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Netflix suspends 'House of Cards' Season 6 production amid Spacey allegations

Netflix suspended production on Tuesday of the latest season of “House of Cards” in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey, the star of the popular political drama.

In a joint announcement, Netflix and Media Rights Capital, the production company that makes the series, said: “MRC and Netflix have decided to suspend production on ‘House of Cards’ season six, until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.”

The show recently began filming the sixth season in the Baltimore area. Netflix had announced Monday that the sixth season would be its last — and said at the time that the decision to end the show was not a reaction to the allegations against Spacey, who also serves as the show’s executive producer.

Actor Anthony Rapp said Sunday that Spacey made sexual advances toward him in the 1980s, when Rapp was 14.

Spacey has apologized for the incident, which he said he doesn't recall but acknowledged could have stemmed from "drunken behavior." He also spoke publicly for the first time about being gay.

Meanwhile, a second person, Mexican actor Robert Cavazos, wrote on his Facebook page that he encountered Spacey at the bar of London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey was artistic director from 2004 to 2015, and the actor tried to fondle him against his will, according to the Associated Press.

Cavazos declined an interview request. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from representatives for Spacey.

The sudden suspension of filming for the show will be felt throughout the Baltimore region.

“House of Cards” has filmed in Maryland throughout its run, using locations including the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Baltimore Sun, as well as soundstages in Harford County.

The show contributed $590 million to the state’s economy over its five seasons of filming, renting or buying goods from about 2,000 local businesses each season, according to the Maryland Department of Commerce.

A 2016 report from the Maryland Department of Commerce found that the production hired an average of more than 2,000 people, including crew, actors and extras every season.

The show also received the bulk of Maryland’s film tax credits, getting $53.1 million since the program was created in 2011, according to a state report.

Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Commerce and its Maryland Film Office, declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, saying Netflix asked the state to direct inquiries to the company.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the county has almost 330 vendors that cater to the needs of the production company, including set designers, electricians and caterers. The county’s hotels and restaurants also benefit from related business, Glassman said.

“There’s certainly going to be some loss of business for our small-business folks,” he said.

Carpets by Denny Lee in Abingdon was supposed to do a job for the show on Wednesday, said owner Denny Lee. The production had not communicated with him directly about the suspension, he said.

Lee said his business does about 20 jobs for the show each year, amounting to an average of $50,000 in revenue

“You have businesses, and you don’t business... We’ve got other things going on, so we’ll be fine, but it’s always nice to have business,” Lee said.

The Tuesday afternoon announcement caught everyone by surprise, said David M. O'Ferrall, a business agent for International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 487, which has had as many as 250 members working on the series on such jobs as set construction, costumes, props and special effects.

It’s “still not clear how everything is going to be handled, because it literally just happened. We’re still working through it...,” O'Ferrall said. “I expect to over the next several days and figure out how this will move forward.”

Some of the show’s impact on Harford is intangible, Glassman said. He said he frequently fields questions about “House of Cards” while on economic development trips or at meetings with bond rating agencies.

“It’s always been kind of a feather in our hat,” he said.

Glassman, a Republican, said the county will work to attract another production to the old Merry-Go-Round warehouse in Joppa, where the production has elaborate sets depicting the interior of the White House, both houses of Congress and Air Force One.

Economist Anirban Basu, CEO of Sage Policy Group, called the suspension bad news for the economy of Harford County and Maryland overall, but noted there are “higher priority values here than … creating content to drive ratings” at stake in this case.

However, he said, “suspension doesn't mean termination… it’s temporary.”

And TV series like “The Wire” and “House of Cards” have proved that Maryland, and Baltimore in particular, can be a good place for film and TV production, Basu said.

“Baltimore has some secret formula and part of that is because it is a repository of abundant talent and creativity. We’re this crazy, quirky, creative town, and therefore, we’re ripe for the creation of new edgy content,” Basu said. “And it’s important to keep that creative talent engaged in Maryland and to not have them induced to move to other states.”

According to the Associated Press, Netflix is exploring a “House of Cards” spinoff show. Netflix declined to comment further on any spinoff.

“That actually might be a way to turn lemons into lemonade — to keep these people, many of whom live … [and] work in Maryland, gainfully engaged in creative pursuits. That’s what these tax credits are about,” said Basu, adding that film production diversifies the state’s economy, which depends heavily on the federal government.

The tax credits have been criticized as a giveaway even as the General Assembly has increased the amount of money available for them.

Del. Frank S. Turner, a Howard County Democrat, said he hopes Gov. Larry Hogan and the Department of Commerce use the tax credit to attract other productions.

While the film industry is a relatively small part of the state’s economy, he said he doesn’t want to minimize the impact on the people it employs. The state has two facilities fitted out for large productions — the former site for the HBO comedy “Veep” in Howard County and the “House of Cards” site in Harford.

“You can’t have 34 [productions] being done in New York and twenty-something in Atlanta and we’re not even in the game,” he said.

Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat and a member of the Ways & Means Committee, said he’d like to see the tax credit maintained.

“The credit was designed to see that we have a film industry. I think that interest still exists,” said Luedtke, adding that the law permitting the tax credit could give the governor and the Department of Commerce the flexibility to offer it to another show.

“I hope we find another production,” he said. “It’s possible that we can get a couple smaller productions for the same amount of money.”

Glassman said his goal is “to go back out into the market and see if we can attract another production to come to Harford County.”

He added that the county had been expecting that “House of Cards” would wind down — just not so soon.

“We’ve always had it as a contingency that this was going to come to an end sooner or later,” he said.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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