How to Get Away With Murder‘s Annalise Keating is pansexual because Viola Davis was “transformed” after watching transgender TV star and model Jazz Jennings.
The 53-year-old actress told PrideSource in a new interview that one night she was admiring Jennings play in the closet with her trans friend during an episode of Jennings’ TLC reality show, I Am Jazz.
“They were talking about who they see themselves with in the future,” she recalls, “and they were like, ‘Whoever, you know. I’m open. I’m open to a boy, I’m open to a girl.’ And they started talking about just the attributes of the people they wanted to be with.”
She adds, “That transformed me more than anything.”
Floored, and thinking “that is the greatest thing in the world,” Davis says, “I thought that was a great idea for Annalise because Annalise is so damaged, so traumatized that what if she just said, ‘I’m just open to love’? God, think about what we can explore there.”
In 2015, during the opening of How to Get Away With Murder‘s second season, viewers were introduced to Eve, a death row attorney played by actress Famke Janssen. It was revealed that she and Annalise had an intimate relationship in the past while both attended Harvard Law. Their same-sex relationship is treated as a non-issue on the ABC show, with Annalise’s sexuality purposefully subverting labels – again, because of Davis, who says she “cannot stand labels.”
As for Annalise’s sexual fluidity, Davis adds, “I had everything to do with that,” though she also credits creator Pete Nowak.
Though the Widows actress admits to challenges in reconciling her Christian upbringing with her acceptance of the LGBTQ community, she says a friend in her hometown of Rhode Island named Slim, who used to wear Davis’ dresses, made her rethink her beliefs because “I loved him,” she says.
“I felt it was on me to shift my thinking,” Davis says, “and it was up to me to understand him.”
Read the full PrideSource interview here.