Sometimes the protagonists of our favorite series are inspired by real people. Some of them will surprise you.
Nucky Thompson (‘Boardwalk Empire’)
The remarkable ‘Boardwalk Empire’ contained a very important historical background and, while many real characters appeared in it with their real names (for example, Al Capone), its protagonist Nucky Thompson was not real. Despite this, it was inspired by someone: ‘Boardwalk Empire’ was based on the novel ‘Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City’, a story that followed Enoch Thompson, a political and criminal boss who controlled power in Atlantic City during the time he was in power until he was imprisoned.
Lucious Lyon (‘Empire’)
According to ‘Empire’ co-creator Danny Strong, the character of Lyon patriarch Lucious is inspired by two people at once. On the one hand, Jay-Z, who left behind a criminal past and became one of the most important rappers and music entrepreneurs in the world.
Olivia Pope (‘Scandal’)
Even soap opera characters can be inspired by real people, as is the case with Olivia Pope, the one in charge of solving the messes of the Washington political class. In this case, Shonda Rimes was inspired by the brilliant negotiator Judy Smith, who has been responsible for dealing with scandals like Monica Lewinsky or Paula Deen.
Ron Swanson (‘Parks and Recreation’)
In developing the ‘Parks and Recreation’ concept, series creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur visited many town halls to familiarize themselves with a setting similar to the one that would become the focus of their series. When one of the employees of the city council of Burbank (California) was asked about her position with respect to the Government, the woman said “I am a liberal, I do not believe in the mission of my work. I am aware of the irony”. That phrase would serve as inspiration for the creation of Ron Swanson.
Alicia and Peter Florrick (‘The Good Wife’)
Although it didn’t take long for them to have a history much richer than that of the real characters, at first Peter and Alicia Florrick could be inspired by Eliot and Silda Spintzer.
Eliot was Governor of New York for a year until he had to resign over a prostitution scandal. His wife, Silda, like Alicia, began a solo career after the scandal and became the head of a hedge fund run solely by women. She finally divorced her husband in 2013. He returned to the charge in the political arena years after the scandal.
The characters of ‘The Wire’
A large number of characters in ‘The Wire’ were inspired by real people, especially gangsters and some police officers.
The addicted Bubbles, for example, is based on a well-known informant named Possum who also used the hat trick to single out criminals for the police to catch.
Bunk Moreland was based on Rick Requer, a Baltimore police officer who was also called “Bunk” because of the number of slurs he used.
Piper Chapman (‘Orange is the New Black’)
An obvious case, since ‘Orange is the New Black’ is based on Piper Kerman’s memoirs that narrate her time in prison. The last name is different, but the essence is practically the same.
Abed Nadir (‘Community’)
The character of Abed, the pop culture-obsessed young student who sometimes lived in his own movie, is based on a friend of creator Dan Harmon, Abed Gheith. Geith is a short film director and voice actor and was even cast to play the real Abed, but the role went to Danny Pudi as he demanded to be a bit more of an introvert than he was.
The characters of ‘Seinfeld’
While it’s pretty obvious that two of the four main characters in ‘Seinfeld’ are based on their creators (Jerry as a version of Jerry Seinfeld and George as Larry David’s), the other two leads were also inspired by real characters.
Elaine, for example, was inspired by comedian Carol Leifer who, like the character, had an eventual relationship with Seinfeld. Leifer, by the way, worked as a screenwriter on ‘Seinfeld’ for a while.
Don Draper (‘Mad Men’)
The famous publicist of ‘Mad Men’ is said to be inspired by another famous publicist in real life, Draper Daniels, responsible for devising the Marlboro Man in the fifties, as well as being quite the womanizer. According to creator Matthew Weiner, Don is not inspired by Draper, except in name, but the similarities between the two are more than evident.
The characters of ‘The Entourage’
In this fun comedy focused on the world of fame and entertainment, it was very common to see actors and guest stars playing themselves, but what many don’t know is that their protagonists are based on real people.
Without going any further, the main character, Vincent Chase, was inspired by Mark Wahlberg, producer of the series, who also appears in it. Turtle was based on Donnie Carroll, Wahlberg’s childhood friend and occasional assistant. Drama, in Johnny Alves, Wahlberg’s “cousin” with a personality very similar to his character in ‘Entourage’.
Moe Szyslak (‘The Simpsons’)
Matt Groening based the initial character of Moe on a bartender named Louis “Red” Deutsch, a former boxer who owned a Jersey City bar who in the 1970s was the subject of a series of prank calls asking for false people whose names they were funny. When Red realized the reason for the laughter, he responded with excessive violence, just like Moe in ‘The Simpsons’.
Years later, the comedian Rich Hall assured that Moe was based on him and that Matt Groening had confirmed it, although there is no proof of this.
Jason Street (‘Friday Night Lights’)
The fictional character ‘Friday Night Lights’, played by Scott Porter, was based on David Edwards, a student league football player from San Antonio (Texas) who was paralyzed after an accident on the playing field. He would later become a motivational speaker.