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10 Fearless Facts About Black-ish

After its fearless second season, which tackled everything from racial slurs to police brutality, black-ish isn’t just a critically-adored comedy. It’s now been branded a socially important sitcom, echoing the work of Good Times, A Different World, and other groundbreaking series before it. So how did black-ish land in this spot after just two years on the air? It’s all thanks to one highly personal showrunner, Larry Wilmore, and cast members who are and are not related to the former lead singer of The Supremes. Find out more about the show—which will debut its third season on September 21, just a few days after making a run at three Emmy Awards—below.

1. THE TITLE REFERS TO RACIAL IDENTITIES … AND JUSTIN BIEBER.

When black-ish debuted in 2014, there was a big discussion about its title and what it meant. Show creator Kenya Barris told NPR that it’s a reflection of his anxieties about raising his children in a more privileged world than he knew as a kid. “I wanted to be honest with what it’s like sort of raising your kids in a different environment than you were accustomed to being raised in,” he explained. “My kids are nothing like I remember black kids being when I was a kid.”

When Laurence Fishburne was asked about the show's title on The View, his explanation was more blunt: “For some people, it means when black folks kind of act white. For some people, it means when white folks kind of act black. I think of it this way. Two words: Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber acts blackish but he doesn’t get shot by the police; he gets a police escort home.”

2. NORMAN LEAR IS A MAJOR INFLUENCE.

Barris has repeatedly cited Norman Lear as a primary influence on the show. Lear developed and created groundbreaking sitcoms like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, and Good Times. Barris is such a fan of Good Times in particular that he turned the black-ish season two finale into a homage. “He’s beyond an influence for me,” Barris told Variety. “I feel like I am so derivative of Norman Lear and what he was doing and what he was about. It’s hard to even think about being a writer without him having been there.”

Lear clearly admires Barris’s work, too. He stopped by the black-ish writers room earlier this year to pitch a few ideas, one of which ended up in the season two episode “The Johnson Show.”

3. MUCH OF THE SERIES IS SEMI-AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Peabody

Barris has always described the show as semi-autobiographical, but some of the parallels between the Johnsons and Barris's own family are much more direct. For instance, the black-ish matriarch Rainbow Johnson is an anesthesiologist with a black mother and a white father. Barris’s real-life wife is also a biracial anesthesiologist named Rainbow.

Many episodes are based on real conversations with Barris’s kids, too. The series received wide critical praise for the season two episode “Hope,” which discussed police brutality. It opens with one of the youngest Johnsons, Jack, staring at news footage and asking his parents, “Why are all these people so mad?” Barris’s then seven-year-old son asked him the exact same question when his family watched the Ferguson grand jury decline to indict a police officer for shooting a black teenager in 2014. Barris got the idea for the black-ish season two premiere after seeing some of his daughter’s texts.

4. BARRIS GOT HIS BREAK ON AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL.

After graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a film degree, Barris picked up a few writing credits on the Showtime series Soul Food and WB sitcom Like Family. But he was hungry to develop his own show, so he worked with his childhood friend Tyra Banks on a reality competition pitch. That series was America’s Next Top Model, and Barris got a handsome cut of the profits as a co-creator of the series.

5. LARRY WILMORE WAS A CO-SHOWRUNNER.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The star of the recently-departed Nightly Show was originally set to run black-ish with Barris. ABC had proposed Larry Wilmore as a co-showrunner in 2014 and, given Wilmore’s work on In Living Color and The Bernie Mac Show, Barris was eager to partner with him. But then Comedy Central offered Wilmore his own talk show, and he had to exit. He still stayed on for the first 12 episodes of black-ish, but Barris called in TV veteran Jonathan Groff (the producer, not the Glee and Hamilton actor) as back-up. Groff has been an executive producer ever since.

6. YES, JACK AND DIANE ARE NAMED FOR THE JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP SONG.

Yes, the Johnson twins—Jack and Diane—are actually named for John Cougar Mellencamp’s 1982 ditty about “two American kids doing the best they can.” The song is apparently one of Barris’s favorites.

7. ANTHONY ANDERSON REALLY THREW HIS SON A BRO MITZVAH.

As a star and executive producer on black-ish, Anthony Anderson has contributed some of his own real-life experiences to the show. One of them? The “bro mitzvah” that Dre throws for his eldest son in the pilot. Anderson hosted a similar bash for his own son.

8. DRE’S DISASTROUS BACKFLIP IN THE PILOT WAS NOT SCRIPTED.

You might’ve noticed a moment in the middle of all that bro mitzvah revelry when Dre goes for a backflip on the dance floor … and lands flat on his back. According to Marcus Scribner, who plays Andre Jr., that move was not scripted—Anderson actually wiped out. “I think that everybody in the entire room thought Anthony died,” Scribner said in an interview with J-14. “We all rushed over to Anthony like, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ He just kept it moving and it made it ... into the show.”

9. TRACEE ELLIS ROSS HAS A MEGA-FAMOUS (AND MEGA-SUPPORTIVE) MOM.

Tracee Ellis Ross is the second oldest child of Diana Ross, which means she grew up in a household where Michael Jackson called frequently and Andy Warhol painted her portrait. (She recaps both of those stories in the clip above.) Diana is also incredibly proud of her comedienne daughter. When Tracee was nominated for an Emmy this year, Diana took out a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter congratulating her daughter on the success.

But Ross isn’t the only black-ish cast member with celebrity kin. Yara Shahidi, who plays Zoey, boasts Nas as a second cousin. She was even the flower girl at his wedding.

10. THE CAST HAS SOME SERIOUSLY TALENTED DANCERS.

When pressed for some behind-the-scenes stories, Shahidi told Essence that the black-ish actors frequently challenge each other to dance-offs. “Anthony can break it down,” she said. “He can do salsa, he can do the worm, he knows ballet. It’s pretty trippy.” But he presumably has some stiff competition from his youngest onscreen son. Miles Brown, who plays Jack, made a name for himself when he was just four years old as the dance sensation Baby Boogaloo. Here he is on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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