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'House of Cards' casting call has locals dreaming of Hollywood

Look out for Paul Shields in the background of a Central Park scene in the forthcoming Netflix series "House of Cards."

Dagmar Wittmer, owner of the Washington-based talent company Central Casting, said Saturday she can picture the 25-year-old Laurel man as an extra, maybe with a bike, a dog or a Frisbee at a look-alike version of the New York City landmark. Filming for the first season of the series starring Kevin Spacey is being held in the Baltimore region, including Harford County.

"I like his look," Wittmer said. "He's got a spark."

She wouldn't disclose any details about the scene but said producers will re-create Central Park in one of Maryland's woodlands.

Shields, a Nissan lot porter, said he and his friend Khawaja Aziz, 26, of Laurel have made a hobby of landing acting gigs. The two met when they worked as game technicians at Chuck E. Cheese while they were in high school.

"I'm just looking for some camera time," Shields said.

Aziz, who works as a banquet manager at a golf club, said he hopes one to day to turn acting into a full-time job.

"As an actor you can be a janitor, a doctor, a criminal — whatever," Aziz said.

Wittmer said the pay isn't much ($85 for 10 hours), but the work is something to talk about.

"Fine, it doesn't pay a lot, but heck, you have the best cocktail conversation," Wittmer said. "If you could do it once or twice, it spices up your life."

Central Casting was expecting some 500 people to turn out Saturday at the Bel Air Armory. The series was looking for men and women of all ethnicities to play "elegant Washington types": Capitol Hill staffers, congressional aides, reporters, politicians, lobbyists, blue-collar workers and teenagers.

Saturday's casting call was the final one for the first season of "House of Cards."

Sherry Berg, 28, of Falls Church, Va., said she hurried to the casting call from an audition in Washington for "Cabaret," because she knew it was her last chance, at least for now.

"It's about the experience," said Berg, a clinical dietitian with Hollywood aspirations.

Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, said "House of Cards" is a big boon for the state. The production will spur job creation and have a multimillion-dollar economic impact, including hotel bookings, catering, lumber yard purchases for set construction and car rentals.

Trish Heidenreich, director of the Bel Air Department of Economic Development, said she expected that Saturday's turnout would boost business in the town as the aspirants parked along the Bel Air's picturesque Main Street, lined with boutique shops and mom-and-pop storefronts. The casting call could also give a boost to the town's annual film festival, scheduled for October.

"There is a lot of creative people living in the community," Heidenreich said. "We have a lot of artists and filmmakers.

"When you look at the economic return [of the film industry], it's a no-brainer."

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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