This is how the most iconic scene of Viola Davis was made in ‘How to defend a murderer’

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On May 14, the first anniversary of the end of How to defend a murderer, the series that dared to put “a 49-year-old dark-skinned African-American woman, sexualized and complicated”. They are words of Viola Davis about Annalize Keating, a law professor at a prestigious Philadelphia university with a tendency to become entangled in murder cases and various conspiracies with her young students. The actress became the first black actress to win the Emmy for best dramatic performance thanks to a revolutionary character who dared to portray African-American women like never before on public television.

In the fourth episode of the first season of the series that emerged in Shondaland, the producer of Shonda Rhimes, the main character starred in an iconic moment when Keating comes home and removes her wig and makeup before facing her husband. The sequence was commented on in the media and social networks: few times pop culture had dared to show the particular relationship of black women with their hair. Six years after the broadcast of that moment, we have just discovered new details of the intrahistory of the emblematic sequence thanks to a conversation with Sergio Lopez-Rivera, the Spanish makeup artist nominated for an Oscar this year for The mother of blues, and that he was working on the series.

“Of course I remember. I did the choreography of the sequence myself”, The Cantabrian enthusiastically acknowledges before going on to detail the process of making of of a moment still remembered in 2021. “The director of the episode, Laura InnesShe was considering the scene in a way that made it look like Viola was removing her makeup, but not really. What the director did was protect the vanity of an actress so that she doesn’t look ugly on camera, but Viola doesn’t work that way. His answer was clear: absolutely not “. She has no problem removing makeup on camera. We had to re-choreograph the scene and that’s where I came in. My idea to make it more interesting was that when he took off his wig he did it like a mask, a helmet”.

“Like Melrose Place?”asks the journalist when recalling another unforgettable scene in which the character played by Marcia Cross dramatically removed his wig and showed the audience the remains of a surgical intervention. “Exact, exact … exact!”, confesses the makeup artist with an enthusiasm typical of Angel Llàcer. “He had to take it off like a warrior, as if Annalize Keating’s wig was the armor she put on before going out to fight. In real life, no one takes their wigs off like that, because wigs come off front to back, but I wanted them to do it backwards. Then all her makeup was removed on camera. Absolutely everything. That’s why that scene has so much power. There are no tricks ”.

Viola Davis had already spoken of the scene months after 15 million Americans saw the character’s authentic self. “I wanted to make a declaration of intent,” said the actress in a new interview with Essence. “I am a woman. I like to see women on TV. I like to see real women on TV. That for me is what inspires me and that for me is exciting. When I see an archetype of femininity on TV, it depresses me. ”.

The brand new winner of the Screen Actors Guild for his overwhelming intervention in The mother of blues She regretted that putting on makeup all the time made her feel like a Barbie because “she’s not human.” The reality for the actress is that “African American women wear a lot of wigs, we remove our makeup, we don’t walk very well in shoes, we are not necessarily nice, and not all of us fit into a size S. Some of us have deep voices and the audience should Get used”. Word of Viola Davis.

Sergio López-Rivera was head makeup artist on ‘How to defend a murderer’ for six years.


His name may not be known to the general public or even the serial community, but Sergio López-Rivera is one of the chosen ones who can boast of having spent more than 15 years working in the almighty Shondaland, the producer of series such as Grey’s Anatomy, The Bridgertons, Scandal O How to defend a murderer. “It was an incredible experience for me because they trusted me so much. They asked me to do something they had never done before, which was to supervise several series that were on the air at the same time. For the last ten years I have been in charge of forming the makeup and hairdressing teams of the production company ”, explains the makeup artist.

“My goal has been for the departments to collaborate well and I have managed to form wonderful families and creative nuclei. The series benefit a lot from those dynamics. I would never have dreamed of something like this. Shondaland is a very creative place, very open. There are always many time constraints, and sometimes you cannot do what you would like for time and money perhaps, but it is a wonderful family ”.

After 15 years at the Shondaland factory, Sergio leaves the nest for the first time to follow his inseparable Viola Davis wherever he goes. “Days after the Oscars, we started working on the series in which Viola is going to play Michelle Obama”. Lopez-Rivera refers to The First Lady, a media project by Showtime which will tell the hidden story of America’s First Ladies like Betty Ford, Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama. We will be there to see it.

All six seasons of ‘How to Get Rid of a Killer’ can be seen in their entirety on Netflix.

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