HTGAWM's Katie Findlay Talks Lila Flashbacks, Wes' Dark Side and That 'Disturbing' Sex/Autopsy Scene

In Katie Findlay’s mind, submitting to an interview about ABC’s freshman smash How to Get Away With Murder is almost as stressful as watching the show itself.

“I’ve got the Shondaland FBI undercover flower van in the back of my head all the time — watching me and making sure that I don’t ruin plot lines,” the actress says with a chuckle, while trying not to give away too much intel about tonight’s pre-winter finale installment (10/9c on ABC).

Findlay plays the enigmatic drug dealer being defended by Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating for the murder of coed Lila Stangard. You’d think that would put her in the know, but the actress explains that, like viewers, she only learns how her character factors into the twisty drama’s two central homicides when she receives her scripts each week.

While not being privy to Rebecca’s ultimate end game can be challenging, Findlay says it also frees her to be more present in every scene she shoots. “In real life, you don’t always know what’s going to happen, and you’re not constantly prepared,” she explains. “So, I decided that Rebecca moves through the world solely for herself — not selfishly or maliciously or out of cruelty — but just because that is the way that she learned to survive.”

Does that mean the character is capable of strangling a pretty young student and dumping her body in a water tank? Or bashing the dead student’s married lover (aka Annalise’s hubby) over the head with a bronze statue? “When I think about whether or not she could’ve done these things, I think about a person who was taught that the world is out to get her,” reasons Findlay. “I think about what you could be capable of if you’re a highly emotional person who also is used to being victimized and hurt and shut out. There’s a really wide range of possibility in terms of that.”

LIZA WEIL, CHARLIE WEBER, AJA NAOMI KING, KATIE FINDLAY, ALFRED ENOCHTVLine caught up with Findlay to dish Rebecca’s twisted romance with law student Wes, her unlikely friendship with Lila, her recent showdown with disgraced cop Nate and a possible, unexpected connection with Annalise’s right-hand woman Bonnie.

TVLINE | ABC’s promos have already warned us that this week’s episode will offer a version of events “straight from the dead, pregnant, sorority girl’s mouth.” And we know Lila was friends with Rebecca. How much interaction can we expect to see between the two?
You will definitely see some — not a small amount for sure. And as the person playing Rebecca, I was very surprised by what the dynamic revealed itself to be. I did not expect it to feel or play out quite the way that it did.

TVLINE | When Lila’s mother took the stand in last week’s episode and raged against Rebecca and Griffin, believing they’d murdered her little girl, your character seemed genuinely upset. Did this drug-dealing bartender with the checkered past really care about this privileged college student?
Rebecca’s a really emotional person. I find it interesting watching the audience’s response to her because, you know, I read the interwebs from time to time, and I see what people say — “She’s such a bitch. She’s so bad for Wes. She’s lying all the time!” — and sometimes I wonder what it would take to show people emotion from Rebecca that they’d believe. I’m a very emotional person, and I bring that into her, and I think Rebecca genuinely feels whatever is happening at the moment 100 percent. So I believe that her reaction to Lila’s mother was incredibly genuine.

Now, whether or not Rebecca can run a couple different sets of feelings at once has yet to be seen, because some people can do that and honestly believe them both. But in this episode, we see flashbacks of Rebecca, so you do see a side of her that was more of the normal person that she was before the pilot, before she was already in the middle of crisis.

TVLINE | Does Griffin the Quarterback factor into the flashbacks? He’s been this shadowy character that we don’t know that much about…
He’s not in the actual episode with Lila and I, but he is talked about, and you do start to get an idea of where he’d fit into Lila’s life and where he’d fit into Rebecca’s life, and that’s all I can say.

TVLINE | It’s funny how you mention people say “Poor Wes.” In last week’s flash-forwards, when he’s cleaning the blood off Rebecca in the aftermath of Sam’s murder, he is the calmest person in the room — which strikes me as just a little scary. He takes control of the situation, convinces his fellow students to help out Rebecca for whatever reason. He convinces Rebecca to sequester herself in a hotel room. Should we be a little worried about Wes?
Yes, in general, people should be a little bit worried about Wes because the boy’s messed up. Everyone reacts to crises very differently. The way that I react to crisis in real life is like Michaela — so that’s not good. But we actually had a talk with our beautiful, life-giving creator, Pete Nowalk, about the tone of Wes and Rebecca during this crisis, and he made a good point. He said, “They should be the calm in the storm, because they are both really the outsiders of the group, and they are the people who have really seen bad stuff go down before in their lives.” And Wes is truly, I think, a much darker character than Rebecca. Rebecca just wears it on the outside more.

So, getting back to your question. Absolutely, be a little bit worried about Wes — because there are some deep, deep unsettling issues at play there. Also, I mean, Rebecca and Wes are sort of madly in love and don’t know how to say it to each other because they’re screwed up. So him willingly sitting there and patiently cleaning her until the blood is gone from her skin, her hair, her eyelashes — and her sitting there and letting him to do it — is the closest thing to an expression of actual intimacy, other than having sex, that they have, which is creepy and fun.

ALFRED ENOCH, KATIE FINDLAYTVLINE | I don’t know if you can answer this, but was that a glimmer of a smile on Rebecca’s face at the end of the bathroom scene last week? I thought there was just a hint of a grin as they turn and walk out of the room. And if so, what does it mean? Is she just pleased that someone cares this much to help her in such a huge way, or is something more sinister at play?
[Exaggerates voice] “I don’t know! I actually don’t even know what you’re talking about. I didn’t smile. That’s crazy talk,” she said in the most believable and guileful voice ever. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Alrighty then! [Laughs] So, the other whopper last week came as Rebecca went out to get some mint chocolate-chip, and there’s Annalise’s ex-lover and former detective Nate popping up out of nowhere. He tells Rebecca he knows she didn’t kill Lila, and then straight-up says they both know who did, clearly referring to Sam. How long will we have to wait to hear how that conversation plays out?
Oh, that’s coming right back. That’s immediate. Episode 7 really started to solidify Wes and Rebecca as a unit, and Rebecca has never, ever had anyone else on her island before. Or, well, if she ever has, it went very badly. So she’s the kind of person that, if she thinks she can find a way to make this work out better for [Wes] and then also save her own skin in the process, she will absolutely pursue it. But there’s a lot of conflict there because she’s also self-protective. She doesn’t know [Nate], and no one so far in the world, especially in this situation, except for Wes, has done right by her. She’s been lied to and turned around in every possible way — every turn of the situation has not ended up where she wanted it to be. So I don’t know how easily she’s going to trust Nate or how completely, but that interaction will come back around very quickly.

TVLINE | So we know at least that she’s not going to run in the other direction.
Rebecca doesn’t run from s–t. [Laughs]

TVLINE | This week’s official episode description also says that there’s “a shocking discovery that could change Rebecca and Bonnie’s loyalty to Annalise.” Are we getting some Rebecca-Bonnie stuff? Those are two characters I didn’t expect to really intersect.
Not so much. What I’ve learned on this show is that it’s a big-ass house, and it’s full of people doing all kinds of duplicitous things. And it is not difficult to imagine that something could’ve been misrepresented that could affect a couple different people on opposite sides of the big, scary house — and that is, in fact, what happens. A puzzle piece falls into the middle that, without either of them ever really connecting over it, affects Bonnie and Rebecca both equally.

TVLINE | Earlier, you mentioned the solidifying of Wes and Rebecca as a couple… which leads me to a question about their big sex scene. I mean, every major character on the show has had at least one big hookup, but yours was the only one where the sex was interspersed with a very gory autopsy of an exhumed corpse. How did you feel about that?
I had a different experience with it because, as an actor, you’re really going, “Can they see my butt? And if they can, does my butt look good?” And then you have a couple minutes thinking about how, for me, personally, my little brother will probably watch this. Poor guy. So I don’t think I was affected quite the way that a normal viewer would be affected. But I thought it was really cool. I’m a weirdo. I thought it was neat. I thought it was a little bit gross and disturbing. Every time I started connecting to the sexual side of the scene, they would flash back [to the autopsy], which jolted me out of it just a little bit, but not enough for me to feel affronted or offended. I’m really easily grossed out, but the scene was just creepy enough that it got to me and just light enough that I kept watching. I like that my sex scene was the weird one. [Laughs] I’m into it. I’m not mad at that at all.

ALFRED ENOCH, AJA NAOMI KING, KATIE FINDLAYTVLINE | So, at this point, Rebecca confessed to the police that she killed Lila. And she confessed to Wes in the hotel room that she killed Sam — although to me, the latter example felt like she was just practicing what she wanted to say to the police to make sure Wes didn’t get in trouble. But what’s the deal with her need to take the blame for felony murder?
Rebecca’s need to confess…I actually did a little bit of research on this, and it’s not uncommon for someone under interrogation to falsely confess after a certain amount of time — if a certain amount of mental trauma has taken place, and exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. People confess in order to take away the negative stimulus; they’ll just end up saying whatever it is that they think they’re supposed to say, because they’re tired, they’re hurting, and their brain just isn’t functioning correctly.

As for the hotel room confession, there’s a lot of stuff going on there, and I’m actually not going to say anything because people should be confused. [Laughs]

TVLINE | We’re getting close now to the Nov. 20 winter finale. On a scale of one to crazy, how shocked are we going to be by the end of that episode?
The situation  is really entertaining and intense and interesting, but I think, regardless of whether or not you wind up being right about who the killer is, the episode itself is really shocking and unsettling, and we had a great time shooting it.

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  1. spindae2 says:

    Boy Michael you grilled that poor girl. You went really prepared into this.
    I’m just worried where Rebecca will fill in when these stories are over. She needs to stay.

  2. Dennis says:

    LOVED her on The Killing and love her on this show!!! #WhoKilledRosieLarson

    • Annie says:

      THAT’S where I know her from! Thank you – that’s been driving me mildly nuts for the last few weeks, but every time I watch an episode I get so into it I forget to check IMDB, LOL.

    • Jax&Juice's Girl says:

      No wonder she looked familiar I was thinking to myself where the HELL have I seen her? Anyhow Rebecca is getting on damn my nerves Wes is stupid to get involved w/her. But I would love me a piece of Asher tho. he can be annoying and if Conner wasn’t gay I would get on him too LOL!

  3. amiblu says:

    Not a fan, please go away, her acting is horrible.

  4. TigerLIL says:

    Good interview but I can’t believe a character like Rebecca could have strangled Lila and whack Sam on upside the head but she was certainly at both scenes. Rebecca is a gansta, a real con artist and a master manipulator. She is more likely to set you up and get you smoked than smoke you herself. I think she is a sociopath more than any one else on the show and statistically most sociopaths are not killers. I think she is an accessory after the fact in both the murders but so are the other students. I think Bonnie is the killer of both Lila and Sam. JMO. I think Ms. Rebecca is the person cleaning up both of those messes. Also the meeting between her and Nate, I would not read too much into that Nate is digging for information and he has dealt with plenty of people like her in his line of work. Rebecca works on the trading of information like a CI, she is a blackmailer and a hustler and her mentality like most drug dealers is to get the job done no matter what way it has to be done they move in silence. One thing that struck me that she said is that she likes making people feel uncomfortable and when you can leverage information on people it’s exactly what happens to your victims. I think and it’s just my opinion that Rebecca was already connected to Sam and Annalise and that nothing that has happened with her and Wes was accidental it was all by design and designed to keep her in an advantageous position. She is going to hold the information on who the killer is for the next season, I love this show…. got two words: Stay tune!

  5. wrstlgirl says:

    Well I’m completely confused so job well done. I thought that after she confessed to killing Sam to Wes last week that the killer was revealed and what about and all that blood. So if she didn’t do it WTH is happening, LOL!!!

    • Linds says:

      My interpretation of the scene was that Rebecca was reciting what she planned to tell the cops, in order to take the fall for Wes, and that’s why he was all ‘what are you doing, stop it’. I think Wes killed Sam, with Rebecca near by, hence the blood. Like maybe he was attacking her and Wes saved her or something.

  6. Sarah says:

    There’s no shortage of things on this show that stretch reality (in a great way), but the one that bothers me is why in the world Wes would ever be interested in Rebecca. He’s a doll whereas she has shown no real redeeming qualities. She’s never nice to him, ever. So the hardest thing for me to wrap my brain around in this show is his affection for her. It makes no sense. Which makes me think Wes has a dark side we haven’t seen yet. Which makes me beyond excited to see where this is going to go. I seriously love this insane show!

    • well opposites do attract. how many stories have been done about the good girl going after the a-hole guy? but this interview is making me think that Wes might be the killer.maybe he pursued her initially to get the phone/evidence? but now has developed an infatuation with her, the same one that killed Lila.

  7. Angela says:

    I like her thoughtfulness in her answers, and the explanation behind how she chooses to play her character. She sounds like she’s really taken the time to study how a character like Rebecca would act and respond and handle things, and I find that cool. I also like her doing research into false confessions and how and why they happen.
    I don’t think she’s guilty of either murder, either. She’s clearly involved somehow, but I think her confessions and her weird behavior are more her knowing how to play the game, to protect other people. I’ll be very interested to see how far she’s wiling to go here.
    And I’m liking her interaction with Wes. I find it interesting that Wes started off on the show so innocent, and now he’s a little creepier and more suspicious than Rebecca is! So I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses, and how much more twisted it becomes as time goes on :p.

  8. Netty says:

    They really need to stop referring to Wes as ‘the puppy’ because with that sex scene I kept thinking ‘the puppy is having sex’ …which seemed so wrong in my mind

    • Netty says:

      And I also think that Viola’s character tears up way too much in this show, even when its not called for. Too dramatic and over exaggerated. And why is she so upset that Sam was having an affair when she’s been fooling around with that hot cop! I fail to connect with her when she cries or is upset with Sam for cheating. I don’t get it. And she obviously still has feelings for the cop, he’s the one pulling away from her.
      Hope we get more Connor sex scenes, they are the best!

  9. Guest says:

    Wes is the most adorable thing on this show!

  10. Wesca20 says:

    Love her even more after this interview!! You rock Katie!

  11. Sandra says:

    I think bonnie killed lila

    • crumudgeon says:

      Bonnie killed Lila so that Sam would quit cheating on his wife. And then when Sam makes a move on Bonnie, she tells Annalise in an effort to get her to realize that Sam is a serial cheater. So then Bonnie kills Sam, in order to “protect” Annalise. Not sure if Annalise & Bonnie are/were lovers.