How to Get Away with Murder: Alfred Enoch on Playing Wes, Working with Viola Davis, and More!
Chalk it up to the high-octane storyline, his determination to serve justice where it's due, or his ability to work a plaid button-down so well, but there's just something that draws us to Wes Gibbins on How to Get Away with Murder. After last week's cliffhanger ending, we've been (not so patiently) waiting for the latest episode of our new Thursday night TV obsession to air, which is why we caught up with Alfred Enoch to get all the details on the million questions running through our minds---sans spoilers, of course.
With an impressive resume consisting of stage work and the Harry Potter series already under his belt, Enoch's own life proves to be just as interesting as that of his on-screen character, and no surprise here, the star is every bit as friendly as he is talented. Keep reading to see what he had to say about filming those intense scenes, the interesting story behind his audition, and his penchant for early '90s style choices, then catch him on a new episode of How to Get Away with Murder, Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on ABC!
What drew you to Wes initially? Do you feel that you're similar to him in any way?It wasn't really any similarity that drew me to him---it was the journey that was alluded to in the pilot that fascinated me. You see him finding his feet in a new environment, and he's taken by surprise by everything, which can happen to anybody. It's interesting seeing how he responds in that scenario, and even more high-pressure scenarios that come about later on. It's fascinating to me as an individual to see how people get to where they are, and it's fun to see how people are not who they may at first appear to be. I think that's one of the things that drew me to the script in the first place.
I'm curious to know how all of the flash-backs and flash-forwards are filmed. How do you prepare for them?It definitely presents challenges, and one that we had was trying to work out what had happened just before. We get little snippets, so we try to make sense of it in the context and understand where your character has been. When we get the scenes in an episode, they aren't consecutive by any means---you may end up finding out what happens between two scenarios three episodes later. Personally, I sit down and timeline everything into a sequence. That's one of the things I did to help myself. I'll put everything down on Post-Its and move things around every time I get new information that comes in. That way, I can connect the dots, see what is coming before and later, and hopefully add specificity to it.
Your American accent is so good---even right now as you're talking to me. I feel like we almost don't deserve it considering how many of us butcher the British accent.Thank you! That's really a testament to the great dialect coaches I've had. I worked with a dialect coach before the pilot in London, then I had one in Philly, and now I have a wonderful one here in L.A. who is so helpful, supportive, and precise. When I was auditioning, at first I thought, there is no way they're going to cast a British guy to play an American character in an American show being shot in America. When it happened, I was like, I have to be entirely perfect with this accent, because people are going to know. It's not like doing an American accent in London---it's different when you're doing it for an audience that utterly knows that sound, so it was something I was mindful about wanting to get right. I work on it every day, and I do it all the time as you're hearing because I think it helps me technically to keep it going and piece together the whole puzzle.
I read somewhere you auditioned for the role on Skype. What was that like?Super technological, right? I did a take and went in to meet a casting director in London. We did a couple of scenes, then I went back to do a show, and heard back later that they wanted to test me, which is where the Skype element came in. I turned up at the casting director's office, and it was really weird because we were Skyping in the corner. I met Pete [Nowalk] and Michael [Offer], the director of the pilot, on Skype, and they said "Don't worry about us, just do everything as before. We're just going to be over here in the corner." Essentially, I'm playing it to this camera---it was kind of the same as before when we were taping it, except the director and writer were on a little screen in the corner of the room. [laughs]
Were you afraid the Wi-Fi would just go out?Honestly I was so worried about other things, I didn't get to worrying about that! That was really strange because before that, I just had a tape and I was skeptical over whether or not it would happen, and then when I met them, it started to become more tangible.
What has been your favorite scene to film so far?I'm not sure---there have been a lot of fun ones, but the scene in the first episode with Viola is one I'm going to remember for a long time. That was only a few days into filming the pilot. It was really intensive and demanding, and just a lot of fun. I had a little moment where I was like---wow, this is really happening. I'm getting to do a scene with Viola Davis in Philly! I was back home two weeks before just bumming around, and it was very cool. It's fun to work with Viola and someone of that capacity, but in all fairness to everyone else, that's not an excitement I only get when I'm working with her. What stands out to me about the scenes with Wes and Annelise is that their relationship is so complex, and it's satisfying to play because there is so much going on.
It seems like you guys have such a blast hanging out on the set together. Does that make the intense scenes more interesting or fun to film?I think it's super helpful feeling comfortable with the people you're working with. Obviously we have scenes that are demanding, so we feel supported by each other and everyone is really helpful, and it creates an atmosphere where you feel comfortable, but can also try new things. I think it was really Philly that did it for us---we all arrived a week before we started shooting, which was a great idea, because we got to know each other and talk about the characters. We all ended up getting pretty close because we were all in Philly, none of us were based there, and all of a sudden, five us us were together in this new town.
Wes wears a lot of plaid button-downs---do you find yourself wearing them more in real-life now?I think sadly, I'm a hopeless case. I'm currently wearing jogging bottoms and a sweatshirt; I bum around in comfortable clothes, so no, Wes hasn't really rubbed off on me that way. I think I own maybe one plaid shirt and it's nice to keep a little difference, so I want to keep that on the lot, and my own clothes elsewhere. I tend to wear kind of garish, colorful clothes. I don't think of myself as a trendy person at all, and if I'm anything, I'm probably contrarian.
In college, I was talking with a friend and wondered, what happened to jumpsuits? I came up with a really specific idea of a white one-piece Adidas shell suit I wanted with gold three-stripes down the side. I searched for it and couldn't find one, but I did end up finding what's essentially a ski suit, which may be my favorite item of clothing. People were like, "Why did you buy that? It's so ridiculous," but when it got cold, I was cruising around in my one-piece jumpsuit like, yeah, I'm the one laughing now. At the time I wasn't working and managed to get away with it, but I cut my hair into a really sharp high-top cut and I'd walk around like it was the early '90s again.
How to Get Away With Murder is a very social show. Do you think you'll cave eventually and get on social media, or are you trying to hold out as long as you can?It is a very social show, and I thought, am I being anti-social? But I don't really see myself doing it. It's a great tool and it's exciting people like the show and are getting involved in it that way, but I try to be disciplined with my work and focus on that, and I know if I was on social media, I'd be spending a lot of time on social media. [laughs] I can be very easily distracted person.
Your father William Russell is such a renowned actor, and played Ian Chesterton in the original run of Dr. Who---a really iconic role. Did he influence your decision to become an actor? I really think he's the reason I became an actor. I mean, he's my dad so I'm entirely biased, but I have so much respect for all the work he's done, and it's absolutely fundamental in terms of my education as an actor---he's my first teacher, and I have no doubt that the reason I'm doing this is because as a kid, I saw what he was doing and thought, "That looks fun! I want to do what my dad does." Seeing him perform made it feel like it was possible, and I was supported in my interests from the beginning.
By the time I was seven, I did a sonnet at Shakespeare's Globe theatre for Shakespeare's birthday because my dad had been at the first season of the Globe, and was friends with the artistic director. Somehow, that lead to me doing a sonnet! They did this thing where groups would walk through London past places that were relevant to Shakespeare's life or were mentioned in his plays, and at each point, actors would surprise the people walking through with a sonnet. My dad kind of staged it---he was standing on a wall, and everyone was like "Oh, this guy is an actor" and formed a semicircle around him, and then I just came out from behind this tree and did the sonnet. It was such a gift that I was given the opportunity and was exposed to it, and still to this day, he's one of the people I go to for advice. He has had such an influence on my work.
Prior to this, you did loads of stage work and appeared in the Harry Potter films. Do you still get people coming up to you like "Oh my god, Dean, I love you!"I'm always amazed when people recognize me from that because in my mind, I didn't do very much! [laughs] As a kid, I read the books and absolutely loved them, so getting to work on the movies was really cool, and people really care, which is wonderful. It does still happen, and it never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes people are like, "Hey, you played Dean Thomas!" and I'm like, "Wow, you actually know!" It kind of shocks me because when I think about movies I love, and if I saw someone who essentially did what I did in Harry Potter, I probably wouldn't recognize them walking down the street. I'm always impressed by that, I'm like wow, fair play. The least I can do is be like, "Yes, that was me, hi." [laughs]
I think Wes would totally be a Gryffindor, though. Can we establish that? I have this really strong feeling he would be in Gryffindor.Definitely! I would have to concur with that. He's such a Gryffindor.