In the last episode of “How to Get Away With Murder,” titled “Ask Him About Stella,” Michaela (Aja Naomi King) went to Annalise (Viola Davis) with a plan to get their judicial reform class action case to the United States Supreme Court. Her idea was to bring in Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who had just resigned as Chief of Staff but still had the White House connections and the fixer know-how to aid Annalise.
“Olivia Pope is a very public figure in [this] universe and famous, so it made sense to us to have Michaela be the one to suggest the idea [because] I think this is a person Michaela would really admire,” “How to Get Away With Murder” executive producer Pete Nowalk tells Variety.
Annalise took Michaela’s suggestion to heart and dropped in on a class Olivia was guest lecturing. Now, in the March 1 crossover episodes of “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” the powerhouses will team up, fighting for additional support and to be heard in the nation’s highest court.
“It will play as a seamless two hours. Each show, obviously, has its own identity, but story-wise, Olivia and Annalise will be working together on the class action throughout the entire two hours,” Nowalk says.
Nowalk adds that as the women work together and “kick a–” together, there is a sense of “wish fulfillment” of seeing the two of them side-by-side.
“Shonda [Rhimes] and I decided to do this because Olivia and Annalise’s stories really met in a very organic way in terms of that they both have fallen from grace and really need to redeem themselves,” Nowalk says. “It’s interesting to have to rely on a stranger to redeem yourself. They don’t know each other, they may not like each other, they have very different styles, so how do they develop enough trust to take on this huge project?”
The rest of Annalise’s team, though, is a bit “starstruck” at having Olivia in their presence. Additionally, there is an element of getting to work on an initiative that the President is also pushing that is exciting for many of the characters, per Nowalk.
One thing that the crossover won’t be addressing, though, is the fact that Liza Weil has played two different characters on “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.”
“We keep Bonnie separate,” Nowalk says of his hour. “We just ignored it. But what’s interesting about Liza is she’s such a chameleon — she looks very different and she’s such a good actress that she can just transform. So I don’t think it will bother anyone.”
Nowalk, who used to work on “Scandal,” says that in order to achieve the seamless feel on-screen, both writers’ rooms had to work together to craft these special episodes.
“We all work in the same building, so it was just really fun,” Nowalk says of the process. “We would all work on the episodes together and read each others’ scripts and give notes in terms of, ‘That’s not what Olivia sounds like’ or ‘I don’t think Annalise would say this here but she would say this.'”
Nowalk admits he thought the process would be complicated but credits “Scandal” executive producer Mark Fish and writer Raamla Mohamed for making it easy.
“I think they really nailed Annalise and Michaela really well,” Nowalk says of the first hour of their crossover event. “I feel like we’re the juniors and we got to work with the seniors.”
“Scandal” airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC and “How to Get Away With Murder” airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.