The project, produced via Rhimes’ Shondaland production company, with her partner Betsy Beers, is described as a sexy, suspense legal thriller that follows a brilliant criminal defense attorney (played by Davis) and her ambitious law school students who become entangled in a murder mystery that could have major ramifications on their entire university as well as change the course of their lives.
Davis will play the lead character named Annalise DeWitt, the brilliant law professor and accomplished criminal defense attorney, who is further described as an excellent manipulator of people, particularly the law students who work at her law firm. And even juicier, she’s married to a psychology professor, while also having an affair, and calls her law class “How to Get Away With Murder.”
Rounding out the cast are Aja Naomi King, Matt McGorry, Alfred Enoch, Karla Souza, Jack Falahee and Charlie Weber.
Peter Nowalk (Grey’s Anatomy) is scripting and executive producing the ABC drama, alongside Shondaland’s Rhimes and Beers.
Michael Offer will direct the pilot, which is set to shoot in Philadelphia.
If the pilot gets picked up to series, it’ll mark Viola Davis’ first full-time TV series role. In terms of other upcoming TV work, she also has the HBO development deal for a series about a headmaster of ambiguous moral character at a San Francisco private school, with Pariah writer/director Dee Rees in the writer/director’s chair.
On the big screen, she co-stars in the James Brown biopic Get on Up coming out later this year, and is currently shooting the crime drama Lila & Eve with Jennifer Lopez.
How To Get Away With Murder is one of a handful of projects that Rhimes currently has set up at ABC, thanks to previous hit series she created, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, most recently.
I must say that this is the kind of work that I’ve wanted to see Viola Davis in, and I hope it delivers. I also hope it’s nothing like Scandal, which is child’s play to me. And I do wish it was on a cable TV network like HBO, Showtime, AMC, or FX, where more risks can be taken with the story and structure.