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After unexpected hiatus, 'House of Cards' production picks up, sans Spacey but with Greg Kinnear, Diane Lane

The production of the final season of “House of Cards” resumed today with new cast members and without Kevin Spacey. Academy Award-nominated actors Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear will join the cast.

The production of the final season of “House of Cards” resumed today in Harford County and with news that Academy Award-nominated actors Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear will join the cast, according to a recent press release from Netflix.

Kinnear (“As Good As It Gets”) and Lane (“Unfaithful”) will join actress Robin Wright, who stars in the show as Claire Underwood, the show’s new lead.

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There was steady activity at the entrance to the Knight Takes King Productions soundstage in Joppa Wednesday afternoon. Interior scenes are shot at the soundstage, which is tucked within a local industrial park.

Throughout Wednesday afternoon, cars, trucks and transport vans passed in and out of a security gate. The drivers, busy with their duties, did not stop to talk, other than one man who said he was working as a security staffer and was happy to be working.

David M. O'Ferrall, a business agent for the union that represents as many as 250 members working on the series in set construction, costumes, props, special effects and more, said he was in meetings in Los Angeles when production resumed, but he has no doubt that the crew is excited to be back to work.

“I did see some of them during pre-production, and they’re all thrilled the show is back and will continue and [that] things are going to go out on a good note,” he said.

"The production itself benefits hundreds of vendors in Harford County," Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for the county government, said Wednesday.

A security guard talks with a member of the 'House of Cards' production staff departing the Knight Takes King Productions soundstage in Joppa Wednesday afternoon.
A security guard talks with a member of the 'House of Cards' production staff departing the Knight Takes King Productions soundstage in Joppa Wednesday afternoon. (David Anderson / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Production on the political drama, which is filmed in the Harford County and Baltimore area, was suspended in October after several sexual assault and misconduct allegations surfaced against actor Kevin Spacey, its star and executive producer.

Netflix and the production company Media Rights Capital subsequently cut ties with Spacey, whose representatives said in November he was “taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment.” Both companies, however, declined to comment on the recent development of the show, but it’s likely the resumption of the series is beneficial for both Maryland and the media companies.

Late last year, Netflix took $39 million in charges due to what the company described as “unreleased content we’ve decided not to move forward with.” The company made the charge public as part of its fourth-quarter results, which it released last week.

A source close to production told The Baltimore Sun Wednesday that the charge was related to the dismissal of Spacey from the show and the cancellation of other projects Spacey and Netflix had in the works. Among them were a planned movie starring Spacey as the late author Gore Vidal.

Netflix also severed ties with comedian Louis C.K. and canceled a stand-up special after sexual misconduct allegations from several different women became public.

On a conference call last week to discuss Netflix's results, Chief Financial Officer David Wells didn't mention Spacey or Louis C.K. directly regarding the $39 million charge, but stated that the writedown was "related to the societal reset around sexual harassment."

O’Ferrall said it took from the hiatus until now to rewrite the scripts, and that there’s likely still writing happening. The production should finish up in late spring with the full eight episodes intended.

“We’re going to see things through,” he said, adding that despite the allegations against Spacey that have surrounded the show, the production is largely moving past it and forward with the season.

“MRC, the parent company, and Netflix, [they] all wanted the show to go out on a positive note. ... I don’t believe the situation is being ignored but it’s not a focal point,” he said.

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Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the news of the “House of Cards” production resuming had been buzzing around Annapolis Wednesday morning. He said he sees the new cast-mates as an exciting addition.

“They’re both good actors so I'm anxious to see them out and about in Harford County. ... Bringing in two big stars in this final season will probably raise a lot of the interest, not only in the county, but for Netflix,” Glassman said.

“I'm an optimist now, I've seen how the Hollywood stuff can go up and down, so maybe something can spin out of this. We have that sound studio and I think we've done a good job providing all the ancillary services from furniture, food, all the different aspects,” he said. “A lot of people think it's just the shooting, but hundreds of our local businesses provide some type of ancillary service to the production. It still shows the county we're able to support that kind of production, so it's one of our tools in our economic development toolbox that we're going to continue to market the county as a venue for movies, television and those kind of productions.”

Jack Gerbes, the director of the Maryland Film Office, too, expressed excitement.

"We are looking forward to the return of House of Cards, which has had a tremendous impact on Maryland and our businesses," Gerbes wrote in an emailed statement to The Baltimore Sun.

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 department, which oversees the Maryland Film Office, also showed that “House of Cards” received the bulk of Maryland’s film tax credits, getting $53.1 million since the program was created in 2011.

Mumby said the production did business with 328 Harford County companies during its fifth season and noted the indirect economic impact the show has had on Harford County.

"The crews shop in local stores, they go out to eat," Mumby said. "The casting calls have drawn thousands of people into the Town of Bel Air, and they patronize the local restaurants and shops."

WPS Paint & Decorating Center in Emmorton, a small business that supplied paint and shellac to the show’s crew as many as two to three times a week for sets, said they’re happy to have the show back.

“They’re so easy to work with. They give us enough business and it makes an impact. … We try to do things over and above for them to make their sets look really good. And anything they need, we’re going to provide them with because they’ve been so helpful,” said Adrianne Kotula, the center’s lead interior designer.

Kotula said they started working with the show’s production two to three weeks ago to get sets ready, and they’ve been getting more business as the show prepares sets and changes them for new story lines.

“It kind of sucks the way it played out. … It’s never a good thing when allegations like that come out,” said Kotula, of the controversy that surrounded the show. But moving forward after the production’s hiatus has been nothing but positive, she said.

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“I haven’t heard anything negative from anybody and it hasn’t been negative for us either. … We’ve always appreciated their business,” she said, and with the possibility of the spinoff, which was announced in October, there might be more business to come.

“Hopefully, it’ll stay in Maryland,” Kotula said.

Mumby said "House of Cards" has raised Harford's profile inside and outside Maryland. The show has also supported local tourism (See visitharford.com for more information on places around the county where exterior scenes have been shot).

The show is known for its interesting twists and turns, O’Ferrall said, but even those on production aren’t sure of what will happen next.

“I don’t know either,” he said. “This will unfold over the eight episodes.”

The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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