Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “How To Get Away With Murder”

November 25, 2014  |  
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I don’t know about you Shondaland fans but for me, “How To Get Away With Murder” has taken the number one spot in my heart. Kind of like the way “Scandal” became more of priority than “Grey’s Anatomy.” (I’m back Grey’s don’t worry.) The show is great. With stellar acting and story lines that keep us on the edge of our seats, it is must-watch television. And since the show has become such a hit, we figured it was only right that the highlight some of the little known behind the scenes information from the show and its actors who portray these compelling characters.

Check it out.

How The Show Was Created

Despite the fact that a New York Times writer attributed the show’s creation to Shonda Rhimes, one of its many errors, the show was actually created by Peter Nowalk, a White man. And in an interview with Variety, Nowalk explained how the idea came to him.

I’m always coming up with ideas — maybe it’s because I’m unoriginal — where it’s a normal person caught in an extreme circumstance. There’s so much good TV on right now, I just wanted it to be loud and extreme and relatable. I was like, “What [would happen] if I murdered someone?” It started there and then I wanted to do something with a procedural element. The criminal defense lawyers and students committing the murder felt like the perfect little concept in order to launch the show. I also like playing with time — that felt fresh to me. I hope it doesn’t confuse people but I think it’s up to us to make sure that the story is told in a clear way. So many other shows have been doing that and I find it cool, and hopefully we’re doing it in our own way.

All Those “Gay Scenes”

And since it was Nowalk and not Shonda who created the show, during a Television Critics Association panel, Nowalk spoke about why Connor, played by Jack Falahee, was so important to him. He said that he felt really lucky to be writing this character. Since that time, there has been a bit of backlash about the number of gay sex scenes featured in the show. Though they’re not more intense and graphic than the other sex scenes in Shondaland;  you know, whenever there’s a change, even if it’s a necessary one, there will be pushback. In Variety Nowalk explained why the character was so important to him and the importance of Connor’s sexuality.

The students are all so different and they’re not friends. I’m a gay man, so I wanted to write a gay man character who is sort of a wish fulfillment for me. I am in my 30s but he’s in his mid-twenties and I think that generation of gay men and women… they just have a different history and I wanted to show someone who is just refreshingly confident and doesn’t have an issue with it and probably came from a background where people didn’t have an issue with it and it just feels more modern. I just want to show someone who’s awesomely gay. And I think he’s more complex than you’ve seen — all of the characters are. You might think, “oh he’s an oversexed operator,” and that’s how he comes across in the pilot, but I think that’s part of who he is and I think there’s other parts that I want to show too.

Why Viola decided to do TV

Before this show, Viola Davis seemed like one of the most unlikely women to appear on television. She’s an accomplished actress with several blockbuster films behind her name. So why would she do television?

She explained: “I have gotten so many wonderful film roles. I’ve gotten so many where I haven’t been the show — I’ve been invited to fabulous parties to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show –  to have a character that took me out of my comfort zone, and that happened to be on a Shonda Rhimes show. So I did the only sensible thing and took it.”

We’re certainly glad she did.

Wes Gibbins… Alfred Enoch

If you follow us on Twitter, you already know this bit of information. Alfred Enoch, the actor who plays Wes Gibbins, played Dean Thomas in 7 out of 8 of the Harry Potter movies. What you probably didn’t know about Alfred is that he has a bit of a daring side. After the Harry Potter series ended, Alfred decided he was going to go out with a bang and streak on the Harry Potter set.

The Family Business

Alfred Enoch is following in his father’s footsteps. His dad William Enoch too was on a hit show. “Dr. Who.” He played Dr. Who’s companion, science teacher Ian Chesterton.

Where have I seen you?

Alfred Enoch is not the only person you may have seen on your television screens…or computer screens. Matt McGorry, who plays Asher Millstone, was John Bennett from “Orange Is The New Black.”

And Liza Weil, who plays Bonnie, was Paris in the “Gilmore Girls.” I was pretty proud of this one because, with the new haircut, I couldn’t place her for the longest time.

What is meant to be…

Judging by her audition, few people would have believed Aja Naomi King, who plays Michaela Pratt, was going to be offered the role. Everything just seemed to be going wrong. King told The New York Times, that during her Skype audition, she dealt with a poor internet connection and terrible sound. But you know what they say, what is meant for you, will be. King was offered the role before she even left the room.

What she thinks of Viola

And as you might suspect, King considered it a great honor to be working with Viola Davis. (Even though she’s quite accomplished in her own right, having graduated with an M.F.A. from Yale.) After she got the job, she was happy to learn that not only was Viola a nice person, she also is able to learn from her.

Viola will definitely share stories of her own experiences. But she doesn’t try to say, “Do the scene this way.” It’s more like leading by example, and that in itself is a master class. You’re watching a true, Juilliard-trained artist, seeing how she’s breaking down a character. She doesn’t realize how she blows my mind sometimes.

Sam’s Real Wife

We know Sam Keating. If you watch the show, you know he’s coldblooded. And while we certainly hope that Tom Verica, the man who plays this character, doesn’t have too many similarities to this character, he does happen to be married to a Black woman. Pretty lady. And though he’s been killed off on the show, it won’t be Verica’s last go-’round in Shondaland. He’s been directing “Private Practice,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and even served as an executive producer on “Scandal.”

The Effect

Even though Shonda Rhimes would argue that diversity on television should become so common, that we no longer make a big deal about Black women in lead roles on television, we’re not exactly there yet. So it is still a very big deal. And since this is all so new, people were wondering what effect shows like “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder” will have on the impact on television at large. What does Shonda think?

“It remains to be seen. It hasn’t happened yet.”

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