ABC has gone with a Thurshonday lineup for fall 2014, adding Shonda Rhimes’ new drama “How to Get Away With Murder” to the Thursday night lineup of Rhimes’ other shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”
#HTGAWM takes much the same kind of drama of “Grey’s” and “Scandal” and sets it against the backdrop of a group of first-year law students and their brilliant and ruthless Criminal Law professor, played by Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis. Creator Pete Nowalk tells the 2014 summer TCA press tour that he likes the high-stakes setting as the jumping-off point.
“Putting normal people in extreme circumstances became a theme I found very appealing,” says Nowalk. “What’s more extreme than being a first-year law student who is kind of naive and innocent and being thrust into a murder? … It just seemed like a cool way to jump into a TV show.”
The show also is aiming to make law school fun, since it may not be as exciting of material as some of Rhimes’ other shows.
“I think taking on any project is great when you get to learn and throw yourself into a world you don’t know,” says Nowalk. “I couldn’t go to law school. I think I would be terribly bored and challenged in a way I didn’t like. So for me, it was fun to think of a way to make law school fun, that was an appeal to me.”
Nowalk also assures the audience that not only do the creators know where the show is going, but Season 1 might zig when the viewers think it will zag.
“I don’t think the show is going to go in the first season where you expect it to go,” says Nowalk. “We’ve always had a plan to launch it into Season 2 in a really cool storyline. When we talked to ABC about doing the show, I wouldn’t want to do it if I didn’t think it could go many seasons. We have a plan.”
A major component of the plan is Criminal Law Professor Annalise Keating, who Davis says she finds to be realistic in her shades of gray.
“I found her to be a realistic protagonist. I find her to be very human, as we all are. We all have gray areas. That was the attraction for me,” says Davis. “The attraction was [also] the material. I think that the day of choosing TV over film and TV is somehow diminishing your career as an actor or actress has changed. I think people migrate towards the material.”
“I have to say and I will be bold enough to say that I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show. It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party only to hold up the wall,” Davis continues. “I wanted to be the show. I wanted to have a character that took me out of my comfort zone and that character happened to be in the Shonda Rhimes’ show ‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ so I did the smart thing that any actress would do and I took it. I dove at it.
But don’t think after the premiere episode that you have Davis’ character all figured out, because Nowalk teases, “The theme of the show is no one’s who they seem to be.”
“How to Get Away With Murder” premieres Thursday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.