Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

How To Get Away With Murder... and follow up a hit first season

Dominic Corry talks to the star and creator of How To Get Away With Murder about the second series.
Viola Davis says the challenge for her is to keep taking risks and not bow to expectations. Photo / Supplied
Viola Davis says the challenge for her is to keep taking risks and not bow to expectations. Photo / Supplied

Few shows are as quick to make an impact on the popular culture as legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder did in its first season.

The show came screaming out of the gate and garnered attention for its crazy reversals, twisty serialised whodunnit storyline and numerous zeitgeist-capturing moments.

Now, with the second season under way, the question is begged: How do you possibly follow up that kind of initial success?

"I think the challenge for me is to not allow my character to be completely dictated by the audience," says lead Viola Davis.

"To the point where I stop taking risks, that I forget why I walked into it to begin with.

"To be bold, to be messy, to always challenge myself, that I don't, like, get kind of swayed by being likeable and cute, and being like everyone else. That's the challenge."

The murder that drove most of season was resolved by the end of season two, but that resolution threw up a bunch of new questions, including another whodunnit.

As creator Pete Nowalk explains, it won't simply be a case of "new year, new murder".

"I think the premise of the show for me is that things get more and more complicated," says Nowalk.

"And it's definitely a character-driven show. So, more than the murders, I think we are delving into the backstories of the characters, how their actions with each other get more complicated and dirtier and grimier. So I think it's like any other show. It can go for as long as we want it to."

In a historically significant win, Davis last year took home the Emmy for Best Dramatic Actress for her portrayal of legal eagle Annalise Keating, which Nowalk says only increases the pressure on him.

"I think, yeah, the challenge is definitely being able to stay up to Viola's game, for me. And that's the thing that keeps me up at night, but in the most creatively invigorating way."

The award reflects the truth in both Davis' performance, and the character as it is written.

"I feel like this is the first time that I'm fully a woman," says Davis. "Pete has dared to write something that pushes the boundaries, that's bold, that's dramatic, that's sexualised, that's messy.

"And I always feel like I'm all of those things, or I know women who are all of those things, I just have always had a hard time convincing people."

One of the most memorable and talked-about moments of season one was when Annalise took off her wig, which is something we don't usually get to see female African American characters do on primetime television.

The scene was Davis' idea, and the actress admits to being please with how much of chord it struck.

"It felt good. Sometimes you have ideas that, kind of, just, are not so good, you know. But I wanted to be private and public. It's what we do.

"What I do as an actor is to give you a glimpse of what this person's life is like when the doors are closed. And I say this all the time. It was my way of womaning up. And I knew it would make an impact, too, you know. Lord knows, when I actually took the wig off, I thought to myself, 'Why did I have this idea?'"

TV preview

What: How To Get Away With Murder

When: TV2, 9.30pm tonight.

- NZ Herald

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