'How to Get Away With Murder' EP on Giving Annalise a Proper Ending in Season 6

Michael Maloney
Q&A ABC/Richard Cartwright

Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is getting ready to make her final summation. How To Get Away With Murder returns for a sixth and final season next month. Created by executive producer Peter Nowalk, the series has told the tale of Annalise and her law students and associates, many of whom have committed murder over the course of the show.

Last season’s cliffhanger dealt with Laurel and her baby both missing. Where are they? Will Annalise ever find happiness? And will characters have to pay for the murders they’ve committed?

TV Insider recently chatted with Nowalk for answers to these questions and more. Read on to get the scoop!

It’s hard to believe HTGAWM is entering its sixth – and sadly, final — season!

Pete Nowalk: Yes. We’re on our sixth season. I feel really proud. I did not think it would go this long. It’s one of those feelings where you just think, ‘Wow!’ I exceeded my own expectations and I think the rest of the crew has too. On one hand, it’s a relief to finish it and on the other it’s this weird ‘pinch me moment’ of getting to enjoy what we [still] do.

Why end the show now?

There were a lot of factors that come into a decision like this — the network, the actors — what we all agreed upon was not wanting to peter out and not end on a cliffhanger or without a proper sendoff. I have 15 episodes to end it. That’s the biggest creative gift. There’s no stalling, no treading water, just careering to this fateful, inevitable ending.

Amirah Vann and Viola Davis on How to Get Away With Murder (ABC/Richard Cartwright)

How will this season be the same as others and different from others?

It starts similarly. There will be some surprising in the middle that people don’t see coming. We’re not going to waste any story. I’m hoping the story moves even faster. We’ll get to things faster whereas in the past I might have waited a little bit longer to do that. Now, I’m doing them right away.

One reason Viola is so compelling to watch is that Annalise has had all this tragedy in her life. She seems so alone at times.  

I agree. So much tragedy.

'How To Get Away With Murder' Casts 'When They See Us' Marsha Stephanie Blake for Season 6

'How To Get Away With Murder' Casts 'When They See Us' Marsha Stephanie Blake for Season 6

Executive producer Pete Nowalk teases the Emmy-nominated actress will play 'a great mystery role.'

How do you bring a character like that to an ending?

I totally agree with you that she’s been alone and grief-stricken for a lot of her life. So much of the show has been about her grief. She lost her husband. We found out that she lost her baby. She lost the idea of herself, the fantasy of what her life should be about. It’s gone in another direction. Ending her story appropriately was probably the biggest reason why I needed to know ahead of time [that this would be our last season]. I want to give that character her due. I know Viola does, too. I want to come up with an ending that’s true to her character.

Will Season 6 start off with a time-jump?

We pick up kind of immediately. Laurel (Karla Souza) and her baby were gone at the end of last season. That’s one of the big mysteries.

Are they together?

We’ll see. And then, within that, we’ll jump forward in time in the first episode to the inevitable ending of the show. It’s big.

This show has certainly lived up to its title as we’ve see many characters “get away with murder.” Will we see characters pay for these crimes?

I think every crime [that’s been committed] will come up for grabs, be answered for, and will have to be paid for. Each character will have to decide what they’re willing to do and to see if they’re willing to sell other people out.

'How to Get Away With Murder' Season 6 Trailer: Who's Dead? (VIDEO)

'How to Get Away With Murder' Season 6 Trailer: Who's Dead? (VIDEO)

Plus, check out promotional photos from the final premiere, 'Say Goodbye.'

Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) became an instant fan favorite… was he always intended to be a mainstay?

I feel this way about Conrad, who plays Oliver, and Amirah [Vann], who plays Tegan. I’ve told them they could have been guest stars for an episode or a few episodes, but what they each brought to the roles were so energizing and charming they made me want to write for them. Oliver was just supposed to be in the pilot.

One of the coolest character names ever is "Gabriel Maddox" (Rome Flynn). The timeline didn’t ever seem to be a fit for this, but was he ever supposed to be Annalise’s son?

No. That was never the plan. We don’t know a lot about Annalise’s childhood. We know about her childhood and that she met Eve (Famke Janssen) in law school. We’re going to learn more about her life [this season].

Rom Flynn on How to Get Away With Murder (ABC/Richard Cartwright)

What has it meant to have had Viola in the role of Annalise?

I don’t think the show would exist without Viola. It wouldn’t be as deep and emotional without her. I don’t know what I would have written without her in the role. She’s definitely a muse.

What’s up next for you?

I’m executive producing a pilot for Freeform called Close Up. It’s a mystery and the show has a really big concept and a character with a lot of heart. We’re making that now, and I want to see what else I want to do next.

How To Get Away With Murder, Season 6 Premiere, Thursday, September 26, 10/9c, ABC