You’ve likely heard of Shonda Rhimes’ (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal) new drama How to Get Away with Murder during the past TV season. After premiering last fall, the new show earned a reputation for slick storytelling and dynamic characters. Behind each character is renowned talent like Viola Davis (The Help). One detail people may not know is that for one of the actresses on How to Get Away With Murder, Karla Souza, this is her first role in the U.S. So how does an actress fresh from Mexico make it onto a show playing opposite a multi-Oscar nominee?
Learning From the Best and Working Hard
Karla Souza was born in Mexico city and partially raised in America. She went to school in France, where she toured with a theatrical company. She went to England for her MBA in acting, and was then awarded admittance to an intensive course at the Moscow Art Theatre under Anatoly Smeliansky. She returned to her home country to star in the telenovela Verano de Amor and musical Los Heroes Del Norte. Karla then starred in the highest grossing Spanish-language film to open in America, Instructions Not Included, and the highest grossing film in Mexican history, The Noble Family.
Karla moved back to North America with her husband, Marshall Trenkmann. Just weeks after moving to Los Angeles, Karla landed a starring role in the intense new show How to Get Away with Murder. This role is a shift away from her previous romance and comedy roles en español, and represents a major step forward in her career.
Keeping Secrets for How to Get Away with Murder
In ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, Karla Souza plays quiet law student Laurel Castillo. Professor Annalise Keating chooses five of her most ambitious and intelligent students to assist her law practice. Laurel is forced to examine her ideals when faced with Annalise’s underhanded tactics in the courtroom. She and three other students accidentally become involved in a murder plot. Their only hope is to get away with it. Laurel slowly begins to show her true self as she decides what she is willing to do. The show’s creator has repeatedly said that if there’s one character viewers shouldn’t underestimate, it’s Laurel.
While creating a big-name show hinged on twists, secrecy is paramount, which means event the actors are kept out of the loop until the last possible moment (Karla was given her first script the day before filming) and the scripts were shredded immediately afterward. “The other day I got so scared because I had the season finale at home, which I shouldn’t have,” Karla said while on The Talk. “I was running around the house going ‘AHHH, I’ve got the season finale in my hands!’ So I literally burnt it in my kitchen sink. But that wasn’t a good idea because the alarms went off.”
Creating a Latina Character
“When I was cast, Laurel wasn’t supposed to be Latin at all,” Karla told Entertainment Today. It was actually Karla’s idea for Laurel to speak Spanish with her family. As she said at the NAACP Image Awards, “The creative dialogue between [the show runners] and us is such a pleasure. It doesn’t happen that often—for them to think of you as also a creative head and to feed on what you’re giving them. I think that’s what keeps the show being amazing every episode.”
The finale–like most episodes–ended on a breathtaking cliffhanger.
Karla will return in How To Get Away With Murder’s second season this fall. She’ll star alongside Oscar nominees once again in her latest film project, The Jesuit, debuting this year. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can catch up on the first season of How to Get Away With Murder at Amazon or Itunes.