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10 Big Facts About Big Love

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HBO

On March 12, 2006, HBO debuted Big Love, a dramedy that chronicled a family of fundamentalist Mormons living in suburban Utah as polygamists. Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer created the show, which starred Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn (Barb, wife number one), Chloë Sevigny (Nicki, second wife), and Ginnifer Goodwin (Margene, third wife) as a different type of family. Paxton’s Bill Henrickson is married to all three women, who live in separate houses, and raise his children, including then-unknown Amanda Seyfried (Sarah Henrickson).

The Emmy-nominated series spurred controversy within the Mormon community, and inspired the 2010 formation of the TLC reality show Sister Wives. However, after five seasons and 53 episodes—including Bill’s tumultuous run for Senate and the family adding and then removing another sister-wife—HBO canceled the show and aired the series finale on March 20, 2011. Here are 10 surprising facts about Big Love.

1. GEORGE W. BUSH INSPIRED THE CREATION OF THE SHOW. 

Olsen and Scheffer told NPR they got the idea to explore polygamy after George W. Bush got elected for a second time, because of the “campaign-season rhetoric about what makes a family.” To them, family—especially marriage—meant different things. “Every time there’s a whiff of discord in the family, [people think] ‘they’re going to bail. This one’s going to bail,’” Olsen said. “And Will and I have never looked at it like that. We’ve never played the ‘who's going to leave the marriage’ game, because I think we have a firm belief that you stick it out—that marriage is worth sticking out.”

2. BILL HENRICKSON REPRESENTED AN “EVERYMAN.”

Olsen explained to Deadline that when they pitched the show to HBO, they described Bill as an “Everyman” who was “a good husband and father who was overwhelmed by the escalating demands of modern life ... Bill H. was a man of faith and integrity who lived with many secrets and moral uncertainties, who actively struggled with ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and someone who was proudly, deeply ‘American.’ It didn’t take long for us to realize the part had been written for Bill Paxton.”

In casting Paxton, who passed away on February 25, 2017, the showrunners said they knew he was the right choice. “We cannot think of any actor, any man, who you’d ever want to be captain of your ship over the long and arduous journey of television making than Bill Paxton," the creators said in a statement following Paxton's death. "He was smart and collaborative and curious. He was a leader, a raconteur, a mentor.”

3. THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS WAS UNHAPPY WITH THE SHOW.

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which has more than 15 million members—outlawed polygamy in 1890 yet between 50,000 and 100,000 Mormons (mainly the fundamentalist sector) still practice polygamous relationships. When the show premiered, the church issued a statement asking HBO to place a disclaimer at the beginning of episodes stating that the fictional family is not associated with the organization. “Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association whatever with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and most of their practitioners have never been among our members,” the LDS’s statement read. “It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of that problem.”

HBO eventually relented and placed a disclaimer on an episode. In 2009, the show once again angered the church, this time with an endowment ceremony—something that Mormons prefer to keep secret.

4. NICKI WAS MORE THAN JUST A PERSON PEOPLE LOVED TO HATE.

Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin in 'Big Love'
HBO

Although Sevigny's Nicki at times seemed like a villain, she was the glue that held the Henricksons together. “The family had to swim through a lot of shit with Nicki, but she provided the family something unconditional,” Ginnifer Goodwin told Vulture. “Nicki reminded them all the time about what was so important about faith. The pros outweighed the cons.”

In developing Nicki, Olsen and Scheffer made her someone who didn’t fit in. “We wanted Nicki to cover her insecurities with a sense of entitlement, the sort of polygamist princess, and Chloë Sevigny gave that really well,” Olsen told the Los Angeles Times. “And she gave the ambiguity of the character real depth."

5. PAXTON DIDN’T SEE HAVING THREE WIVES AS A “MALE FANTASY.”

Paxton told the Los Angeles Times that a man married to three women wasn’t “some male fantasy thing” but a “male nightmare.” “You put a kid in the candy store and you say to the kid: eat as much candy as you want,” he said. “Go on, eat as much candy as you want. And then you ask the kid the next day, ‘Hey you want some candy?’ And the kid’s going to look at you like he never wants to see another piece of candy in his life.”

6. IT WAS A PRO-FEMALE SHOW.

“The big secret of the show is that it’s always been a feminist show,” Olsen told NPR. “And even though it was dramatizing this very patriarchal system in some ways, the opportunities that women found—particularly in this very abusive system—to support each other was what drew us to the material in the first place, and gave us reason to want to explore it. We felt that there were opportunities for women to find support in one another.”

By the series finale, it’s clear the three women will stick together and forge a new life. Paxton also shared the sentiment of Big Love inevitably being a show about the women.

“I was kind of a fiduciary character in many ways,” Paxton told The Huffington Post. “It was really, how do these women relate to each other, sharing this guy and this religion and this whole thing? And how are they going to carry on now that he’s gone probably was a more interesting dynamic.”

7. AARON PAUL WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A “POSSIBLE RECURRING” CHARACTER.

Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul in 'Big Love'
HBO

Before Breaking Bad made Aaron Paul a household name, the up-and-coming actor played Sarah’s boyfriend-turned-husband Scott Quittman, from 2007 to 2010. He told Fade In the part was listed as “possible recurring.” “It’s weird,” Paul said. “They just kept having me back.”

Despite Breaking Bad taking off in 2008, Paul found time to star in six more Big Love episodes, including the series finale. “And I thought once Breaking Bad got picked up, Big Love would be done, and so did Big Love,” he said. “They were trying to figure a way to end the relationship, and they actually did end the relationship with Scott and Sarah. But I just stayed in contact with HBO and some of the producers there. I said, ‘Breaking Bad is totally open to me coming back if you can work it out with the schedule.’ They were like, ‘Really?’ So they [raised] my character from the dead again, and brought me back, and we got back together, fell madly in love, and got married.”

8. MATT ROSS DIDN’T KNOW ALBY’S SEXUALITY UNTIL LATER.

Ross played the sinister cult leader Alby Grant, Nicki’s brother, for five seasons. In the beginning, Alby’s sexual orientation was ambiguous. “I think the first scene where I was wondering about his sexuality was when he picks up a drifter or a hustler in a convenience store and he takes him home,” Ross told NPR. “And that was just obviously a strange thing to do. I mean, well, why is he doing that? That was not clear.” Ross thought Alby just wanted to feel something other than numbness, so Alby put himself in a dangerous situation. But later on, Ross figured it out. “I read a scene where it said Alby is—I think he'd been arrested for doing something. And he was in a police station. And it said Alby is checking out all the butts of the cops that are there. And I was like, OK, well, OK, if he's checking out their butts then he’s, you know, this is his sexuality.”

9. THE SHOW ENDED WITH BILL BECOMING A HERO.

The series ends with a neighbor shooting and killing Bill—yet the sister wives decide to stay together. “We wanted to give him a Gary Cooper exit from the show, but it went much deeper than that,” Olsen said to NPR. “We didn’t want Bill to go out a loser or a failure or an unrepentant fundamentalist. And we wanted to find that thing that would render his life’s existence the most successful. We felt [that] the greatest testimony to Bill would be that he had created a family that endured.”

10. PAXTON WANTED BILL TO LIVE.

A still from 'Big Love'
HBO

The actor told The Huffington Post that he wished Bill hadn’t been killed off in the series finale, but he understood why. “The guy was really a revolutionary like Jesus Christ was in some ways,” Paxton said. “I don’t know, I guess society can’t reward that guy, because he is really living outside of society … I guess I was just really fond of the guy and I thought that after all that he had gone through, he deserved to find a quiet place in the sun.”

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Hägar the Horrible
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For 45 years, the anachronistic adventures of a Scandinavian Viking named Hägar have populated the funny papers. Created by cartoonist Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible is less about raiding and pillaging and more about Hägar’s domestic squabbles with wife Helga. If you’re a fan of this red-bearded savage with a surprisingly gentle demeanor, check out some facts about the strip’s history, Hägar’s status as a soda pitchman, and his stint as a college football mascot.

1. HÄGAR IS NAMED AFTER HIS CREATOR.

Richard Arthur “Dik” Browne got his start drawing courtroom sketches for New York newspapers; he debuted a military strip, Ginny Jeep, for servicemen after entering the Army in 1942. Following an advertising stint where he created the Chiquita Banana logo, he was asked to tackle art duties on the 1954 Beetle Bailey spinoff strip Hi and Lois. When he felt an urge to create his own strip in 1973, Browne thought back to how his children called him “Hägar the Horrible” when he would playfully chase them around the house. “Immediately, I thought Viking,” he told People in 1978. Hägar was soon the fastest-growing strip in history, appearing over 1000 papers.

2. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BULBAR THE BARBARIAN.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Working on Hi and Lois with cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) gave Browne an opportunity to solicit advice on Hägar from his more experienced colleague. As Walker recalled, he thought “Hägar” would be too hard for people to pronounce or spell and suggested Browne go with “Bulbar the Barbarian” instead. Browne brushed off the suggestion, preferring his own alliterative title.

3. A HEART ATTACK COULD HAVE CHANGED HÄGAR’S FATE.

When Browne came up with Hägar, he sent it along to a syndicate editor he knew from his work on Hi and Lois. According to Chris Browne, Dik’s son and the eventual artist for Hägar after his father passed away in 1989, the man originally promised to look at it after he got back from his vacation. He changed his mind at the last minute, reviewing and accepting the strip before leaving. Just days later, while on his ski vacation, the editor had a heart attack and died. If he hadn’t approved the strip prior to his passing, Browne said, Hägar may never have seen print.

4. THE STRIP HELPED BROWNE AVOID VANDALS.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Chris Browne recalled that Halloween in his Connecticut neighborhood was a time for kids to show their appreciation for his father’s work. While trick-or-treaters were busy covering nearby houses in toilet paper or spray paint, they spared the Browne residence. The only evidence of their vandalism was a spray-painted sign that read, “Mr. Browne, We Love Hägar.”

5. BROWNE’S DAUGHTER TALKED HIM OUT OF KIDNAPPING PLOTS.

Vikings were not known for being advocates for human rights. Hägar, despite his relatively genteel persona, still exhibited some barbaric traits, such as running off with “maidens” after a plundering session. Speaking with the Associated Press in 1983, Browne admitted he toned down the more lecherous side of Hägar after getting complaints from his daughter. “Running off with a maiden isn’t funny,” she told him. “It’s a crime.”

6. HÄGAR ENDORSED SODA.

A soda can featuring Hägar the Horrible
Amazon

Despite his preference for alcohol, Hägar apparently had a bit of a sweet tooth as well. In the 1970s, King Features licensed out a line of soda cans featuring some of their most popular comic strip characters, including Popeye, Blondie, and Hägar. The Viking also shilled for Mug Root Beer in the 1990s.

7. HE WAS A COLLEGE MASCOT.

In 1965, Cleveland State University students voted in the name “Vikings” for their collegiate basketball team. After using a mascot dubbed Viktorious Vike, the school adopted Hägar in the 1980s. Both Hägar and wife Helga appeared at several of the school’s sporting events before being replaced by an original character named Vike.

8. HE EVENTUALLY SOBERED UP.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

When Dik Browne was working on Hägar, the Viking was prone to bouts of excessive drinking. When Chris Browne took over the strip, he made a deliberate decision to minimize Hägar’s imbibing. "When my father was doing the strip, he did an awful lot of gags about Hägar falling down drunk and coming home in a wheelbarrow, and as times go on that doesn't strike me as that funny anymore,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “Just about everybody I know has had somebody hurt by alcoholism or substance abuse.”

9. HE HAD HIS OWN HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON.

It took some time, but Hägar was finally honored with the animated special treatment in 1989. Cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera created the 30-minute special, Hägar the Horrible: Hägar Knows Best, and cast the Viking as being out of his element after returning home for the first time in years. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, performed the title character. It was later released on DVD as part of a comic strip cartoon collection.

10. HE SAILED INTO THE WIZARD OF ID.

A Wizard of Id comic strip
King Features Syndicate

In 2014, Hägar made an appearance in the late Johnny Hart’s Wizard of Id comic strip, with the two characters looking confused at the idea they’ve run into one another at sea. Hägar also made a cameo in Blondie to celebrate that character’s 75th birthday in 2005.

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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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