Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Viola Davis isn’t here to follow Hollywood stereotypes. The star of ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder tells EW’s Henry Goldblatt that her work means devoting herself to the part — and not to making sure she appeals as “a leading lady.”

“Listen, I just really want to use a huge part of myself in this role,” she says. “I’m not trying to change myself or alter myself so much to kind of fit into some kind of idea of what a leading lady should look like. I mean, listen, we’re all leading ladies in life.”

As Annalise Keating, the damaged, revered law professor with one too many skeletons in her closet, Davis has to play “a mess,” but the actress says that embodying someone dark and difficult is a welcome challenge. “It has been just the joy of my life. I absolutely love, as a woman, to play a character where no limitations are placed on her,” Davis explains. “And I cannot tell you what it feels like to be an actress, especially an actress of color, where people just automatically limit you, from the moment you get introduced in the narrative. You have to be warm, you have to be likable, you have to be cute, you have to be all of these things before they put pen to paper.”

WANT MORE EW? Subscribe now to keep up with the latest in movies, television, and music.

“They don’t do that to men,” she adds with a laugh. “Can you imagine if they did that with James Gandolfini in The Sopranos?”

For more of Davis’ thoughts on Annalise and How to Get Away With Murder, watch the interview above.

Episode Recaps

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.

  • TV Show
  • 6
  • TV-14
  • Peter Nowalk
  • ABC
stream service