Viola Davis Reveals ‘The Biggest Myth’ ‘HTGAWM’ Addresses

Viola Davis has starred in some of the biggest blockbuster movies of our time; from The Help, Doubt, and Eat Pray Love to the more recent Widows and Fences, the actress is a three-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner. She took the Oscar for her supporting role as Rose Maxson alongside actor-director Denzel Washington in Fences; the film also earned her the Golden Globe. However, despite Davis’ vast cinematic achievements, she is largely known for portraying Annalise Keating in the TV phenomenon, How to Get Away with Murder. She won the Emmy for her portrayal of Keating in 2015.

Viola Davis How to Get Away With Murder
Viola Davis of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

There’s sex. There’s scandal. There’s endless internal turmoil. Complex interrelationships burst from every corner and, of course, lies, deceit, murder, and more murder define the show. 

How to Get Away with Murder, like the best of Shonda Rhimes’ content, presents a suspenseful narrative infused with morally ambiguous characters and juicy, long-gestating arcs. And Davis, well, she gets the best arc of them all. Davis’ Keating is not good or bad; she does not always do what’s right; she does what she deems best on the spot.

Davis’ character is protective and motherly, but she will not hesitate to lock up an innocent if the situation demands such. Yet, she’s growing. She’s transforming; she’s learning to accept her power without sacrificing her morality, without relinquishing pieces of her dignity. But it is a long road out of perdition. 

During a recent interview with InStyle, Viola Davis discussed How to Get Away with Murder, and specifically addressed her character, Annalise Keating. She revealed an aspect of the character, and the show itself, that shines a light on one of the false notions surrounding personal growth.

Viola Davis on ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and rising from the ashes

How to Get Away with Murder confronts personal growth quite frequently — in Annalise Keating, and its various other pivotal players. Yet, Viola Davis sat down with InStyle to reveal one of the biggest myths surrounding what it means to rise from the ashes. She stated:

People have an idea of what it looks like to rise from the ashes…The biggest myth that keeps us in the ashes is thinking that after you do the work, you wake up one day and you have your happy ending. People are blinded by what they see in movies and television…That’s not realistic growth. Growth, sometimes, is just going from A to B with the realization that it’s enough to get you from one leap pad to the next.


How to Get Away with Murder, unlike many other shows and movies focusing on personal growth, does not glamorize the journey. Annalise often takes a step forward to take a step back. Annalise often accomplishes something huge, only to minimize her own success via negative, cyclical behaviors. It’s enough to “leap pad to the next” stop along the way; you do not have to reach for the sky and immediately see your happy ending. Rather, you have to know you’re taking steps to get there. And this, is a fact of life we all understand.