [Brooklyn] or something like that.
If Remy wasn't in politics, what do you think he would be doing?
I think he would be practicing law, for sure.
What do you think his ultimate dream job in politics would be?
That's a great question just because of some things that happen this season. I think he's actually figuring that out right now, in some way, shape, or form. The type of success that he's had ... such a small percentage of people even get to that point. He's been a partner at a lobbying firm, you know what I'm saying? He was fairly young when he did that, and on top of that, African-American. How some of those things play into what you visualize what's possible for you to accomplish, I think he's kind of done it. I don't think he wants to be a president or a vice president or a governor, or something like that. So he's kind of done what you can do in his field and at this stage it's about him being fulfilled as a person in other aspects of his life.
What would be the last concert he went to?
What would be his go-to drink?
You got me there, because I don't drink! I don't know my drinks, so, maybe a Pellegrino.
Do you think he'd have a favorite reality show?
You know, my [own] reality TV is HGTV. I watch a lot of home stuff; I like seeing things go from one thing to another and get fixed up. Something like that — Ellen's Design Challenge!
What do you think his favorite animal is?
He doesn't have a pet. He doesn't time for pets. That would slow him down. He might have a fish tank or something...
What's his favorite movie?
I think he would like Raging Bull.
What's his Chipotle order?
Light on the guac, heavier on the cheese, black beans.
What would Remy binge-watch on Netflix?
Would he prefer bacon or Nuetella?
I prefer Nutella. So Remy and I both would prefer Nutella.
Would Remy wait in line for a cronut?
Yeah, he could check his email.
What would his Twitter handle be?
Does he have a favorite website?
What would his favorite emoji be?
Are there [any] serious emojis? If not, the thumbs up!
What would be his favorite song?
Well I have a Remy playlist/mixtape. I definitely think he's like, in terms of the ladies and cool-out music, he's like a D'Angelo guy. With Remy I was thinking a lot about, What if Jay Z had different opportunities and was exposed to [politics]? 'Cause he's a brilliant guy, if you really listen to Jay Z talk.
I use a lot of Jay Z to inspire Remy in terms of a lot of the confidence that is inherent in Jay Z's music. A little bit of Nas, to balance it out with some other stuff that is even more underground, [like] MF Doom, and people like that. But I don't really get too much into that with him, with Remy, it's more of like a Jay Z thing. Even with the Jay Z/Kanye album [Watch the Throne] — I was listening to that album a lot when we first started doing the show — I felt like it was reflective of Remy at that time.
I can send you my playlist if you want.
And here's the playlist on Spotify:
Season 3 of House of Cards is available to watch now on Netflix.