‘How to Get Away With Murder’: What Viola Davis Learned From Portraying Annalise Keating

In 2014, Oscar and Tony-Award winning actress Viola Davis landed the redefining role of the vulnerable yet brilliant lawyer Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder. Although many fans wanted the Shondra Rhimes-produced series to continue much longer, it ended after six seasons. In a Good Morning America interview, Viola Davis shared what she learned from portraying Annalise.

Viola Davis Annalise Keating
Annalise Keating | Brian Bowen Smith

Viola Davis portrayed Annalise Keating in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

Born to Ophelia Harkness in Memphis, Tennessee, Anna Mae, who later changed her name to Annalise, attended Harvard Law, where she began dating Eve Rothlo (Famke Janssen).

However, Annalise broke up with Eve for her married therapist, Sam Keating (Tom Verica). He left his wife for the brilliant law student, and the two ended up marrying.

Annalise then passed the bar and began working as a ruthless yet successful defense attorney. After harshly cross-examining Bonnie Winterbottom (Liza Weil), a woman accusing Annalise’s client of rape and fathering her lost child, Annalise decided to quit the firm and helped Bonnie get her own degree.

RELATED: ‘How to Get Away With Murder’: Is Annalise Keating the Mastermind or a Martyr?

The lawyer met Frank Delfino (Charlie Weber) shortly after when her husband asked Annalise to help get him out of jail. She succeeded, and Frank and Bonnie began working for her.

After finally getting pregnant, Wallace Mahoney, a former client, arranged Annalise’s death in a pre-planned car accident for retaliation. While she fortunately survived, her unborn child and marriage did not. Sam began cheating on her with multiple women, and Annalise found comfort in the arms of police officer Nate Lahey (Billy Brown).

Annalise Keating’s ending in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

In 2014, Annalise inducted law students Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee), Asher Millstone (Matt McGorry), Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King), Wes Gibbons (Alfred Enoch), and Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza) into the coveted Keating 5 to work at her firm.

On the night of the bonfire, all five, except for Asher, went to the Keating mansion looking for Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay), who they believed snuck into the home to find proof that Sam killed his pregnant mistress, Lila Stangard (Megan West).

Wes then murdered the drunk therapist in self-defense by hitting him in the back of the head with a trophy when Sam began strangling Rebecca. After finding out what happened to her husband, Annalise chose Wes, who she had a personal relationship with, and helped him and the others clean it up.

Throughout the four remaining seasons, the Keating 5, minus Wes who later dies, stayed close together much in part to the numerous murders they committed or were attached to.

RELATED: ‘How to Get Away With Murder’: Did Annalise Keating End up With Tegan or Eve? Fans Are Divided

Although Annalise never murdered or ordered the killing of anyone, the FBI launched a massive investigation into her, which resulted in several counts of murder conspiracies for all the deaths including and following Sam’s.

However, the self-representing attorney was found not guilty of any of the charges, even though Connor and Michaela provided false testimony against her in exchange for their freedom.

In flash-forwards, viewers see that Annalie continued living her life, despite the tragic deaths of Bonnie and Frank, and ended up with either Eve or Tegan Price (Amirah Vann).

The professor eventually died of old age after mentoring Laurel’s son, Christopher, who began teaching the same class she taught at Middleton Law. 

What Annalise Keating taught Viola Davis

In an interview with Good Morning America, which they recorded while the How to Get Away With Murder cast filmed their series finale, the award-winning actress who portrays Annalise, Viola Davis, explained what she learned from the “bold yet vulnerable character.”

According to Davis, “Annalise taught me I define me.” She continued and revealed Anna Mae Harkins “opened me up to see myself differently.” Davis then quickly clarified, “not even differently. But really see me.”

RELATED: What’s Next for Viola Davis Now That ‘HTGAWM’ Is Over?

She also opened up about the bold moment when she took her wig off, saying it gave her a “revelation that we wear the mask.” Therefore, the actress thought it was “great” for other women to see it being taken off on national television as “there’s no such thing as perfection.”

The actress continued and explained the moment was powerful because it made female viewers “feel less alone,” which is what her character has also done.