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I Didn't Know These 23 Fascinating Things About 2021's Biggest TV Shows, And Now I Want To Rewatch Them All

I'd be more surprised if the Squid Game glass bridge wasn't totally terrifying.

Just so you know, I'm only including TV shows that premiered in 2021; though I, of course, mean no disrespect to returning gems such as Succession or Never Have I Ever or Insecure or [insert any number of wonderful shows here]. Also, there are totally spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.

If you're interested in behind-the-scenes facts about 2021's biggest movies, check out this post

1. According to a Netflix behind-the-scenes video, the glass stepping-stones set from Squid Game used real tempered glass. In the words of Jung Ho-yeon, who played Kang Sae-byeok, it was "actually terrifying" to film on.

The glass stepping-stone set of the fifth game
Netflix

Jung estimated that the bridge was suspended about 1 meter (that's a little more than a yard) above the ground.

Kang Sae-byeok during the Squid Game
Netflix

Director and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk said in the same video, "A mere 1.5 meters can make you frightened. The glass made them nervous. I think we could notice the unnoticed rigidity and fear of the body. It felt like really jumping off a high bridge. The game was real and they felt real fear. Their bodies showed that fear. We think that set had the power of realism."

The filming of the glass stepping-stones, with an actor reacting in fear to a "drop"
Netflix / Via youtube.com

If you want to read more behind-the-scenes facts about Squid Game, check out this post

2. When Paul Bettany got the call about WandaVision, his character, Vision, had just perished in Infinity War. So he figured he was about to be fired, not offered a starring role on a new TV show.

Vision and Wanda holding hands on a swingset
Disney+ / Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Bettany told BuzzFeed, "So I went in. I said, 'Look, there's just absolutely no hard feelings. It's been a great run. Thank you so much.' And they were like, 'Are you quitting?' And I went, 'No, aren't you firing me?' And they went, 'No, we were gonna pitch you a TV show.' That's how I found out."

Vision and Wanda in a home fading from black and white into color
Disney+ / Marvel / Courtesy Everett Collection

If you want to read more of Bettany's and Elizabeth Olsen's insights into the series, check out this interview

3. In Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse series, protagonist Alina wears a power-enhancing necklace known as an amplifier. In Netflix's adaptation Shadow and Bone, the necklace was changed to an eerie and altogether more visceral bodily alteration because of safety concerns.

Netflix

In the series, the stag antlers Alina wore as a necklace in the books are instead fused to her collarbone. In an interview with Decider, showrunner Eric Heisserer said that re-creating the necklace as it appears in the books would've been impossible to do without it either posing a danger to actor Jessie Mei Li or looking extraordinarily fake.

the stag bones, fused to her chest
Netflix

Heisserer said, "Our safety person stepped in with a lot of concerns about Jessie accidentally getting injured. Even if we had made something softer — and we tried with some soft foam and rubbery necklaces, and they just looked very soft — they would be very bendy when Jessie moved around."

Alina, with the stag bones poking out of her chest
Netflix

4. When they first began filming the suspenseful mystery series Cruel Summer, neither Chiara Aurelia (Jeanette Turner) nor Olivia Holt (Kate Wallis) knew how the season was going to end.

Kate and Jeanette speaking before the kidnapping
Freeform / Courtesy Everett Collection

Aurelia told BuzzFeed, "I was kept in the dark under every circumstance. The lovely [showrunner] Tia Napolitano did not tell me the end. I was very much invested in doing everything in my physical power to figure it out. I think I found out the end probably around Episode 8."

Jeanette and her mother after an exercise class
Freeform / Courtesy Everett Collection

In the same interview, Holt said, "We were mostly getting information as we filmed. I read the first two episodes before I signed on, and I was already really invested in both of the characters and the story. I was interested in where the story could go. The trajectory of them was foreign to me. I had no idea where it was going to go until we started shooting."

Kate and her mother out the front of the same exercise class
Freeform / Courtesy Everett Collection

If you want to read more insights into Cruel Summer from its stars and showrunner, check out this interview

5. In the Loki episode of the behind-the-scenes series Marvel Studios: Assembled, it was revealed that Alligator Loki was modeled off of a real-life "support alligator" named Wally.

The CGI rendering of Loki Alligator
Disney+

Michael Waldron, who came up with Alligator Loki, said, "I'll tell you, for every really dumb idea like that that made it in, there's a hundred even stupider ones that these guys had to pull me back from."

Loki Alligator in a pool
Disney+

6. Malcolm Spellman, the creator and head writer of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, told BuzzFeed that his favorite scene to write was Sam Wilson's speech to the senator because he got to work with actor Anthony Mackie on it.

Sam holding the Captain America shield
Disney+ / Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Spellman said, "I got to spend hours on the phone with Anthony to craft that in a way that hopefully felt very resonant and of the moment. It was my favorite scene to write because I got to spend time with Anthony on it."

Sam examining the shield in an abandone dhouse
Disney+ / Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

If you want to read more of Spellman's and director Kari Skogland's insights into the series, check out this post

7. Joshua Jackson, who stars as the terrifying surgeon-gone-bad Christopher Duntsch in Dr. Death, watched the pilot with his wife, fellow actor Jodie Turner-Smith, and his mother-in-law. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight Canada, Jackson said his mother-in-law "walked out" after the first surgery scene.

Jackson as Duntsch in the surgery suite
Peacock / Via youtube.com

Jackson said that while Turner-Smith stayed to watch the whole episode and the one following it, she watched the show while covering her eyes with her hands. The actor joked that he interpreted this horrified reaction as "a good thing."

Jodie Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson on the red carpet
David M. Benett / Dave Benett / Getty Images

8. Keegan-Michael Key revealed during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert that playing the musical-hating Josh on Schmigadoon! was the "hardest acting job I've had to do in my career," because he personally adores musicals.

The couple at the center of the show
Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Key joked that when he danced on set, director Barry Sonnenfeld would stop filming and tell him, "You can't dance to the music. You hate it."

The vintage cast and setting of the show
Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

During the interview, Key said that Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Oklahoma! are his favorite musicals of all time.

Josh and a love interest sit in a gazebo
Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

9. Kevin Can F**k Himself combines a multi-camera sitcom with a single-camera drama to create a narrative of a wife snapping under the strain of her marriage to an immature man. And while two different "shows" look drastically different, the same sets were used for both.

The cast in the sitcom living room set
AMC+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

According to Vulture, to transform the multi-camera set into the single-camera one, a (literal) fourth wall and a ceiling would be added. The lighting and camera angles would also be changed to make the room appear more claustrophobic and shabbier than its sitcom counterpart.

The wife looks shaken in the single-camera version of the show
AMC+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Production designer Tony Fanning told Vulture, "You couldn’t get too crazy with pattern and the brightness of color because it would look fake or false in the single-camera world."

In the sitcom living room, kevin's friends hold up a giant blanket reading "Kevin"
AMC+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

10. Amanda Peet, who co-created The Chair with Annie Julia Wyman, told Vanity Fair that she had Sandra Oh in mind for protagonist Ji-Yoon Kim while she was working on the pilot.

Sandra Oh in her academic office
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Peet said of Oh, "There are a lot of actors who can’t play a romantic comedy because they don’t have longing, they don’t really know how to play having a crush on someone. That was very important to me — maybe even especially because it’s a middle-aged love story. ... Nothing against her costars, but she could have chemistry with a doormat. She was very sensual and very alive to her attractions."

Oh leading an academic meeting
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

11. In The Shrink Next Door, Dr. Isaac Herschkopf, a therapist played by Paul Rudd, manipulates and takes advantage of his patient Marty Markowitz, who is portrayed by Will Ferrell. The show is based on a true story (well, it's based on a podcast about a true story), and its stars spoke to the real Markowitz.

Marty and Ike hug on the street
Apple TV+ / Via youtube.com

Ferrell told the New York Times, "[Markowitz] can go to that place where the pain is still at the surface. We asked him, 'Why are you willing to share this?' A lot of people would just feel shame and never want to talk about this again. And that’s where it felt like he was at peace." In the same interview, Rudd described Markowitz as "very forthcoming."

Ferrell as Marty
Apple TV+ / Via youtube.com

The stars didn't meet or speak to the real-life Herschkopf, however. Herschkopf told the New York Times, "No one from the TV series ever contacted me, ever reached out to me in any form whatsoever." He described the show as a "fiction of a fiction," since he takes issue with the accuracy of the original podcast.

Paul Rudd as the therapist
Apple TV+ / Via youtube.com

12. Before Barry Jenkins adapted Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad for Amazon, he got the thoughts of a focus group about how best to tell the story, which follows an enslaved woman named Cora who escapes via a literal underground railroad.

Cora in the Underground Railroad
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

According to the New York Times, Amazon organized the group, composed of Atlanta residents, to ask about the parts of the book they thought were the most powerful. Jenkins set two additional ground rules: Everyone in the focus group needed to be Black, and they needed to be asked whether the novel should even get a screen adaptation in the first place.

Cora in South Carolina
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jenkins said, "To my surprise, only 10% of the people said that it shouldn’t be done. ... The other 90% were like, ‘Tell it, but you have to show everything. It needs to be hard. It needs to be brutal.' I realized that my job was going to be pairing the violence with its psychological effects — not shying away from the visual depiction of these things but focusing on what it means to the characters. How are they beating it back? How are they making themselves whole?"

Cora and two of her friends
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

13. In a scene from The White Lotus, two characters walk in on resort manager Armond eating staff member Dillon's ass. The scene was originally less...specific, but actors Murray Bartlett and Lukas Gage had other ideas.

Armond welcomes guests to the resort
HBO / Via youtube.com

Gage, who plays Dillion, told the AV Club that Armond and Dillon were originally supposed to be interrupted during sex, but he and Bartlett said, "‘Wouldn’t it be more interesting if he's getting his salad tossed? I mean, how often do we see that on TV?' I think it’s much more interesting and more jarring to walk in on." Creator and writer Mike White agreed.

Armond speaking to a guest
HBO / Via youtube.com

The scene was shot under the supervision of an intimacy coordinator, an on-set expert who ensures that performers feel safe and comfortable while filming vulnerable scenes.

Dillon speaking to guests
HBO

14. Mare of Easttown hairstylist Lawrence Davis was instructed to make the cast look realistically messy and unpolished.

Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown
HBO / Via youtube.com

Davis told Insider, "When I came on board, I was told bed hair for everyone. ... Everybody was basically, you know, get up and go, and that was the whole feel of it. But I was basically told from day one, 'bed hair,' and I had to ride with that."

Mare talking on the phone in bed
HBO / Via youtube.com

If you want to read more behind-the-scenes facts from Mare of Easttown, check out this post

15. Amrit Kaur, who plays Bela on The Sex Lives of College Girls, told Decider that she almost lost the role three times.

Bela sitting on the couch on her phone
WarnerMedia / HBO

Kaur said, "I didn’t get the part three times. One, I wasn’t supposed to even audition because only people with an O-1 visa were supposed to audition. So I auditioned and they found out I didn’t have my O-1 visa, so they canceled my producer/director session. But then we convinced them that we could fast-track my O-1 visa, and then it was on again. And then we applied for my O-1 visa. I didn’t get it the first time, and then they had to get Mindy and Justin and everybody to try to pretend that I’m the most extraordinary person on the planet and no one else can play this part except for me."

The characters at a party
WarnerMedia / HBO

O-1 visas are granted to "individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement."

Bela in a red shirt with metal tassels
WarnerMedia / HBO

16. A few years before he starred in Lupin, which follows a charismatic thief inspired by Arsène Lupin, the charmingly heroic criminal from a series of novels by Maurice Leblanc, Omar Sy told producers at the French company Gaumont that Lupin was the role he'd most want to play.

Omar Sy in a suit at the Louvre
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Sy told Rolling Stone, "If I were English, I’d say James Bond. So I said Lupin, who’s kind of the same." Later in the same interview, when Sy was asked if he would want to play Bond, he replied, "Of course, yes. I know I can’t, though, because one of the rules [is that he’s] English. For now. But that can change."

Sy checking out a necklace he wants to steal from the Louvre
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

17. Sterlin Harjo, the co-creator and showrunner of Reservation Dogs, told KCRW that before the show, he was considering leaving the entertainment industry altogether.

the main cast walking in suits and ties across a parking lot
FX / Courtesy Everett Collection

He was repeatedly told by people in entertainment that "Native films don’t make money," Harjo said. "And especially, I was in Oklahoma, I wasn’t in LA, so I was even one more step removed from the industry. I didn’t know how to make that happen." Instead, Harjo was thinking about founding a nonprofit.

The main cast looking around a corner
FX / Courtesy Everett Collection

Luckily, Harjo gave Hollywood another chance, because Reservation Dogs currently has a 98% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

the cast in a family home
FX / Courtesy Everett Collection

18. After he taped the first take of one scene in It's a Sin, actor Olly Alexander, who plays Ritchie, cried so hard that director Peter Hoar temporarily stopped filming.

Ritchie and his friend singing at a microphone
HBO Max / Via youtube.com

Alexander told the New York Times, "I was a complete mess after the first take. I was sobbing."

Ritchie talking at a bar
HBO Max / Via youtube.com

The scene followed Ritchie and his friends getting arrested for "protesting the British government’s inaction on AIDS."

Ritchie looking at the camera, surrounded by his friends
HBO Max / Via youtube.com

19. According to Netflix, the movement of the ears of 10-year-old Gus, the half deer, half boy at the center of Sweet Tooth, were the result of practical effects rather than CGI.

Gus, the half deer, half boy, looking at a box in the forest
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

The puppeteer Grant Lehmann controlled the movement of the ears via "handheld transmitter." Gus's ears are "always the first part of him to react," which communicates to the audience his enhanced hearing.

Gus standing in the forest
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

20. Invincible creator Robert Kirkman told Decider that he and the rest of the creative team wanted to make the adaptation more diverse than the original comics series (also written by Kirkman) from the "get-go." For instance, main character Mark Grayson has an "ambiguous" racial background in the comics and is biracial on the show.

Mark in his superhero outfit
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

Kirkman said, "We were trying to come up with a more well-rounded and more diverse world that better represented the world around us. That’s something that’s very important to me. I think the comic book was fairly diverse for its time. But I can’t help but acknowledge that it was created by two white guys in their early 20s."

The cast of Invincible
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

He went on, "So you’re able to gender-swap a couple of characters and definitely give Debbie, played by Sandra Oh, a much larger role in the series, which I think is really good." Kirkman also noted that the ethnicities of the characters were decided before casting began.

Mark and his mother smile at each other
Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

21. Faith Omole, who plays bass player Bisma in We Are Lady Parts, learned her instrument in two weeks after she found out she was cast.

Bisma speaking to her family
Peacock / Via youtube.com

Omole told NME, "It was the middle of the pandemic when I found out that I had the role. I was just doing puzzles and eating all day. On the day I found out, I finished my last puzzle. It was like, ‘Baby, you’ve got to learn some stuff now.’ ... After my first lesson, I left a voice note for my friend trying not to have a panic attack."

The band, Bisma included, speaking during a practice
Peacock / Via youtube.com

22. Margaret Qualley, who starred as Alex in Maid, told E! News that the filthy places her character cleans were thankfully the result of movie magic and not actual, you know, filth.

Woman smiling in front of a large window
Netflix / Via youtube.com

Qualley said, "It's all fake, like, I'm doing the princess version of all this. It's, like, ketchup and hot sauce and A1, or whatever, that's, like, plastered onto an oven ... Everything is, like, clean dirt." She called the work that went into making the sets believable "pretty breathtaking," and noted that she was fine while filming scenes with cockroaches.

A disgusting toilet in Maid
Netflix / Via youtube.com

23. And finally: During an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Only Murders in the Building star and co-creator Steve Martin said that he came up with the basic idea for the series over a decade ago.

The main cast of Only Murders in the Building — Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin — sitting
Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

But in Martin's original plan, the show followed three old men who like fighting crime but are too tired to want to leave the house, hence them solving "only murders in the building." In the final product, the protagonists are two older men (Steve Martin and Martin Short) and one young woman (Selena Gomez).

Selena, Martin, and Steve all looking shocked
Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

The year is almost over, and we're looking back on 2021. Check out more from the year here!