Jacket and T-Shirt by Topman | Photography by Nicholas Maggio
Jack Falahee looks as though he’s just stepped out of a Jay McInerney or Bret Easton Ellis novel. He bears a rather eerie resemblance to the slick cut-glass-cheekbone type that always seemed to end up the Byronic hero in 1980s fiction, the prep-school dreamboat with the dark past and the bright new BMW. This is actually not far from the flawless charmer he plays on ABC’s brooding new legal drama, How to Get Away With Murder (premiering September 25). As gay law student Connor Walsh, Falahee manages to come across as simultaneously brilliant, arrogant, manipulative, sexually pred-atory, and totally irresistible.
“My character is someone who is entirely confident, entirely comfortable with who he is,” says the 25-year-old native of Ann Arbor, Mich., a lock of hair falling just so against his smooth forehead. “Connor is one of those people no one has ever said no to.” Falahee pauses, and his careful, measured delivery—which up to this point has echoed that of his calculating alter ego—suddenly gives way to a warm, wide, thoroughly Midwestern grin. “I am not that guy,” he says, laughing. “I have all the usual quirky insecurities that everyone has. Connor isn’t ever insecure. And that makes him really fun to play.”
Still, Falahee admits he does have at least a few things in common with Connor. “I think he’s come from a supportive family, and I have, too,” he says. “My parents were encouraging when I said I wanted to be an actor. And I don’t know if that’s usually the case.”
Jacket and T-Shirt by Topman. Jeans by Levi's. Belt and boots vintage. | Stylist: Kyle Blackman. Groomer: Ananda Tuyes.
Falahee fell into acting unexpectedly, during his junior year of high school. A self-described jock (“I was into pretty much every sport”), he accepted a role in a drama club production of Singin’ in the Rain, but the decision was more an homage than the result of a calling. “When I was a teenager, a friend died tragically in a car wreck,” he says, thoughtful and serious again. “It was an intense thing to experience at that age. He was involved in theater, so everyone that was close to him took a part in the play as a tribute. I had never acted before, ever, but the minute I stepped on the stage, I just fell in love with it.”
Next came the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where Falahee studied from 2007 to 2011 and performed in a number of stage productions, from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Sondheim’s Company.
Soon after he graduated, he scored a few parts in films, including Rage with Nicolas Cage, and guest spots on TV shows such as The Carrie Diaries and Twisted. But his real break came when Falahee read for Peter Nowalk, the writer, creator, and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder.
“His was the hardest role to cast,” Nowalk says of Falahee’s character, “in part because he’s a sort of fantasy version of myself in some ways. He is the gay man I wish I could be sometimes. I wanted to show a truly modern gay character: a guy who had, early on, accepted himself, and whose family was progressive, and who was very flirtatious and also a little bit of a rogue.”
Falahee stars as one of several would-be attorneys under the thumb of the whip-smart, dominating, and cheerily manipulative Professor Annalise Keating, played to the hilt by Tony winner and Oscar nominee Viola Davis. A sleek, contemporary noir, the series is built on the students’ entanglement in an actual murder plot. Coproduced by showrunner and prime-time queen Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), the pilot episode bristles with intrigue, tongue-in-cheek humor, and in Connor’s case, a sexual energy that ignites into one of the hottest gay sex scenes to air on network television.
“Connor is sexy and brutally honest, and he’s a little bit naughty and blunt and mean,” says Nowalk. “But you like him, which is exactly what Jack brought to the role.”
This, clearly, would be music to the insecure actor’s ears. “During pilot season, you’re inundated with scripts, and you don’t make it through the end of most of them,” says Falahee. “But this one I couldn’t put down. I wanted this part. And even if I don’t have Connor’s total confidence, I knew I could find some trace of him in myself.”
How to Get Away With Murder premieres September 25 on ABC.