'Cards' coming up all aces for Harford

The original "House of Cards" was a BBC production about Parliamentary intrigue.
The original "House of Cards" was a BBC production about Parliamentary intrigue. (Patuxent Homestead)

The original Netflix series "House of Cards" began the week with transforming Havre de Grace into a small town in South Carolina and will end it with an open casting call at the Bel Air Armory Sunday 3 to 8 p.m.

While it isn't the first time Harford County has been the backdrop for a Hollywood production, it certainly is the most recent and possibly the most expensive. "Cards" is also one in a handful of shows that have filmed in the Baltimore-metropolitan area in the past few years and focus on Washington politics.


This will be the first series for movie rental-based company Netflix, and one they are fully committing to.

Rather than following the typical procedure of filming a TV pilot and ordering more episodes based on the ratings that viewing receives, Netflix has already committed $100 million to the first two seasons of "Cards," the first being 13 episodes.


They have every reason to believe the show will succeed.

The series stars Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey ("American Beauty," "The Usual Suspects"), Robin Wright ("Moneyball") and Kate Mara ("American Horror Story").

In addition, the show's producer is David Fincher, the director of "The Social Network" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and executive producer/screenwriter Beau Willimon is an Academy Award nominee for his work on "Ides of March," another political thriller.

Spacey plays a South Carolina Senator - Havre de Grace being the backdrop for his hometown of Gaffney - in this remake of a 1990 British drama that originally focused on Parliament. Spacey, of course, is no stranger to British drama, spending a great deal of his time in London, where he is artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre.

"'House of Cards' has been a great boom for the county," Harford County Economic Development Director Jim Richardson told The Aegis before shooting began in Havre de Grace this week.

Although the county doesn't have exact numbers, he continued, it does know the "Cards" crew has leased 15,000 square-feet of office space and more than 130,000 square-feet of warehouse space.

A good portion of that warehouse has been turned into a soundstage in Edgewood that will serve as the Capitol building's interior and the Annapolis office for Spacey's character.

In January just after the project was announced, Richardson told The Aegis that Harford would begin to feel the economic impact from the crew who would be working and living here.

"All the staff, and a bulk of the production, will be here in Harford County," Richardson said at the time. "You will be seeing people having dinner in Harford County that may look familiar."

It's estimated that the entire economic impact for the state will be more than $75 million.

The Baltimore Sun reported in March that filming will take place over 150 days and will involve 2,000 extras and 275 crew members.

Some of those extras will surely come from Sunday's casting call, where the crew will be looking for actors to play hill staffers, aides, reporters, politicians, lobbyists and "elegant Washington types."


There was also a casting call in Stevenson in late March.

The city of Havre de Grace is thrilled that they are getting the Hollywood treatment.

"Thank you for choosing our beautiful city and you're more than welcome back any time," Mayor Wayne Dougherty told crew members who visited during the most recent city council meeting to explain what they would be doing in the city.

On Tuesday, "Cards" shot in a field on the corner of Route 155 and Aldino Road at the Hopkins Farm.

By Wednesday, signs had transformed Havre de Grace into "Gaffney," a real South Carolina town.

"Cards" has also been filming inside the Calvert Street offices of The Baltimore Sun, which will be The Washington Herald in the show.

In the past couple years scenes for the HBO show "VEEP" and movie "Game Change" were filmed in Baltimore.

For Harford, however, this will be the first major production in the county since the movie "Tuck Everlasting" in 2002.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun