Post Mortems

HTGAWM 'Survivor' on Heartbreaking Face-off, Annalise's Big Risk

Annalise Keating made quite the unexpected pass at the end of Thursday’s How to Get Away With Murder. No, no, no… I don’t mean to imply she asked puppydog Wes to handle dictation duties — not that there’d be anything wrong with that. (OK, actually, that’d violate the sacred bonds of the professor-student relationship, but I am out-of-control digressing here!)

Instead, the end-of-hour flash-forward found Viola Davis’ mercurial law professor handing off her cellphone to computer whiz Oliver and imploring him to wipe everything clean — seconds before she was arrested by police, her home/office ablaze in the background and a dead (though still unidentified) corpse being wheeled away via ambulance.

While Oliver’s portrayer, Conrad Ricamora, says he still doesn’t know what exactly is on said mobile device, he views the dilemma as his character’s “biggest test” in three seasons. “Annalise is asking him to do something probably more drastic than he’s ever done — at the scene of a crime and with that much urgency,” Ricamora says. “How he responds is going to be a huge indicator of what he wants and what he’s capable of.”

Oliver’s appearance crosses him off the list of potential flash-forward victims — one “survivor” will be revealed each week, until viewers know if it’s Michaela, Asher, Wes, Laurel, Nate or Bonnie who’s under that sheet. We caught up with Ricamora to discuss Oliver’s decision to close the door on a reunion with Connor, the perils of his post-breakup love life and the logic behind his connection to the rule-bending Annalise.

Before we do that, though, here’s a pithy rundown of the non-Oliver plot points from this Season 3, Episode 2, “There Are Worse Things Than Murder.”

Nate moves in with Annalise — the better to reduce nightmares associated with Frank’s MIA status and increase the number of scenes involving a shirtless Billy Brown. Annalise finds herself at odds with Middleton brass concerned about the university’s rep in the wake of all those “murderer” posters popping up around campus. Asher says wants to be more than a “meat stick” to Michaela. And Annalise and Bonnie convince Laurel to let them listen in on any potential phone calls with Frank — while also letting the second-year student know it’s time to go see her father (whatever that means).

Speaking of The Henchman Who Shaved His Beard — and 10 Years — Off His Face, Frank places a call to Annalise’s burner phone, bloody and tearful, explaining he had no choice but to kill his former boss’s new heavy. Then he puts the would-be hitman’s corpse in a car and pulls an Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale. (Cue Alicia Keys’ voice crying out, “This! Car! Is! On Fiyaaaah!”)

And now back to our interview with Mr. Ricamora.

TVLINE | Walk me through this week’s makeout moment, which led into Oliver essentially telling Connor, “If you love me, let me go.” What was it like to shoot that?
It felt very realistic. How many times have I been “broken up” with someone only to have it drag out for awhile? And then you reach a point of saying, “This is what I need. This is what I want. We actually have to end this.” It was heartbreaking. Connor’s last line when he’s leaving and says, “This is your apartment,” I only felt the weight of that line when [Jack Falahee] said it. When I was prepping, that wasn’t the case. It’s the heartbreak of someone moving their things out of a shared apartment, and then there’s a person left in a place where he’d built a home for awhile now with Connor.

TVLINE | Our readers tend to really love the Oliver character, but the breakup scene in the season premiere — where Oliver is upset at Connor for not being angry over his confession regarding the Stanford email deletion — made many of them upset. Do you get where your character is coming from? Can you defend the decision?
[Laughs] Oh, I completely understand it! It’s always been my experience in relationships that when someone isn’t being completely who they are, it always comes out sideways. And the person being kept in the dark — in this case, Oliver — feels that something is wrong. Connor’s complete acceptance of Oliver deleting the Stanford email is an overcompensation for his own guilt. It doesn’t add up to Oliver. So to hear that some people don’t get it makes me think, “Really?” [Laughs] The guy’s lying about a murder he committed!

TVLINE | Well, when you put it that way… These people have done a lot of terrible things, so it’s easy to forget Connor’s lie that he’d gotten back on drugs as an explanation for his unhinged state after Sam’s death.
Then in Season 2, in passing, Connor was like “I might go to jail.” [Laughs] It feels like such a metaphor for how relationships sometimes play out. You meet someone and you fall in love, and then you want to protect that, and sometimes protect it at the cost of honesty and complete openness. But it always comes out in the end.

TVLINE | It hasn’t been very long since Oliver learned he’s HIV-positive, either. And that’s another major life event he’s had to absorb in the midst of his relationship with Connor, and his major career change.
Everything came to a head in this perfect s–tstorm of events. Oliver learning he’s positive. Connor being involved in these murders and coverups. Oliver deleting the Stanford email. They’re all happening almost simultaneously. Not that they’re necessarily related, but it so happens that he needs this time for himself, while also sensing something isn’t right about his current relationship.

TVLINE | I know you’ve done the table read all the way through Episode 8. Can you tease what a single Oliver looks like? Does he dip his toe back into the dating pool?
Oliver and Connor will need to figure out the boundaries in their relationship now that they work together. They knew what they were, but they don’t know what they’re going to be. It’s going to be clunky. They’re going to hit a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings along the way, and Oliver will need to figure out who he is as a single person, with a new job and with this diagnosis. What will it all mean as he navigates single-dom — if he chooses to.

TVLINE | Is it exciting to think about exploring Oliver as a single man?
It’s exciting to explore playing an [HIV] positive gay man — and what it means in 2016. I just watched a documentary called Surviving a Plague, and it’s all about the AIDS crisis in the ’90s. But very little has been talked about what that’s like now. So to bring that conversation into 2016 should be exciting and important.

TVLINE | Oliver made it clear to Annalise in no uncertain terms that he can be bad, that he can break the rules. Did that take you by surprise?
I wasn’t. The whole reason he took the job with Annalise is because he sees how she helps people. And if she has to bend the rules sometimes, he is starting to understand she gets done what she thinks is right — which bites her in the ass a lot. But he also believes in that and finds it exciting. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.

TVLINE | Was it nice when you got the Episode 2 script to learn your character survives “Fire Night”?
Of course, however temporarily. I understand the nature of this show! [Laughs]