Houston’s Bell appearing in ‘House of Cards’

HOUSTON — A year ago at this time, Lafayette Bell was watching the Netflix drama “House of Cards” when he had a an idea.

“I told my daughter ‘I want to be on that show.’ I noticed they film in Baltimore and I found the Baltimore Film Office website. A few weeks later I noticed they were having an open call for ‘House of Cards,’” he said.

A few weeks after that, he found himself on the set of the hit show that centers around the conniving President Frank Underwood, ready to film four episodes for the program’s fifth season.

All 13 chapters were released on the streaming service May 30.

Mr. Bell, an actor, songwriter and rapper who goes by the stage name Sgt. Bell., nabbed a nonspeaking, uncredited role as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is seen in several scenes in a group setting, meeting with various people.

Lafayette Bell

“It was a neat experience. It’s as if you played baseball and the Phillies called and asked if you wanted to play for them for a few games,” he said.

His journey started when he submitted a few photos of himself, one of his rap videos and a list of life experiences, such as being a Marine Corps veteran and having a commercial driver’s license.

A casting call in Baltimore involved a photo shoot and a conversation with show producers.

“They look at the way you dress, how you smile, if you have all of your teeth. If you fit the profile of a politician,” Mr. Bell said.

“I’m slightly balding and a middle-aged guy. They said they liked my look and not to change a thing.”

He remembers a few weeks going by and then getting a call out of the blue.

“I was in Best Buy and a weird phone number came up. They had sent me an email prior to that, which I hadn’t looked at. But they were telling me that I made the cut and to be on the set soon after that. They told me what to wear and to bring extra clothes just in case,” he said.

A few days later, he made the drive to Baltimore to start shooting. The nerves started to set in as he prepared for the experience.

“The anticipation definitely built up,” he said.

“I kept wondering if I’m going to be the character they want me to be. In the final cut, they want everything to be right.”

He made the trip to Baltimore seven times from July to February, through every kind of weather.

He couldn’t tell many people what he was up to.

“I could tell my immediate family but I couldn’t tell my friends. That was hard,” he said.

“They are seeing me now and letting me know. It’s sort of like being an astronaut and going up in space and your friends not even knowing you were an astronaut until the rocket launches.”

His fears that he wouldn’t be good enough were quickly dissipated during a scene with series star Kevin Spacey, who plays President Underwood.

“We were arguing over cocaine and they wanted us to have this ticked-off look. If you watch the scene, I’m the only who follows him around the room with my eyes. I look right at him,” he said.

“They seemed to like that. I wanted to reach out and touch him. In the scene, I’m really mad about how his character portrayed our community.”

The experience was an eye-opening one for Mr. Bell as much of the downtime was filled with talking to the other background actors.

“There’s this whole industry of people that that’s all they do. They go from job to job, maybe just playing a dead body on “CSI” or “Law and Order.” It was interesting to hear what they had coming up next,” Mr. Bell said.

Mr. Bell, owner of Diamond State Records, says he would like to do more acting. He’s currently in a local commercial for a Harrington seafood restaurant. He’s also working on an album of music and another one of comedy.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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