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Useful Notes / North Carolina

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The Tarheel State

"I suppose more than anything, it's the way of life in this part of the country that influences my writing. In Eastern North Carolina, with the exception of Wilmington, most people live in small towns."

One of the original Thirteen Colonies, the State of North Carolina supplied one-third of the soldiers and much of the industrial resources during the period of the Confederacy, and still has a strong industrial base. Geographically, North Carolina includes many types of terrain across its 560-mile (901-km) width—from beaches, coastal plains, and swamps in the east, through the rolling hills of the Piedmont and the Uwharrie Mountains in the center, to the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains in the west. It borders 4 states: Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and its fellow namesake, South Carolina.

Some of the rural parts conform to Deep South or Appalachia stereotypes, but its largest city, Charlotte, is the second largest banking center in the United States. North Carolina also has the Research Triangle (the Raleigh-Durham area), home of one of the largest university research centers in the world and an important center of the bio-tech industry. Research Triangle is not to be confused with the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) which is 90 miles to the west and known for manufacturing furniture and textiles. The state public university system is one of the best in the nation, and its private schools include Duke University and Wake Forest University. The impact has been felt in politics: long considered a lock for the Republicans (and before that, a lock for the Democrats) in presidential elections, North Carolina has become the quintessential battleground state in the Old South since the late 2000s having barely just voted Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, and going with Donald Trump by very slim margins in 2016 and 2020 respectively. As a result, North Carolina has come to symbolize the 'New South'. The state does more often than not tend to lean towards Republicans. While Democrats hold the governorship, Republicans have most of the other statewide offices, including both U.S. Senate seats, and control both houses of the legislature.

North Carolina can also claim that its citizens were the first to proclaim independence from Great Britain, as two counties did so in 1775. (The dates are on the state flag.) Possibly most widely known for being the state that the Wright Brothers took their historic flight from Kitty Hawk (it's on their license plate and state quarter, in case you forget). North Carolina residents are also known as 'Tarheels',note  which is where the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill takes its team name (Tar Heels) from.

Speaking of which, sports teams come in all sizes and shapes in North Carolina between its four most prominent professional clubs and seven FBS programs. The first of the "Big four plus one" leagues to reach the state was the National Basketball Association, with the 1988 establishment of the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are sort of The Un-Favourite of all the state's basketball teams, due in part to the club's byzantine official history,note  tepid ownership,note  and for generally being The Chew Toy of the NBA. Charlotte is also home to the National Football League's Carolina Panthers, who are also not particularly known for success (having never had back-to-back winning seasons in their history), albeit being much more successful than the Hornets.note  Panthers owner David Tepper also owns the state's newest pro team, Major League Soccer's Charlotte FC. The club, established during MLS's late 2010s-early 2020s expansion push, currently plays in Bank of America Stadium, the same home as the Panthers. Up in Raleigh lies the Carolina Hurricanes, the state's National Hockey League team. The Canes are actually both the oldest team in the region (being founded by the World Hockey Association in 1972 as the New England Whalers, and after the NHL-WHA merger played as the Hartford Whalers from 1979 to 1997) as well as the most successful one, beating the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals for their only championship. The odd one out is Major League Baseball, who has never had a team call North Carolina its home, though expansion rumors in the early 2020s might put an end to that. Not to say that the state is devoid of baseball, as number Minor League Baseball teams (such as the Durham Bulls) exist.

The Duke-UNC basketball rivalry cannot be understated; at least one weatherman in the area has been known to describe a blue sky as being a shade precisely between Duke blue and Carolina blue, and one U.S. Representative who is a diehard Carolina fan remarked in 2012, "I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban, then I'd have to pull for the Taliban."note 

Wilmington, arguably North Carolina's most prominent coastal city, is the home of the largest film and television production studio outside of California, the EUE/Screen Gems facilitynote note  (though it's not 'East Coast Hollywood' just yet), which produced Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Muppets from Space, and The Crow.note  Wilmington is also notable outside entertainment as the hometown of Michael Jordan.note In recent years, Winston-Salem has also become a popular site for filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, thanks to being home to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and its School of Film. Colonial-era capital city New Bern is considered to be the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, though the company only seems to care about that when marketing the beverage to this particular state. Asheville, nestled in a river valley in the middle of the Appalachians, has gained a reputation in recent years as a New Age mecca, and is also a major center for Appalachian folk art.

The state is an odd mix of very rural and very urban areas, enough that a metropolitan city could be found right next to an Everytown, America-esque small town.

The state is also known for its divisive politics, being considered a purple state, being subject to a lot of Gerrymandering, and being ridiculed by other states for it.

Works set in North Carolina

  • American Horror Story: Roanoke is set in Roanoke, site of the famous Lost Colony.
  • The Andy Griffith Show is set in Mayberrynote  and shows up on TV listings often for anyone who still watches cable. Its After Show, Mayberry R.F.D., was also set there.
  • Bless the Harts is set in the fictional Greenpoint, North Carolina; the intro even goes so far as to include a guy on a unicycle waving the NC flag. The series' creator, Emily Spivey, is a North Carolina native.
  • Blue Velvet is a Mystery Fiction film set in Lumberton.
  • Brainstorm was filmed in and set in the Research Triangle, 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Bull Durham is an 80's sports/romance film set in Durham and based around the minor league baseball team.
  • The Campaign is set in the fictional town of Hammond.
  • Cape Fear is a thriller about a lawyer whose family is threatened by a convicted rapist he had a hand in convicting. New Essex is not a real place, but Cape Fear is the name of a major river that runs through to Wilmington, as well as the point where the river meets the Atlantic.
  • Cold Mountain: an American Civil War flick about a girl who must survive on her own after her father's death, whilst her boyfriend deserts his position in the CSA army to search for her.
  • Eastbound & Down: The first two seasons are set in the real-life town of Shelby.
  • Eyeborgs, a Syfy Channel Original Movie about a futuristic Big Brother dystopia, took place in Winston-Salem.
  • The Famous Jett Jackson: Jett Jackson moves over to the fictional Wilsted, North Carolina to lead a more normal life.
  • The Foot Fist Way takes place in a small North Carolina town, and was filmed in Winston-Salem and Concord.
  • Goodbye Solo, an independent film festival darling, takes place in Winston-Salem and Blowing Rock.
  • Hell-Bent Fer Heaven is a play that takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Judge Knott is a murder mystery series set in a mythical version of Johnston County.
  • Junebug never specifies where in North Carolina it's set, but since one character works for Replacements, Ltd, it most likely takes place in or around the Greensboro/Burlington area.
  • Kiss the Girls is yet another crime thriller, this time set in Durham. Starting to see a pattern?
  • The Reality Show Lizard Lick Towing took place in Lizard Lick. Yes, there really is a Lizard Lick.
  • Logan Lucky: the heist takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, during the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race.
  • Love It Or List It started out in Canada, but production moved to North Carolina in 2014.
  • My Brother and Me takes place in Charlotte.
  • Nell takes place in a remote cabin somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains.
  • One Tree Hill took place in the fictional town of Tree Hill, which bears a strong resemblance to Wilmington. It was also filmed there, so not a big surprise.
  • Polandball has had the state make appearances as itself. There is a Wiki page as well.
  • Stark Love, a film created by someone with a pretty strong hate of Appalachian people, takes place here and bases itself on negative stereotypes of people from this area. It came out in The Roaring '20s, after all.
  • Safe Haven and several other Nicholas Sparks books are set here.
  • Top Gear did an episode in series fifteen that started at Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They then went to North Wilkesboro Speedway to learn a little NASCAR history before heading out of state.
  • The 1986 horror film Trick or Treat is set in the fictional town of Lakeridge, North Carolina, as revealed by the letter Eddie writes during the beginning. It was filmed in Wilmington.
  • In Wish, Charlie used to live in Raleigh, but with her father in jail and her mother being neglectful, she was sent away to live with her aunt and uncle in an Appalachian town called Colby. Whether it's still in North Carolina or in another state is anyone's guess.

Notable Tarheels (or North Carolinians, if they went to Duke)

  • Ryan Adams is originally from Jacksonville, NC. It shows in his accent.
  • Æther Realm (Greenville)
  • Karl Anderson (Asheville)
  • Tessa Blanchard (Charlotte)
  • David Brinkley (reporter, born in Wilmington; known for being the Washington anchor on The Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC from 1956-70, and being the anchor/moderator of This Week with David Brinkley on ABC from 1981-96)
  • Ben Browder was born in Memphis, but raised in Charlotte.
  • George Clinton was born in Kannapolis (outside Charlotte), though he made his career in New Jersey and Washington, D.C..
  • Stephen Curry, though born in Ohio, was raised mainly in Charlotte, and attended nearby Davidson College.
  • David Drake was born in Iowa but moved to central North Carolina in 1972 after serving in Vietnam, and lived there the rest of his life.
  • Charlotte Flair (Charlotte, of course)
  • Ric Flair (Charlotte, though he was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised by a Twin Cities family who adopted him as an infant)
  • Ben Folds (Winston-Salem)
  • Zach Galifianakis was born and raised in Wilkesboro and maintains a farm in nearby Sparta. His uncle Nick is a former Congressman who represented the Durham area; the latter's Senate campaign against Jesse Helm inspired elements of his film The Campaign.
  • Pam Grier (Winston-Salem)
  • Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy, graduated from UNC, and lived in Goldsboro before starting his entertainment career. He died at the home he kept on the Outer Banks.
  • As noted above, though Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, his family moved to Wilmington when he was a toddler, and he lived there until becoming a Tar Heel (as in UNC).
  • Jeff Hardy (Cameron)
  • Matt Hardy (Cameron)
  • Gregory Helms (Smithfield)
  • Brian Tyree Henry (Fayetteville)
  • Junkyard Dog (Wadesboro)
  • Ron Killings (Charlotte)
  • Charles Kuralt (born in Wilmington)
  • Vince McMahon (born in Pinehurst)
  • Shannon Moore (Cameron)
  • The Revival/FTR (Scott Dawson/Dax Hardwood is from Whiteville, while Dash Wilder/Cash Wheeler is from Asheville)
  • Siblings David Sedaris and Amy Sedaris were born in Upstate New York but grew up in 1960s-70s Raleigh. Their father Lou worked for IBM as an engineer in the early days of the Research Triangle, earning the Sedaris family front-row tickets to the transformation of the area from Old South to New South. This transition, and the Sedaris siblings' uncertain place in it (as children of an "ethnic" Greek-American father and a "Yankee" Anglo New Yorker mother, and raised in the "foreign" Greek Orthodox Church to boot) shows up quite a bit in David's stories.
  • Richie Steamboat (Charlotte)
  • Braun Strowman (Sherrills Ford)
  • AJ Styles (born in Jacksonville)
  • Tatanka (Pembroke)
  • Briana Venskus (Wilmington)