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Havre de Grace gets the Hollywood treatment

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Havre de Grace, Maryland? Try Gaffney, South Carolina. Signs that Havre de Grace had been temporarily transformed into the Southern town filled Washington and St. John streets early Wednesday morning – literally.

A large sign at the crossroads of Washington and Congress Avenue welcomed visitors, or at least the"House of Cards"film crew, to Gaffney, population 13,126. At least one sign, at St. John and Green streets, directed traffic to the South Carolina Route 120.

Gaffney is a real place, by the way, but filming in and around Harford County made sense because the production crew is based in Joppa, location manager Patrick Burn explained.

Kevin Spacey, the star of the planned Netflix show, was nowhere to be seen. (In the series, Spacey will play a South Carolina senator whose hometown is Gaffney.)

The only action set Wednesday morning, for which crew members blocked off most of Washington Street, was a camera car that drove down the length of the street to get a "plate shot," or background shot, for the show.

Shooting was also set to take place Wednesday evening on U Way, near North Earlton and Webster roads just west of I-95, but Burn said fans likewise shouldn't expect to see Spacey or any other stars there.

"Actors are expensive. They try to use doubles whenever they can," he noted.

Residents who were out and about downtown seemed generally happy with how the filming went. Crew members offered doughnuts to some passersby and some tried to chat with neighbors.

Donna Zellman, an employee at Zellman Funeral Home, was headed to work as the shoot was wrapping up.

She thought the filming was a positive thing, as long as it did not inconvenience people too much.

"I think it's a good thing, if we can have people come into this town," she said.

Kathy Keen was watching the filming from her porch, a few houses down on Bourbon Street.

"I love it," she said. "It's not every day you get to be on your front porch and see a film crew at work."

Keen, who is involved with Havre de Grace Main Street Inc. and the city's historic preservation committee, said she heard all the noise and thought she would see what was happening.

"I tried to take a picture of the [Gaffney] sign and somebody stopped me," she noted.

But Keen said she has nevertheless had a good experience with the film crew.

"Several of them said, 'This is a beautiful town. We love it here,'" she said.

She recalled several other productions that were filmed in Havre de Grace, notably the horror movie "From Within" several years ago and the TV show "Young Americans."

Keen said she even offered to move her car for the crew, and Bruster's Ice Cream brought them dessert.

"I just wanted to help them out because I think it's good for Havre de Grace," she said, attributing a lot of that success to city tourism manager Brigitte Peters.

Gino Coppola, owner of La Cucina restaurant, was just around the corner from the large Gaffney sign but was pretty indifferent to all the activity.

He said he has complied with the crew's requests regarding parking and access but was wondering whether the filming would actually somehow help the town.

Tomas Parks, whose wife owns White Rabbet Studio at Congress and Washington streets, was right next to the sign.

He said he was somewhat used to film crews because he used to live in Baltimore when they were filming the HBO show"The Wire."

"It really didn't affect us here too much," Parks said, adding he liked seeing members of the film crew just walking around town.

"It's really nice having it in town," he added. "It's all good."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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