‘How to Get Away with Murder’ Star Cicely Tyson on the Unraveling of TV Daughter Annalise Keating

“It happens to all of us in real life … whatever went on when we were children … you will always reach back [home],” the veteran actress tells TheWrap

When producers were looking to cast the role of Annalise Keating’s mother on “How to Get Away with Murder,” Viola Davis suggested her former co-star in “The Help,” Cicely Tyson.

“I did not learn Viola was responsible for bringing me on until fairly recently,” Tyson told TheWrap. “She didn’t call me and ask me if I wanted to do it. It was a complete surprise to me. When I arrived at the studio, she was standing at the door with a smile from one ear to the other on her face.”

But, Tyson, who was already preparing for her part, says she kept things cool.

“Recognizing the relationship between she and myself, as mother and daughter, I did not react to her smile at all.”

Tyson plays Davis’ no-nonsense, straight-talking mother Ophelia, who shows up at Keating’s door to try and help get her life back together.

When she arrives, she finds her daughter in the fetal position. As it turns out, even the toughest criminal defense attorney on primetime TV sometimes needs her mommy.

“Ophelia was surprised to get the phone call [from Annalise] telling her mother that she needed her because she had not heard from her in some time. When she arrives she’s rather stunned at the state of this opulent dwelling and also at the state of [her] daughter.”

The relationship between Keating and her mother is complicated to say the least.

“Annalise has been reduced to nothing,” said Tyson. “Ophelia is somewhat resentful that she was only called because she was needed to help clean up a situation. But she finally recognized that she has a job to do here … and that is to lift her out of the sickness she’s in.”

It’s hard to imagine the powerful Annalise Keating needing her mother. But Tyson, it seems, is just what the doctor ordered.

“It happens to all of us in real life. Once we leave our homes, our parents, and all the love and despite the violence, whatever went on when we were children, you know that is the seed of who’ve become. Nine times out of 10, you will always reach back because it offers you a certain amount of security.”

By the end of the episode, mother and daughter are much closer, according to Tyson.

“Opulence means nothing when you don’t have a core,” said Tyson.

“How to Get Away with Murder” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Watch TheWrap’s previous coverage of “How to Get Away With Murder” below.

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