They came by the hundreds – actually upward of 2,000 – from near and far, hoping to get their few seconds of fame on the small screen.
The "House of Cards" open casting call for extras needed in Season III of the Netflix TV political thriller starring Kevin Spacey drew a huge crowd of hopefuls to downtown Bel Air on a sunny Saturday morning.
By 9:30, the line outside the Bel Air Reckord Armory, where the casting call was being held, stretched down Main Street and around on Lee Street as far as Hickory Avenue a very long block away.
The doors were not due to open until 10 a.m. and even after they did, people kept lining up. By 12:30 p.m., people were still standing two and three deep along Lee Street.
Kimberly Skyrme Casting was holding the open call for union and non-union extras and day players, seeking "people of all types, ages, sizes and ethnicities," according to an announcement that went out earlier in the week.
Aspiring players were also advised to come dressed to showcase "their best Washington, D.C., political look," and many did just that, including a few men who wore tuxedos.
Others who were dressed in dark suits practiced some of their "Secret Service agent" moves while waiting for the line to start moving, according to Dave Magnani of Abingdon, who took several photos outside and inside the armory.
Trish Heidenreich, director of economic development for Bel Air, assisted the casting agency inside the armory and said they received between 1,400 and 1,500 applications and estimated that, in all, "2,000 people came to downtown Bel Air" because of the casting call.
"It was amazing," Heidenreich said Tuesday, noting the interviews went on until 4 p.m. because of the huge turnout, which she said appeared to be double the number who turned out for the Season II call last year.
"We managed to get everyone in," she added.
"Everybody seemed to be happy to be there and have an opportunity to get in on this very popular production," Heidenreich continued. She said some people came from hundreds of miles away – she heard of at least one person who had come from Alabama and another from New York.
Heidenreich said the casting agency was "absolutely surprised" at the turnout, which she noted meant the visitors were exposed to the downtown shops and restaurants.
"That's a really important part of this, bringing people to town and showing it off to a wide audience," she said. "I think people who were here for the first time were pleasantly surprised. One woman from Annapolis said she had never been to Bel Air but liked it so much she would be coming back. That made us happy."
Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office who helped coordinate the casting call, said he was "very, very happy" with the day, calling it "exciting" for Bel Air and for Harford County.
"Everything went well; it was fantastic," added Gerbes, who lives in Forest Hill and said he heard one person had flown in from Detroit for the call.
Optimism trumps waiting
Despite the length of the line and the high odds of even getting picked for the show, let alone ever being seen on camera, everyone was in a generally cheerful and friendly mood. There was plenty of shade in which to stand and the early morning temperatures were cool. But it started getting warmer as the day wore on.
"I'm here because I need some excitement in my life," Linda Samuels, 68, of Aberdeen, said as she stood far back in the line on Lee Street, near the Har-Co Credit Union parking lot entrance.
Samuels said she has been caring for her husband, who is recovering from a massive stroke suffered three years ago, and his rehabilitation has progressed to the point where she can leave him alone for a time. So, she thought she would take the acting plunge.
"I also lost 75 pounds and I feel real good about myself," she said, while suggesting there were so many people in line because of the show's growing popularity.