How to Get Away With Murder creator Pete Nowalk agonized over which character would be under the sheet in the winter finale of the ABC drama until pretty much the very last minute he could. But there was one moment in particular that helped him realize the decision he needed to make.
"When we revealed that Wes was alive in that interrogation room, that's when I knew that it should be him," he told E! News and a small group of reporters after a screening of the big episode. "But I put off the decision as long as I could!"
And when he actually told Alfred Enoch that it would be Wes on the gurney, the British actor took it incredibly well. "He's a dream. It's the hardest decision I had to make in the show, but all of the actors are just so professional," Nowalk revealed. "So he smiled and told me he thought it was a good idea, which made me want to say, 'No, it's not! Never mind, I'm changing my mind.'"
He continued, "Alfie's just the most gracious, professional, generous person. I think he instantly felt bad for the rest of the cast because they're all so close, and it's almost easier to be in his shoes. I put them through a really weird experience because they were just finding out things at the read-throughs and I was like, 'I still don't know, even, if you're alive. You still could be dead.' Through the whole thing! It was like an awful reality show we put them through. I think they were obviously very upset and that made me feel like a jerk."
One thing that helped ease the pain, however, is the fact that we'll still see Enoch regularly throughout the second half of season three considering he's the reason for the show's newest mystery.
"One of the things that made me feel better about the decision, and also for the audience—the Wes fans especially—is that we're going to obviously have to relive what happened after he walked out the doors. It's a lowly storytelling technique that never makes me have to say goodbye to people. We still see Sam every once in a while, I'm sure we'll see Rebecca someday again."
The new mystery? Oh, you know, just WHO KILLED WES? That's another decision Nowalk has postponed—though he'll have to decide soon.
"I only have four episodes left to write, so I have to get to the point where I know. But I'm always willing to change my mind. Anything's possible, it could be any one of those knuckle-heads. Or it could be someone outside of the group too," he says, adding, "Each time I watch it I'm like, 'Oh, this person could have done it.'"
We will get some answers very quickly when How to Get Away With Murder returns (along with the rest of TGIT) on January 19.
"We're going to see what happened to him, right as we left him, in the first episode back. We're going to turn over the cards pretty quickly," Nowalk says. "I think one of the things that we're going to watch is that it's very emotional for all the characters. So I think they're all going to be either forced to kill each other or love each other. I think that's also one of the reasons that it felt right in my gut to do, is that it changes the dynamic of every single relationship. Wes was such a centerpiece of the show, to the point where I'm really excited to watch what Michaela and Laurel are like together now. Death has that impact on people; you form new dynamics in relationships. It's very, to me, character-driven. And Annalise is arrested, so it really takes her on a different journey and it's not going to be easy to get out of this one."
Plus, there's the whole question of Laurel's baby daddy.
"We'll find that out the first episode as well. I didn't want to do the Bridget Jones' Baby too long. Laurel has a huge decision to make, and I guess that's what I'm liking. It's fun to have to write how they're dealing with grief. They have to really grow up and she has a decision to make, a really big one, which is hard."
While HTGAWM consistently juggles multiple storylines, Nowalk says the last seven episodes of season three will really be dedicated to the current question.
"The mystery really is who killed Wes and within that, there's a lot of twists and turns. So I think trying not to do too much is the main gist of it. There's still relationships that are fractured. Like Annalise and Frank, we don't know what's going to happen between them still. If there's a new mystery, it would be at the end of the season."
How to Get Away With Murder will be back when TGIT returns to ABC's lineup on January 19.