“Grey’s Anatomy” has them. “Scandal” has them. So it’s no big shock that the latest show to come out of Shondaland (the production company of TV mogul Shonda Rhimes), “How To Get Away With Murder” has them, too.
Of course, I’m talking about gay characters and in the ever-inclusive world of the new drama created by out producer Pete Nowalk (who cut his teeth under Rhimes’ guide on both “Grey’s” and “Scandal”), we have a law student who isn’t afraid to use his sexuality to get what he wants.
Connor Walsh, as played by Jack Falahee, is one of those guys that comes from money and wears his stature on his sleeve along with a great amount of confidence and more than a little bit of ego. The question is whether those attributes will help him or get in the way when he’s one of the chosen few working under Professor Annalise Keating as well as, no surprise given the show’s title, a murder takes place.
I sat down with the charming Falahee recently to get a peek at what makes Connor tick, just how out the character really is and what it’s been like working with acclaimed actress Viola Davis, who plays Keating.
Going into the pilot, how much do you need to know about Connor as far as backstory and family and everything else about him?
Jack Falahee: I think it’s something that we have to dive in without to an extent. Pete [Nowalk] was actually pretty unreal when he cast us. He allowed us to collaborate with him on the ideas of our characters and so I got to have some input I think to what [Connor’s] backstory is, where he came from, what his family was like. So, he gave us a little bit of input there, which really helped, but I think oftentimes, especially in TV, you’re just sort of thrown into the gauntlet and expected to make it happen, make it work.
One thing you notice immediately about Connor is he’s so comfortable in his own shoes. Is that who this guy is or is that more of a front for maybe what’s going on underneath?
JF: I think it’s something that we might examine a bit is how comfortable is Connor in actuality, how confident is he, who he really is. But I think that he is one of those people that has always been the top of his class, he comes from an affluent family, he’s very comfortable in his own skin and I think some of it may be a front. But I think at the end of the day he’s never had to struggle to be who he is.
And I would guess from the pilot he’s gay but it’s never said directly…
JF: Right. It’s not said in the pilot if he is gay, but Connor is gay.
It’s nice that we’re at a time where that doesn’t really have to even be explained. It’s not a story point.
JF: I agree.
But we’ll see that he does use his sexuality, which tells us something about him.
JF: Yeah, I have to say that in reading the pilot scripts, that was one of my favorite things about Connor and the other characters is that it’s not about what they are, it’s about who they are and all of these characters are people of appetites. Whether it is career or sexual appetites, professional appetites and I think that it’s really refreshing that we’ve entered an age of TV and film where it’s not something that we have to talk about, it just is because it is.
And having Shonda involved with the show, she’s had gay characters in all her shows. Will we find out early on if he’s out to his family? Or just how out he actually is in his life?
JF: I think that he’s completely out and he always has been. So, I don’t know that it’s a story point that we’ll examine at all, but I do know that we will see Connor sort of deal with a romantical relationship that may blindside him.
What do you think his type would be? Someone like him or completely opposite?
JF: You know, I don’t know. I think he would like someone like him, who’s very confident, comfortable in his skin, open and challenges him maybe.
Talk about the moral line for Connor. Does he have one?
JF: Yes. I think he absolutely does. I think most, if not all, of the characters do and I think a big part of the show will be examining the negotiation of morals and how that will affect everything that we get intertwined and entangled with.
Pilots get shot very fast but did you get a chance to bond with your cast mates before shooting it?
JF: Yeah. They did a really nice job of flying us all down to Philadelphia a week before we started principal photography so we were all able to sort of hang out in Philadelphia and get to know each other, which was refreshing.
How has it been working with Viola? She’s such a force to be reckoned with in the show!
JF: She’s amazing. She’s wonderful to work with. I trained in theater in New York, as did she, and I think we all are very fortuitous to have a theater actor doing television. I mean, you watch her in scenes and each time she does it, it’s like a small mini rehearsal up and to curtain, like a final performance and that’s the take they get. I was a bit intimated when I first met her, but she’s a sweetheart. I think she’s one of the funniest people on set, which makes it a more relaxing experience.
I’ve talked to a lot of actors playing gay roles on shows and how people often start speculating and they start wanting to know more about you. Have you experienced any of that yet?
JF: I don’t think that that’s come up. I think that if you’re on a show and you’re in the public eye they’re going to speculate regardless and sort of try and dissect everything about your personal life. So, I think that that’s something that going into all of the work I’ve done, I’ve been ready for and understand that that’s a reality of the business.
You said you did theater in New York. Tell me about some of the work you did there.
JF: Well, I trained in New York doing theater. I went to NYU. I worked with Sting on a musical that he’s developing right now for Broadway. The Last Ship. I played Young Gideon in it for some of the workshops. I love Sting. He’s a cool guy.
Where do you see yourself five or 10 years from now?
JF: Five or ten years from now potentially still on “How to Get Away with Murder,” hopefully. That would be great. But, honestly, I don’t know. It’s felt like such an uphill battle in a way that getting to this point for me has been such a blessing. I know that I want to potentially do some films on hiatus but really right now I’m sort of counting my stars.
“How To Get Away With Murder” premieres September 25th at 9pm on ABC.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
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