CLOSE

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."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The American Museum of Natural History
arrow
Lists
10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios