Netflix suspends ‘House of Cards’ Season 6 production amid Spacey allegations

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Production on Season 6 of “House of Cards’ has been suspended, Netflix and Media Rights Capital, the production company that makes the series, announced Tuesday.

“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,” according to the joint announcement.

The move comes in the midst of an allegation of sexual misconduct against Kevin Spacey, who stars in the political drama and serves as an executive producer.

The show recently began filming its 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 in reaction to the allegation against Spacey.

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

But in announcing the suspension of the series, Netflix and the production company indicated they were reacting to the allegation.

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

“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 in the state, 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 also hired an average of more than 2,000 people, including crew, actors and extras every season.

The show has also received the bulk of Maryland’s film tax credit money, getting $53.1 million since the program was approved 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. She said Netflix has asked the state to direct all 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. He said the contractors include set designers, electricians and caterers. The county’s hotels and restaurants have also benefited from “House of Cards”-related business, Glassman said.

“There’s certainly going to be some loss of business for our small-business folks,” he 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 at one time, said Tuesday afternoon that Netflix’s announcement about the suspension caught everyone by surprise.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone on production or set. I expect to over the next several days and figure out how this will move forward,” he said, adding that he had found out about the suspension just seconds before it was published online.

O’Ferrall said that the union has had no word on whether people will still get paid during the suspension period. Members of the union include people working on 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. I don’t have any definitive answer,” he said.

Some of the impact the show has had on Harford is intangible, Glassman said. He said that when he has gone on economic development trips or met with bond rating agencies, he has frequently fielded questions about “House of Cards.”

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

Glassman, a Republican, said the county will try 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 Inc., said that while there are “higher priority values here than … creating content to drive ratings,” the vague wording of the suspension is bad news for the economy of Harford County and Maryland overall.

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

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 allows an opportunity to diversify the state’s economy, which depends in many cases on federal jobs.

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.”

“We think we now have the experience to provide the service to another production company,” said Glassman, adding 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.

This story will be updated.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com



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