It’s a gray day in March, and Alexander Sokovikov is hunched over the wheel of his yellow taxi, angling for a fare in the Midtown fray. In his battered jeans and leather jacket, he looks like any other world-weary hack trying to make a buck.
Except for the fact that he’s currently appearing on one of TV’s HOTTEST SHOWS, the Netflix series “House of Cards,” where he faces off with first lady Claire Underwood, played by white-hot actress Robin Wright.
“I am an actor. I am not a cab driver who acts. I am an actor who drives a cab,” says the 40-year-old Russian immigrant, who moved to Brooklyn with his family almost three years ago.
There are more than 40,000 cab drivers in New York. Some are DOCTORS and scientists in their home countries — and at least one is now a trained actor in a critically acclaimed show.
Only days before arriving on the drama’s Baltimore set in July, Sheepshead Bay resident Sokovikov was driving a yellow cab in New York City. And after filming his five-episode arc, he went right back to his day job, which supports his wife and 16-year-old son.
“You can work whenever you want to,” explains Sokovikov, who always takes his résumé, headshots and reel along for the ride. “It’s really not bad money, and it will give me an opportunity to rehearse and go on auditions.”
His big break came in June, when he won the role of Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Alexi Moryakov, a smug diplomat who spars with the US president’s wife.
Sokovikov originally auditioned for the part of the Russian president, and was called back for another tryout. But even he thought he was too young for the job.
He kept getting called back, though — and nabbed the role of Moryakov, of which he knew little. “They would say, ‘Trust me, it’s a significant part.’ I would have been happy to have one scene in the show.”
The show’s third season, which dropped Feb. 27, highlights the growing rift between the US and its frenemy Russia. And Sokovikov says his homeland’s constant presence in the news is partly to thank for his casting.
“It just happened that Russia started behaving ridiculously internationally, which gives creative people a lot of substance to work with,” he says in a soft but distinct Russian accent. “If you talk about luck, I was lucky to be in New York when Putin started acting like a dumb f - - k . . . when they were looking for people to pass for Russian.”
In one now-infamous scene, Wright’s character beckons him into the ladies’ room and, in the ultimate power play, relieves herself in front of him.
Sokovikov is a cab driver five days a week — but he always takes his actor headshots along for the ride.Photo: Brian Zak/NY Post
“Robin struck me as a wise woman,” he says, noting he didn’t bother her with the details of his personal history. “I think that she has seen a lot more dramatic stories in her life [than mine].”
(As for Kevin Spacey, who plays President Frank Underwood, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of him,” says Sokovikov. “When he’s on set, he’s the most charming, the most amusing, the most attractive person [there]. He’s a real actor, like Marlon Brando.”)
Sokovikov first immigrated to the US with his family in 1990, before moving back to Russia in 1996, at the age of 21, to study acting.
A graduate of Moscow’s Russian Academy of Theatre Arts, he worked as a Russian TV actor, as well as a producer.
Shortly after moving to Brooklyn, he rented a cab from a garage.
“You pay $100, you take a weeklong class and you pass your test. And that’s it,” he says.
In 2013, he scored a role in a Russian theater company’s production of “Uncle Vanya”on the Lower East Side, but he didn’t seriously start pursuing his dream until last winter, when he landed an agent.
Though he has only watched the five “House of Cards” episodes in which he appears, Sokovikov says the show’s oft-duplicitous depiction of Russian characters — including sneaky, Putin-esque Russian President Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) — are “a humongous step away from the stereotypical Cold War portrayal. How can you demand a true and realistic portrayal of Russians — or anybody else — so that nobody is upset?”
In the 20 or so days he spent on set, he rarely spoke of his job picking up fares. “It’s not something to be proud — or ashamed — of,” he explains.
Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images; Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
When filming wrapped up in December, he was back to his five days a week behind the wheel. So far, no one has recognized him except for a man he worked with on a recent voice-over job. And his fellow hacks haven’t exactly been clamoring for autographs.
“At my job? You think taxi drivers watch ‘House of Cards’? Listen, taxi people are lucky enough to be able to speak English,” he says.
Still, he hopes his turn on the twisted political drama means the wind is at his back.
He’s now working with a diction coach so his accent no longer limits him to Russian and Eastern European roles. “I have momentum now,” he says. “I’d be very upset if this is the high point of my career.”
When asked if he will return for Season 4, Sokovikov narrows his piercing blue eyes.
“I have no idea,” he says, adding with a sly smile, “I am good at keeping secrets.”