Last March, my friend Jason referred me to a TV show named How To Get Away With Murder. The primary reason I started the TV show was because it’s set in my hometown of Philadelphia. Middleton University is fictional, but the school resembles the University of Pennsylvania. It was one those Saturday afternoons in March, still too cold to appreciate the spring, so I gave How To Get Away With Murder a chance, which turned out to be a great choice.
The show took a page out of Quentin Tarantino’s book, displaying actions occurring at multiple moments in time, like in movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but better. This show had the scenes of what was to come versus what is in the present, and eventually those times cross paths to make a wonderful story.
The second and most important thing I noticed besides the anxiety I’d have after each rapid-fire episode was the diverse cast. There are nearly a dozen mainstay characters who all come from countless backgrounds. I applaud Peter Nowalk’s ability to create a TV show that has what television lacks: diversity.
Just look at the Keating Five, Annaliese’s students. We start with Wes Gibbins, an African American law student coming from community college who was orphaned after his mother was killed at age 12. He grew up in the foster care system after the death of his mother and absence of a father. Then we have Michaela Pratt, also a young African American law student, she has a very unknown background, but we know she networked herself into a higher society. Connor Walsh’s character brings to the Keating Five what they lack, proper leadership. With his charisma and confidence as an openly gay man. And Asher [lastname] has has the dream of following his father’s footsteps in law, he came from wealth which isn’t the case for many in this show. Laurel is the only Latina character, she comes from a wealthy Latino, Spanish speaking family.
Lastly, there’s the professor behind the students. Viola Davis’s Annalise Keating has had to overcome countless tragedies and challenges. I’m stunned she can handle the courthouse. Annalise Keating leads a life that few could. She’s an outcast in society as a southern born-African American lawyer, bisexual and alleged killer. She’s been a target her whole life but it has yet to faze her. She also lost a son in a car accident that was meant to hurt her. At least on TV, nobody is as mentally tough as Annalise Keating.
This show also takes a unique lens on Philadelphia. There’s a local character, Frank Delfino. He’s not your average paralegal, insteading of organizing files, he’s erasing them, or something else that’s very illegal. He’s a Philadelphian from a stereotypical background, Italian working class family and he would just try to get by. Frank is the kind of man who wasn’t meant for law. At least defending it.
How To Get Away With Murder does one thing many Hollywood productions fail to do. Represent all the kinds of backgrounds that can be found in a city, especially Philadelphia. There are people who come from all different paths, of all different cultures and ended up together. In a world where 71.7% of major actors are white, and 66.5% of actors are men , it’s refreshing that How To Get Away With Murder recognizes Philadelphia is 43.2% African American and a city that continues to grow in diversity.