13 Facts About Scandal

Though it took a little while to find its footing (at least ratings-wise), Scandal has morphed into one of the small screen's biggest obsessions. Created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington, the twist-filled series is one part political drama, one part primetime soap, and one massive hit.

The show centers on Olivia Pope (Washington), a former White House staffer turned crisis management specialist—or "fixer"—for the world's most powerful people. From voter fraud to her own scandalous affair with the (very married) POTUS, Pope and her team of gladiators have rarely met a problem they couldn't solve. (And then the next problem arises.) To celebrate the show's fifth season finale (which airs tonight), we're digging up some dirt on Scandal.

1. OLIVIA POPE IS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

Olivia Pope is based on Judy Smith, George H. W. Bush's special assistant and deputy press secretary and a crisis manager during Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinksy scandal. In addition to Lewinksy, Smith's long list of clients have included Michael Vick, the family of Chandra Levy, and BP after the Gulf oil spill. Scandal executive producer Betsy Beers and Rhimes met with Smith for two hours in 2009. Rhimes insisted to Beers after the meeting that they had to make a show about her—but it's not a biopic. “She’s the inspiration for the show,” Rhimes clarified to The Washington Post, “but Olivia Pope is not Judy.”

2. GABRIELLE UNION AND TARAJI P. HENSON BOTH AUDITIONED TO PLAY OLIVIA.

Gabrielle Union auditioned for the part, then later said she was glad Kerry Washington and Scandal had found so much success, because it led to more work for black female actresses.

When asked about her audition for the role of Olivia, Empire star Taraji P. Henson recalled: "When I went in to read for Shonda Rhimes, in my mind I was like, 'This is Kerry Washington. Why am I even in here?' It was hers. It was her job, and she's great in it."

3. THE SHOW HAS MADE TELEVISION HISTORY. (MORE THAN ONCE.)

Kerry Washington became the first African-American female lead in a broadcast network drama since Teresa Graves played an undercover cop in Get Christie Love! (1974-1975), also on ABC. When Selma director Ava DuVernay directed the season three installment "Vermont is for Lovers, Too," it was the first time a show created by a black woman, starring a black woman, and directed by a black woman ran on one of the Big Three networks. Olivia's new alias in the season four premiere was Julia Baker, which Rhimes noted was the name of the title character in Julia (1968-1971), the groundbreaking television series starring actress/singer Diahann Carroll.

4. MELLIE GRANT WASN'T MEANT TO BE A SERIES REGULAR.

Despite Bellamy Young dressing "very Jackie O" for her audition as first lady Mellie Grant—in which she only had two lines to read—Rhimes informed her that her character was only going to be in a three-episode arc. Ninety episodes (and counting) later, Young—and Mellie—are still around.

5. JEFF PERRY RELIED ON HUNTER S. THOMPSON TO GET INTO CHARACTER AS CYRUS BEENE.

Jeff Perry read Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail before his presidential aide character Cyrus Beene had to give a long, pessimistic speech to his boss about the likely ramifications of getting intern Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil) pregnant. Perry said that "Hunter’s funny, deeply dark, burnt-to-a-crisp voice meets Shonda’s was in my gut."

6. THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT HAVE WORKED TOGETHER BEFORE.

Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III) and Kate Burton (former vice president Sally Langston) have played husband and wife twice: on the Showtime movie Love Matters (1993), and later in a New York production of The Water's Edge (Burton murdered Goldwyn's character in that play). But Burton's affairs with fellow White House staffers don't end there: she and Jeff Perry's character divorced on Grey's Anatomy.

Also, Bellamy Young and Joe Morton (Eli Pope, a.k.a. Rowan Pope, a.k.a. Papa Pope) played an attorney and her client, respectively, on The X-Files episode "Redrum" in 2000.

7. YOU BET THERE WAS A GHOST REFERENCE.

"Molly, You in Danger Girl" was the title of a season two episode of Scandal. It's a quote from Whoopi Goldberg's character in Ghost (1990), which featured Goldwyn as Carl Bruner.

8. JOSHUA MALINA WAS TRICKED INTO THINKING HIS CHARACTER WAS GOING TO DIE.

Rhimes discovered that Joshua Malina read the last pages of the script first at table reads to make sure his character, David Rosen, survived the episode. It turned out Rhimes didn't like that; she wants to see the actors' genuine reactions at the reads. So she decided to teach him a lesson.

As the cast assembled for the table read of season two's finale, "I sit down and surreptitiously am looking and to my horror I see that there is a scene in which my character dies," Malina recalled. "I should’ve realized, it took me about a minute, then I looked at Bellamy Young’s script and it had a different ending. They had written an ending just to catch me. It was very cool.”

9. PAPA POPE ORIGINALLY SANG "SUMMERTIME," UNTIL FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS KICKED IN.

Initially, Morton sang the lines to the song from Porgy and Bess to President Grant in "A Door Marked Exit." But to avoid paying music royalties, he only recited the verse.

10. KHANDI ALEXANDER WASN'T ALLOWED TO TELL ANYONE WHO SHE WAS PLAYING.

Since Khandi Alexander was offered the part of Mama Pope—a character presumed dead—without an audition, she had to be sworn to secrecy. Alexander didn't tell her boyfriend, agent, or manager any specifics, other than that she was going to appear on Scandal.

11. WASHINGTON'S PREGNANCY CUT SEASON THREE SHORT.

Washington's pregnancy led to the third season consisting of just 18 episodes, four short of the total number of episodes in seasons two and four, and three episodes shy of the season five total. Her pregnancy wasn't written into the show. Instead, Washington's baby bump was hidden behind chairs or lamps, and she was shot from the waist up. (Earlier this month, it was reported that Washington is pregnant with her second child.)

12. SHONDA RHIMES THINKS SEASON FOUR'S "RUN" WAS THE BEST EPISODE OF THE SERIES.

The fourth season episode "Run," where Olivia was kidnapped and put in a jail cell, was written by Rhimes. "It’s my favorite episode that I’ve written, of anything that I’ve written," the creator of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal said. "But it’s probably our favorite episode that we’ve done ever.”

13. THE CAST HAS A TRADITION OF SCREAMING BEFORE SHOOTING.

"I started a Scandal tradition," Washington told US Weekly. "Before shooting a new show, we scream the episode number, applaud, and bang on furniture."

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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