How to Get Away with Murder is one of the popular shows under the Shondaland umbrella. Going on four seasons now, the show was created by Peter Nowalk, with Shonda Rhimes producing. It follows the life of lawyer Annalise Keating and her wayward students. From season to season they deal with the every day complications of life – as well as murder, and just about everything in between. There’s no shortage of drama on the show, and fans are riveted as the connected plots unfold over the course of the characters’ lives.
As with any Shondaland show, fans can expect relationship drama. The Peter Nowalk created series also deals with the struggles that Annalise faces as a Black woman. Issues with her parents, relationships, friendships, and juggling it all while trying to take care of students who are barely able to handle what the world will throw at them.
For all of the drama onscreen, there are some moments offscreen that shine a light onto the struggles that the creators and people behind the characters face in their day-to-day lives. From dealing with unwelcome remarks, to relationships and contemplations of the future and life. Dealing with negativity can just be a part of life, but these 15 instances show that sometimes it’s just darkest before the dawn.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind How To Get Away With Murder. Some spoilers ahead!
While it’s well-established now that Laurel is Latina, that wasn’t always the case. There was some discussion on how to best introduce the character. In an interview with ETOnline, Karla Souza stated, "I think that’s exactly what Pete and I were going for with people not even knowing. When I was cast, Laurel wasn’t supposed to be Latin at all. Then when Pete and Shonda [Rhimes] had that conversation about making her Latin, it was very important to have that be something that ‘could or couldn’t be,’ that wouldn’t ‘make or break’ the character, that it wasn’t the label of the character. She just happened to be Latin, and we could find it out later on.” It was later revealed that the character is Latina and additionally has problems with her father, which have now become central to the plot of the show.
Trying to write about the stereotypes that marginalized people have faced is not a good idea if you haven’t done enough research and don’t fully understand the historical context. When New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley called Shonda Rhimes an "angry Black woman" who has embraced and broken that stereotype, Rhimes and other members of the How to Get Away with Murder team called her out on Twitter. The fact that the writer didn’t realize that HTGAWM was created by Peter Nowalk, and not Shonda Rhimes, did not help matters. Rhimes wanted to know why she wasn’t labeled as an “angry Black woman” whenever the White female leads on Grey’s Anatomy went on a rant. The writer later tried to clarify her stance, but her lack of understanding of the context did not make things better.
Love scenes between actors can sometimes seem hot and heavy, but the fact of the matter is there are usually so many people on set, and so much equipment, that it can be an awkward experience, no matter how flawless it might seem. Sometimes it can take multiple takes over multiple days to get one scene right, and this requires a lot of invested time for all parties involved. As fun as it may be, it can also be exhausting. Brown joked in an interview with HuffPost that, “They’re micromanaging every move. All you want to do is make out with your co-star and they’re getting in the way of it.” Fortunately, there’s no evidence of the micromanaging onscreen in the relationship between Annalise and Nate.
A broadcast company in Italy, concerned about the backlash it might face if it aired love scenes between the characters played by Jack Falahee and Conrad Ricamora (Connor and Oliver), decided to edit out those scenes for broadcast. Little did they realize they’d face a backlash of a different kind. After How to Get Away with Murder co-star Falahee was alerted to the edits and posted on Twitter about it, other How to Get Away with Murder actors and crew rushed to condemn the exclusion. Shonda and others, including Italian activists, stated that there was no place for discrimination, and they demanded that the scene be put back. The company complied and issued an apology, stating that they were concerned with potential backlash but realized that the world has changed considerably and there was no real cause for concern on their part.
Many actors have spoken about awkward auditions they’ve had. There are numerous stories of women being asked to show more cleavage, Black actors being asked to act “more Black” and so on. Jimmy Smits briefly talked about his own experience with that in a piece for The New York Times, stating that he was once asked to sound more Latino (in an unrelated audition), which was code for him to sound more “street,” instead of telling him to sound more “street.” In recent years, casual stereotyping remarks like that have been called out more and more, as people are realizing that these things have been happening for quite some time and limiting descriptions contribute to an overall environment where people are sometimes unfairly labeled. By bringing these things to the forefront, it can help challenge the limiting concepts and widen the playing field.
Viola Davis is no stranger to the hardships of the world. She grew up in extreme poverty and didn’t always know when she would eat. She gave a speech about having to jump into dumpsters just to find something to sustain herself. She had to find a way to get by in a world that tried to put her down at every turn, whether because she was poor, is Black, is a woman, is a Black woman, or any other reason. In an interview, she stated, "I have jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame."
Imagine getting a call for your ultimate dream job and then having the technology you need to complete the interview process malfunction on you the day of the interview. That’s exactly what happened to Aja Naomi King when she auditioned for the part of Michaela in How to Get Away with Murder. She didn’t have a proper connection for her Skype audition and it kept freezing up during the interview. Despite that, she was given the role almost immediately. As Michaela, she brings the character to life by combining a somewhat naive world view with a fierce determination and loyalty to her friends. Though she struggles with what to do at times when the situations get complicated, Michaela typically tries to do what is right for herself and her friends.
The death of Wes Gibbins was probably one of the most controversial moments of the show thus far. Wes has been a key factor in the show from the beginning and continues to be now. After it was revealed that Annalise had been watching over him from a distance since he was a child, protecting him because she felt responsible for his mother’s death, it seemed that his role in the series was cemented. However, it now appears that that wasn’t the case. Still, there are some fans who believe he’s alive and his death was an elaborate ploy. The storyline around who killed Wes is still unfolding, with Frank, Laurel and her father Jorge being central to the outcome.
Matt McGorry is a vocal supporter of women’s rights and decided to take his support a step further. At a fundraising event with his dad, they both got tattoos of a uterus on their upper arms. When one thinks of tattoos, a uterus isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, even for a temporary tattoo. But it was for a good cause. On his Instagram, he stated, "My dad and I are #MenForChoice." On being an advocate for women's rights, he wrote in a piece for Cosmopolitan that, "My parents never framed what they were teaching me as 'feminism.' They pushed me to ask the question 'How do I become a better and more evolved person?' — and the pursuit of an answer to that question inevitably led me to my current path..."
Liza and Charlie make a cute couple onscreen and off. While Frank’s main love interest is Laurel, Bonnie and Frank have had a long-standing and complicated friendship, and, at times, a more intimate relationship. They’ve both raised and been through hell, like all of the characters on the show. Theirs is not exactly a healthy onscreen relationship, to say the least, but offscreen they’re very happy together in a real relationship. In an interview with PEOPLE, Weber stated, “We were great friends and we found ourselves in a position to be more than that. You spend a lot of time [together] and we, I very much enjoyed spending time [together] away from work and so it all just kind of came together like that … I’m very happy.”
Alfred Enoch, previously known for his role in Harry Potter, has made a name for himself playing Wes Gibbins. His mother is Brazilian and his father is British. As an actor, he’s faced some challenges, and not too long ago he wrote an letter to his younger self about some of the things he would face. Tackling race and identity, part of the letter states: "You’re going to get a job in America. It will change your career. It will change you. More specifically, it will change the way you see yourself. For what I think will be the first time in your life, you will not just be aware, but conscious of your ethnicity. You will become conscious of how that affects the way you are perceived, the way you are treated, and of a wider narrative of which you are a part."
Given that HTGAWM is under the umbrella of Shondaland and the heroine is an intelligent, complex Black woman, it’s easy for most people to assume that Shonda created the show. But she didn’t. Peter Nowalk worked as a writer for Shonda Rhimes before creating the show that she also produces. In an interview with Buzzfeed, he talked about the difficulties of being a showrunner and creating believable characters. He stated, "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. You go through a whole season drowning and I'm just now coming up for air. I feel like I have to send out a million ‘thank you for putting up with me’ notes."
Amy Okuda had a role on How to Get Away With Murder as Catherine on season two of the series, and during that time she developed something of a crush on her co-star Matt McGorry. She told VH1 and Entertainment Weekly that she had a "weird crush," stating, "I have a weird girl crush on Matt McGorry. He’s really nice and he obviously has a really good sense of humor too, like you would see in Asher. He’s so darling." Since her role ended on the show, she's gone on to play roles in several other projects, including The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She stated in an interview that she was eating when she got the call that she got the role.
Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, have started their own production company, and one of their most recent projects is Two Sides, a docu-series of multiple-viewpoint conversations about the police shootings and other deaths in police custody over the last few years. According to the site, the aim is to facilitate the conversation between differing viewpoints in regards to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers in the United States. It’s a controversial topic, one that has spawned protests and movements around the world. Davis hopes that this series will shed more light on the issue as well as bring understanding to those of opposing viewpoints, helping to potentially heal the root cause of the problem. At this time, the show will continue to air through mid-February.
The amazing Cicely Tyson has been in the entertainment industry for well over 50 years. At 93 years of age, she has countless stories of working in the business. But it all started with having to move out of her mother’s house. In an interview conducted by Viola Davis, she explained that her mother said if she wanted to pursue acting, she would have to move out because she wouldn’t be allowed to do that while living there. So that’s what she did. It wasn’t easy, and as a young Black woman in the 50s it certainly wasn’t easy. But she did eventually achieve success, and after that she called her mother. The two reconciled, with her mother stating that she was proud of her.
Which one surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!