Head Honcho

House of Cards hair department head Sean Flanigan specializes in pates—and pies.

By Jane Marion - January 2016

Head Honcho

House of Cards hair department head Sean Flanigan specializes in pates—and pies.

By Jane Marion - January 2016

Sean Flanigan and his creations. -Photography by Mitro Hood

Sean Flanigan first started baking pies back in 2002 while styling hair on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “I would bake pies and bring them to the hair and makeup trailer,” says Flanigan. “Then it became a Sunday hobby. I got sick of baking cakes, so I turned to pies. I became known as ‘The Pie Guy.’”

These days, The Pie Guy and House of Cards hair department head (who won an Emmy for his top-notch tress work on Mad Men) dazzles the cast and crew with his creations. “They all love my pies,” says Flanigan. “I post photos on Instagram of the pies I’ve made on Sunday, and they’re like, ‘Can’t wait to have a slice tomorrow.’”

Flanigan says that the key is the crust. “It’s a science,” he says. “I’ve tried so many different ones, but I always go back to my grandmother’s recipe that uses butter and good leaf lard [the highest grade of lard], which I buy at Parts & Labor.” For the fillings, however, Flanigan enjoys experimentation. “I love going to the JFX farmers’ market and using what’s in season. I’ve even made a concord grape pie.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, Flanigan learned to bake as a boy. “I grew up in the kitchen with my grandmothers and family cooking all around me,” he says. “On Sundays, we always had the big family meal. My great-grandmother was the baker, and I grew up peeling apples and making butter tarts. I’m a natural caretaker, and part of the caretaking for me is enjoying the food and the company.”

“I got sick of baking cakes. I turned to pies and became known as ‘The Pie Guy.’”

On House of Cards, Flanigan oversees the hair department, but mostly cares for the hair of lead actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. “Robin is notorious for cutting her hair,” he says. “We keep the scissors hidden away from her. Sometimes she’ll come back with her hair too short after the end of a season, and I’ll have to lay in all the fake hair to match the storyline.”

While the L.A. native travels frequently for work (including grooming Spacey for the upcoming film Elvis & Nixon), he now considers Baltimore his home. Four years ago, after living in a rental property in Harbor East, he decided to invest in a Hampden rowhome with a generous yard. “I fell in love with the seasons,” says Flanigan. “I love the quirkiness of the city and the fact that when I travel, my neighbors watch my house. Wherever my work takes me, I’ll always have this place.”

Around the House of Cards set, Flanigan also has become known for his house parties. Several years back, he and then-co-worker Sakina Jaffrey (who played the White House chief of staff), the youngest daughter of renowned cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, threw an Indian food feast at Flanigan’s home. “Sakina came here with all the spices, and we cooked a full Indian meal over two days,” he says. “Kevin and Michael Kelly and the hair and makeup and costume departments were here, too. I’m creating memories here—that’s what having a home is all about.”


Recipe: Bourbon Ginger Pie

Crust

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ sticks cold butter
  • ¼ cup cold leaf lard

In a small bowl, mix milk and vinegar and refrigerate. In another bowl, add flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt, and quickly cut fats into mixture using a pastry cutter.
Once mixed, work in half of milk mixture. Mix. Add remainder of milk mixture. Blind-bake crust (a crust that has been prebaked and weighted with rice or uncooked beans) at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Yields: dough for one 9-inch pie crust.

Filling

  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup real maple syrup (grade B, if possible)
  • 3 large eggs, slightly beaten, plus egg mixed with water
    for wash
  • 2-3 tablespoons high-quality bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups pecan pieces
  • ¼ cup finely chopped crystalized ginger

In a medium bowl, whisk together first seven ingredients. Brush edges of blind-baked crust with egg wash. Add pecans and crystallized ginger.Mix all ingredients and pour into cooked crust.bBake again for 30 to 40 minutes or until center is just set. Cool at least an hour before slicing.

*Adapted from Allison Kave’s First Prize Pies





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