Photo by Ben Miller
As ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder plunges into the final episodes of its thrill-ride first season, Charlie Weber (Frank) says it’s bittersweet thinking about how fast the show’s first run has gone by.
“It’s been great being part of a show like this,” he admits, speaking between production for the show and a photo shoot. “You never know how these things are going to go. But when we shot the pilot and watched it back, just the feel of it and the tone of it, I was really happy.”
When I last spoke to Weber in 2012, he was working on MTV’s post-college dramedy Underemployed, which didn’t gain much traction and ultimately wasn’t renewed. Fortunately, the actor’s career has fared much better since then.
Murder was the top new drama of the fall, averaging 16 million viewers (including DVR) consistently tuning in trying to figure out how Annalise (played by Oscar-nominated Viola Davis) and Co. are going to untangle themselves from the murderous web they’ve weaved.
The show’s earlier episodes presented an interesting challenge as the story unfolded in two different timelines, one being several weeks in the past and the other set in the present.
“We filmed everything episode-by-episode, even with the time jumps,” Weber reveals. “So we actually had to keep up with where we’re at. It was a bit of a trick because you have to think about, ‘Where is my character right now?’ We were constantly jumping back and forth, having to remember what you know or don’t know yet. It was torture,” he says, laughing.
Photo of Viola Davis and Charlie Weber, by Mitchell Haaseth for ABC
While some series might shoot flashback scenes or various timelines all at one time, the cast of Murder learned each episode’s storyline just before beginning production.
“They kept us on our toes,” Weber recalls of the format. “We didn’t know who killed Sam [Tom Verica] until the table read for episode 9 [in which Sam’s character dies].”
Weber admits that having the cast in the dark has kept the energy level high throughout production. “It keeps everything fresh,” he says. “But of course there are some of the bigger elements, like if your character ends up being a killer or doing something major in a later episode, you might wonder if five episodes back you might have played it differently.”
The 36-year-old has taken his latest gig rather seriously, growing out his beard specifically to give his character an extra layer of dubiosity. And because the show is based in Philadelphia but filmed in Los Angeles, the actor spent time in Philly to get a feel for the city and work on his accent.
“It’s an interesting vibe there and I tried to draw from that,” he explains. “And the thing about Frank, beard and all, is that one minute he seems like the hero and the next, you’re thinking, ‘What is he really up to?’ Because no one on the show is what they seem.”
That has definitely proved to be true in the second half of the season, with some of those perceived to be more innocent proving themselves to be the opposite. And while Frank was left with mostly clean hands before the winter break, he’s responsible for some of the dirty work going on behind closed doors.
"Everyone is messed up in some ways. I think that’s great that we’re seeing more of that on TV, because the fantasy of good versus evil is fun, but there’s a lot of grey.”
“It’s part of the interesting dynamic of the show,” Weber says, noting: “Usually, you have a good guy. Here, you’re rooting for these people, but you realize the good guy could be the bad guy. And yeah, everyone is messed up in some ways. I think that’s great that we’re seeing more of that on TV, because the fantasy of good versus evil is fun, but there’s a lot of grey.”
Of course, that was one of the reasons Davis herself signed on for the project, which gave her the chance to play a sort of deviant role compared to previous ones.
“It’s been an absolute dream come true working with her,” Weber gushes. “In my opinion, her talent speaks for itself. She’s just this wonderful, warm, open person. And as an actor, I think you aspire to work with great actors, and she is definitely one of the greatest. So that sets such a great tone for the whole show and the bond between the cast.”
Despite the intense murder mystery and the show’s pending climax, Weber feels confident most of the cast will somehow make it into a second season. Of course, the specifics remain to be seen.
With the looming hiatus, Weber will soon have some free time on his hands. Other than a few planned trips, he says he also has some offers to consider. Because of the show’s 15-episode order, that gives him and his castmates more flexibility to juggle multiple projects.
“I kind of like to focus on one thing at a time though,” he explains. “But there’s no way I can just do nothing for too long. I think our hiatus will be something like, four or five months. I have to do something or I’ll go crazy, man. The sporadic lifestyle will be fun for a bit, but I love working on a series, with all the hustle and long hours. I love going to work, especially when you love the people and the work you’re doing.”
The season finale of How to Get Away with Murder airs Thursday (Feb. 26) at 9 p.m. EST.