"House of Cards" success surprises co-creator

House of Cards writer on leadership: "To uphold the law...you have to break it"
The writer behind the hit show "House of Cards" compares the show's fictional congressman, played by Kevin Spacey, to President Lincoln, and claims Lincoln and good leaders often have to "do things that are ethically questionable."

(CBS News) "House of Cards" is a new show with an age-old theme: politicians thirsty for power, but you won't find it on television. In fact, you may have already seen the entire first season. All 13 episodes of the successful show debuted at once last month on Netflix.

"We didn't know whether everyone would watch it in 13 hours straight or whether anyone would watch it at all. We've been thrilled with the response, and we've had a lot of marathon watchers," said Beau Willimon, the show's co-creator. "It seems like it's an experiment, in this case, that worked out."

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Willimon is not new to politics or entertainment. He's written for the stage and big screen but actually got his start working on the political campaigns of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was elected to the Senate twice; former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley; and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

His campaign background gave him first-hand insight in writing the new show and at the same time illustrating the behavior of political players. One of the main characters, Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is especially capable in his ability to manipulate a situation in his favor.

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"He does make an argument for ends justifying the means at a time when congress is choked by gridlock and you see the Administration that's struggling to get its agenda forward," said Willimon. "He gets things done. So he might be doing it for incredibly self-serving reasons, but at the same time he makes progress and I think a lot of people find that at this particular time quite attractive."