Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 22, 2022

Miniseries filmed at Homewood premieres

By NICOLE ZIEGLER | January 31, 2013

This Friday, Netflix will premiere David Fincher’s new miniseries, entitled House of Cards, which was filmed at Homewood this past summer. The miniseries follows a merciless congressman Frank Underwood, played by Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, as he fights his way up the ranks of the Washington political ladder.

This is Fincher’s second production filmed on the Hopkins campus. His first, The Social Network, had Hopkins stand in for Harvard, which has declined most appeals for on-campus filming ever since the crew from the 1970 film Love Story left the grounds with severe damage. This time, Homewood stands in for yet another institution — a South Carolina military college, the alma mater of Spacey’s character.

The political drama also stars actresses Robin Wright as the wife of Congressman Underwood, and Kate Mara as a Washington newspaper reporter. House of Cards will be Fincher’s first television series; in addition to The Social Network, he has achieved fame for films such as Fight Club and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 

This past summer, two scenes from House of Cards were filmed at both Homewood and the Peabody Institute. The Homewood scenes were set at the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library and Gilman Hall — but the buildings will be adorned with refurbished signs and shown as the Francis J. Underwood Library and Waldron Hall, respectively.

“There was a daytime scene in front of the Eisenhower Library, where the Kevin Spacey character, a South Carolina congressman, gives a speech at the dedication of a new library at his alma mater, a South Carolina military college sort of like the Citadel,” Dennis O’Shea, the executive director of communications and public affairs at Johns Hopkins, wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter. “The other scene, filmed at night, uses Gilman Hall to stand in for the military college’s former library, which was closed and vacant and which the Spacey character was visiting, presumably for nostalgia’s sake.”

To transform a mid-Atlantic research university into a Southern military school, producers sent packs of “cadets” marching in lockstep across Keyser Quadrangle, as documented in an amateur YouTube video from the set, and planted cannons outside of the Eisenhower Library. In the show, the building is a gift given by Underwood to his alma mater, replacing the antiquated library, Waldron Hall — in reality, Gilman with a changed sign as well as faux-construction fencing to evidence the building’s closure in the show.

When filming concluded in August, the cannons were gone and campus was free of damage.

“We have rules they have to abide by — for instance, no equipment heavy enough to damage the brick walkways or the irrigation equipment under the grass. They have to leave campus in the condition they found it,” O’Shea wrote. “There was one very minor piece of damage in The Social Network filming, which the crew immediately alerted us about and paid to have fixed. They were great to work with.”

For the duration of the filming process, business on campus went on as usual.

“No building was closed for the House of Cards filming. Sometimes people had to use an alternate entrance, or had to wait a bit for a shot to end before walking across the quad. But there was very little impact,” O’Shea said. “People on campus were very cooperative and interested and excited to watch. We got one minor noise complaint after the House of Cards shoot, none that I recall from The Social Network.”

Apart from the free university publicity provided by having the campus appear on the screen, Hopkins also earned a modest stipend in return.

“We do require reimbursement of all expenses, and on top of that, we charge a location fee. But it’s not a huge amount of money,” O’Shea wrote.

Though House of Cards will solely debut online, students expressed excitement for what the new series has to offer.

“After seeing the House of Cards trailer, I could tell that Fincher’s miniseries has the potential to be great. Beyond that, I will definitely be looking out for the scenes filmed on campus,” freshman Avi Posen said.

Some issues stem from the miniseries’ slight inaccessibility since it is only available for those who are subscribed to Netflix.

“There’s been an increase in Netflix exclusively debuting television shows like Arrested Development’s highly anticipated fourth season and House of Cards. It is frustrating that people need to purchase Netflix in order to enjoy these shows. At the same time though, it’s very similar to purchasing channels for your cable such as Showtime or HBO,” freshman Adam Eckstein said.

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