If Pete Nowalk could choose an attorney to face off in a showdown with Annalise, he’d choose The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick. Beware: spoilers!
1) How To Get Away With Murder is Pete Nowalk’s first show as a showrunner. Before that, he worked under Shonda Rhimes for six years writing on Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy. He was also a co–executive producer and writer onScandal.
2) Prior to creating the show, Nowalk knew nothing about law school and read the same books the actors were reading to learn the basics about the Socratic method.
3) When he made the pilot, Nowalk admits he “didn’t know 95% of who Annalise was”. It was only during the first season that he had the idea of Sam being Annalise’s therapist.
4) In fact, many of the characters didn’t turn out how Nowalk had originally envisaged. He recalls thinking that Bonnie was going to be “bubbly and the antithesis of Annalise: the nice cop to the bad cop”. But Liza Weil, who plays her, brought “a real heaviness to the role that was so much more interesting”.
5) Nowalk says “the best thing about Viola is that she’s also [his] collaborator”. She helped create the character of Annalise and formulate the backstory.
6) If Nowalk could pick any attorney to face off in a showdown with Annalise, he would choose The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies.
7) And if he could have any guest star on the show, he would choose Meryl Streep.
8) Viola Davis became the first black woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 2015 Emmys for her performance as Annalise Keating. This was the first time two black actresses were nominated in the category of Lead Actress (Taraji P. Henson was nominated alongside Davis for her role as Cookie Lyon in Empire).
9) In her speech, she quoted Harriet Tubman and said, “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” She also thanked Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry, Meagan Good, and Gabrielle Union.
10) The scene in which Annalise takes her wig and makeup off was actually Viola Davis’s idea. She explained: “I felt the only way I could play Annalise was if I played her as a real woman. Because I feel like that’s the part about being a woman that people kind of throw in the trash heap.”
11) Jack Falahee, who plays Connor Walsh, says this is his favourite scene.
12) Davis admits she’s not entirely comfortable when it comes to filming the sex scenes, but added: “Why should I be? You’re having sex; I mean, how many times do people have sex in front of a lot of people?”
13) She also revealed that she doesn’t tell her husband when the episodes including the sex scenes are on.
14) Similarly, Katie Findlay, who plays Rebecca, said “getting naked in front of what you then later realise is 9.3 million people is never not weird”.
15) Nowalk thinks about the show constantly, describing it as “all-consuming”. “If I want to watch TV, I’m still thinking about the show. If I’m in the shower, I’m still thinking about the show.” He added: “I feel like I have to send out a million ‘thank you for putting up with me’ notes.”
16) He also thinks Bonnie Winterbottom is actually “tougher than anyone else on the show”, since she has the darkest backstory.
17) Nowalk describes the character of Connor as “sort of a wish fulfilment for me”. He explained: “I just 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 don’t have an issue with it. … I just want to show someone who’s awesomely gay.”
18) Before the “Keating Five” started filming the pilot in Philadelphia, they were flown out a week early so they could get to know each other. According to Falahee, “From day one, we were romping around the streets of Philadelphia and just having slumber parties with cartons of ice cream.”
19) On the day they were set to travel for the pilot, Matt McGorry’s uncle passed away. He got the call on the train and “broke down crying” but said Aja Naomi King, who was travelling with him at the time, “was the sweetest person ever”.
20) In a roundtable interview, the cast of How to Get Away With Murder confessed to having googled each other before meeting. King’s managers thought she was going to date Alfred Enoch, Jack Falahee thought Karla Souza was a model, and King thought Jack was “too good-looking”, so was “gonna be an asshole for sure”.
21) Enoch decided to drop his British accent when he first signed on to play the character of Wes Gibbons in the show because he wanted to “practice all the time”. When he’s on set in the US he speaks in an American accent continuously, and many people haven’t heard him speak any differently.
22) Liza Weil previously featured on Gilmore Girls as Paris Gellar, and McGorry (Asher Millstone) used to be a bodybuilder.
23) Karla Souza’s role as Laurel Castillo was her first big breakout role in the United States, having previously been a hit star in Mexico. According to a television interview she gave on Today, when she found out she’d landed the role as Laurel she cried.
24) Falahee dislikes hugs because he doesn’t like the “close quarters”. The best way for a fan to approach him is to “come up and say hi. I’m always down to have a chat, but not a hug, if I’m being honest.”
25) There were three different endings for the finale of Season 1. One in which Rebecca killed Lila, one in which Sam killed Lila, and the eventual version they settled on, which came as a result of Nowalk hating the former versions. “Because I was like, ‘Why does this not feel fun or that surprising?’” he explained. “It’s hard for me to believe that Sam would strangle a girl … and this is what we do — we just throw out everything we know and come up with a new version.” Nowalk says that when he suggested to Mike Foley that perhaps Frank did it for Sam, that was when it clicked for him.
26) Of all the scenes that made it onscreen, Nowalk wishes he didn’t put Oliver’s HIV diagnosis as a cliffhanger. It was intended to be in the penultimate episode of Season 1, but a reshuffle of scenes meant it ended up in the finale. He explains: “It felt like an ‘oh my god’ moment versus a real, emotional thing. … It was maybe a little bit tacky. And, fair game, I’m learning.”
27) Part of the reason the Season 2 finale took place at Annalise’s mother’s house is because of the demand for Cicely Tyson’s return (the actress who plays Ophelia). Nowalk claims the question of when Tyson would come back was one of the most asked questions from the first season: “For me, it was just figuring out a real reason why she would return, but also, we’re literally just working on Cicely’s schedule.” Once they found out Tyson’s available dates were around the time of the finale, this triggered the idea of taking the finale out of Philadelphia.
28) Nowalk described writing this part of the finale as “really hard … like creating a whole new world”, and relied on Davis’s help to flesh out the characters. For example, Davis recommended actors Gwendolyn Mulamba and Roger Robinson, who play her sister and father.
29) When it comes to the surprising Michaela and Asher hookup, that relationship was something Nowalk and his team had been discussing all season. “It felt like this moment was surprising but also very real”, he said. “Whether it’s more than a hookup or not remains to be seen, but it felt super-fun for both of the characters.”
30) He also added that it was a chance to show Aja Naomi King’s IRL personality as “life of the party”.
31) Although he had no idea how Davis would deliver the “he needs to go” line, which Annalise says to Bonnie at the end of Season 2, Nowalk insists she “did it perfectly”. It’s yet to be revealed whether Annalise meant murdering Frank, but the line was purposely written to be ambiguous.
32) Even Nowalk found himself getting teary-eyed at the flashback scene where Annalise has an emergency C-section. “Viola [Davis] and Tom [Verica] gave such amazing performances”, he explained. “They’re both parents, and I imagine that scene was emotionally exhausting.”
33) The Wes and Wallace Mahoney relation wasn’t figured out until after the midseason finale. Nowalk revealed that when Annalise said “Kristophe”, “we didn’t know what that meant”.
34) They also weren’t 100% sure that Caleb would be the murderer of his parents because Nowalk feared it would be “too obvious”. “That is something we wentback and forth with a million times and it just felt like the best answer as we came up to it.”
35) Nowalk does know who shot Wallace Mahoney, but he’s unsure of when they’ll reveal it in Season 3, and he knows the identity of the gunman could change at any point.
36) Nowalk says the best lesson he’s ever been taught by Shonda Rhimes is to “listen to myself above all else”.
37) In answer to what they would take away from the experience of filming the first season, King said, “the thing that I leave with most is these guys. Like, I intend to be in their lives forever. … I am not letting any of these people go. These are guys are the best thing about it.”
38) Enoch added: “it’s challenging, it’s demanding, and it wouldn’t have been the pleasure it has been if it weren’t for these guys.”