Shonda Rhimes isn’t getting away with murder, but she’s certainly scoring a television rarity.
An executive producer doesn’t “own” an entire network night often, but Rhimes’ ABC successes with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” have earned that for her. To those shows, she adds “How to Get Away With Murder” to round out the network’s Thursday fare starting Sept. 25.
Oscar nominee Viola Davis (“The Help”) stars as Philadelphia defense attorney and criminal law professor Annalise Keating, who picks impressive students to work at her firm. Excited as they may be initially, the novices — played by Alfred Enoch, Aja Naomi King, Jack Falahee and Karla Souza and Matt McGorry — come to question Keating’s win-at-any-cost approach.
Rhimes is relatively nonchalant about becoming ABC’s sole provider on Thursdays. “I think I’m feeling like I’m getting up and going to work every day, and we’re all doing our jobs,” she told reporters, “and I don’t think I’m thinking of it in terms of the night.
“I think it’s exciting and it’s a great vote of confidence from ABC, and that’s fantastic … but I think we have shows to make, and that’s always been my focus. I don’t really think about the programming and I don’t think about the ratings and I don’t worry about those things. We just worry about making great shows.”
Davis, however, openly embraces playing a dynamic leading character — as did Ellen Pompeo and Kerry Washington in respectively becoming Meredith Grey and Olivia Pope for Rhimes.
“I think I’m always confused when people say that people are morally questionable,” Davis reflects of Keating, “because I think we’re all morally questionable. I think that we so much act on nature and not on morals, so I found (Annalise) to be a realistic protagonist. I find her to be very human as we all are, that we all have gray areas. And that was the attraction for me.”
“How to Get Away With Murder” was created by Pete Nowalk, who has written and produced on other Rhimes series. “What feels really fresh and new about this show for me as a writer,” he reasons, “is that Annalise is someone that we see through these students’ eyes, so she’s always a mystery and she does things that sometimes we don’t really have perspective on.
“I think it’s very interesting to create a star vehicle for someone with Viola’s talent,” adds Nowalk, “where she is the center of mystery, basically, for all of our people to wonder about and our audience to wonder about. And I hope they wonder about what her real motivations are throughout the whole season.”