Credit: Peggy ­Sirota/ Trunk Archive

In case you haven’t noticed, Viola Davis likes to offer tickets to her own personal gun show on How to Get Away with Murder.

But wearing lots of sleeveless dresses while playing Annalise Keating is not the result of the actress’s own need for validation. Davis thinks her alter-ego likes to show off her muscular arms.

“Annalise would probably want to be a little physically intimidating in the courtroom,” Davis explains to EW.

That’s not the only character trait that Davis likes to display when playing a terrifying criminal law professor in ABC’s runaway hit. When prepping to play the role, Keating came up with quite the back story to make Annalise more relatable.

“I could not have her be a prototype of everyone else you’ve seen on TV, the strong, self-assured woman who comes in who knows what she wants, she means what she says and everyone wants to sleep with her. I don’t know how to play that,” Davis explains. “My whole reasoning for taking a role was getting to be a real woman at the end of the day. Chekhov says we are all people who are leading lives of quiet desperation, and I find Annalise to be one of those women. I don’t know anyone who is that kind of abusive and hardcore in the classroom who can be any way normal in her personal life.

“If I would be a fly on the wall, I would say, she comes from a household that was violent,” Davis continued. “She reinvented herself to forget her past. If she took a wig off and makeup off at night as a way to see that she puts on this mask that gives her the ability to hide, I’ll buy that. She’s a woman who isn’t a size 2, who doesn’t walk great in heels. If [the writers] could allow me to be who I am and then create a past for her, then I could see that woman.”

For more on Viola Davis and what to expect from the season finale of How to Get Away with Murder, pick up this week’s issue of EW, on stands Friday.