×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘HTGAWM’ Creator Pete Nowalk on Viola Davis Making Him Cry, Matt McGorry’s Dancing

Pete Nowalk had a whirlwind TV season last year as the creator of Shondaland’s mega-hit “How To Get Away With Murder.”

Just as the second season of the twisty Viola Davis legal thriller is about to begin, Nowalk — one of Variety‘s 2015 Showrunners Impact Report honorees — looks back at Season 1, offering up his favorite moments, including tears from Davis and dance moves from Matt McGorry (who plays law student Asher).

Here, showrunner Nowalk talks to Variety about his best memories from “How To Get Away With Murder’s” big breakout season:

Best note: “When I originally pitched the show to ABC Studios, they encouraged me to go darker with Annalise (Viola Davis) to make her more of an anti-hero, which surprised me. With network TV, you’re always afraid to get the likable note, but they gave me the exact opposite. I could be more unhinged with the darker side of Annalise, which is the most fun part of the show for me to write.”

Worst note: Nothing that scarred me. I’m so spoiled because Shonda (Rhimes) and Betsy (Beers, pictured) guard me from the bad notes. I think they protect me!

Favorite writers’ room moment: We have real lawyers come and talk to us — defense attorneys and prosecutors — and this one prosecutor told us how to reenact the best way to get away with murder. He made me stand up and he reenacted pushing me off of a cliff. Creepy because you don’t really want to find out the best way to get away with murder and you definitely don’t want it to be reenacted on you, but it actually gave us this idea to do a reenactment of a murder with Steven Weber in episode two of Season 1. So that was fun just because it was so much like the show, and it was so creepy.

Proudest moment during Season 1: I was happy we won the GLAAD award because there are so many good shows on right now that have so many great gay characters, which is so new, but I was proud because Connor (Jack Falahee) is a bad person sometimes. He does bad things. So I was just happy it showed that we didn’t have to write a gay character to be perfect and be a role model. He actually does things opposite of a role model — like murder, having a lot of anonymous sex and cheating on his boyfriend. That just felt very liberating and progressive to me and surprising. I never expected we’d win those awards because they’re bad people. But as a writer, it was very liberating.

Scene that made you laugh: Matt McGorry dancing is the thing that cracked me up the most. He’s just like humping and the couch and he just improvised all that stuff and went to town. It was way better than I could have ever expected. It’s necessary. People need that comic relief.

Scene that made you cry: That’s the scene between Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis where Cicely Tyson is revealing that she actually burned down the house and killed the uncle that had sexually abused Annalise. Viola doesn’t say a word in that, but so much of it played on her face, but the first time I saw that, I sobbed.

“How To Get Away With Murder” Season 2 premieres Thursday, Sept. 24 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

More TV

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • Syfy Cancels 'Nightflyers' After One Season

    Syfy Cancels 'Nightflyers' After One Season

    The George R.R. Martin drama “Nightflyers” has been canceled by Syfy after only one season. Based on the novella from the mastermind behind “Game of Thrones,” the show was seen as a big gamble for the NBCUniversal-owned cable network, as it represented the most expensive series it had ever developed. The network attempted to spark [...]

  • Batwoman Arrow

    The CW's 'Batwoman' Pilot Switches Directors, Adds Dougray Scott

    The CW has added veteran Scottish actor Dougray Scott to its “Batwoman” pilot as well as swapped in Marcos Siega for previous director David Nutter, Variety has learned. The pilot, which stars Ruby Rose as the eponymous caped heroine, is being helmed by DC TV head Greg Berlanti, and was penned by “Vampire Diaries” alum [...]

  • OG Review

    Review: 'O.G.' on HBO

    Jeffrey Wright, the most compelling reason to watch HBO’s new film “O.G.,” is among television’s best actors at switching between codes or manners of being. On “Westworld,” his timeline-toggling android swaps personae so delicately that his performance gains in resonance when recalled in retrospect. (Perhaps that’s why Wright has been so oddly underrated through the [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan Writers Room

    Nahnatchka Khan Exits 20th Century Fox TV for Overall Deal at Universal

    Nahnatchka Khan has signed a four-year overall deal at Universal Television. The deal brings an end to the decade-plus Khan and her Fierce Baby Productions banner spent at 20th Century Fox Television. The move will see Khan exit from her role as showrunner on ABC comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” which she also created. The [...]

  • David Ajala

    'Nightflyers' Star David Ajala Joins CBS Drama Pilot 'Under the Bridge'

    David Ajala has been cast in a lead role in the CBS drama pilot “Under the Bridge,” Variety has learned. In the project, when a scandal rocks the medical practice she runs with her husband and their friends, a surgeon rises to the occasion and takes the lead in trying to mend both the practice and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content