He's a newer face at Middleton University this season, but Simon Drake, portrayed by actor Behzad Dabu, has already made an impact on How To Get Away With Murder.
Seen as somewhat of an adversary to the Keating 5, Simon is someone that fans have definitely gotten to know since the season began, and getting to know him has also meant getting to know Dabu, who landed his first major television role with this show.
Dabu sat down with Enstars to discuss his role, the biggest twists of the season thus far, his involvement with the Chicago Inclusion Project, and his feelings about diversity and human rights, something he feels even more passionate about these days with an uncertain political landscape
Enstars: You're now a part of the very exclusive Shondaland Club, which is known for keeping big secrets completely under wraps. Obviously you'd get in a lot of trouble if you said too much, but is there anything specific you can share about what we might see from Simon Drake the rest of the season?
Behzad Dabu: I'm going to be 1000 percent honest with you. Not only can I not tell you because I can't, I can't tell you because I actually don't know. We get scripts a couple of days before we shoot the episodes. The writers really write week to week... I actually don't really know.
How much were you told about the character before you took the role?
In the beginning, I think there was more of an outline. I was told about this new student, and I think there was some talk that they wanted more of a perspective of the other students in the class this year other than just the five. I knew it was about that and I knew that it was that type of character at the beginning.
What three big things would you say you've learned so far from working with Viola Davis?
Less is More is something I've learned. She doesn't do much until you watch it on screen and it's like, "Oh wow, that's everything." She also shows that people who are at the highest heights of their fame, are actually the most professional. And the other thing I've learned is that, and this is going to be a little acting heavy, but intensity doesn't always mean volume. For her, her intensity is always at 10, even when her volume is only at 1 or 2. And that is something a great actor can do.
So what about How To Get Away With Murder drew you to the show?
I love the way that HTGAWM and all Shonda shows handle diversity. I think it's amazing that they have diverse characters, they have LGBTQ, people of color, people with disabilities, women...all those groups are in positions of power. And the best part is that they don't even talk about it, because they don't need to sit there and say it, it's just done...and it makes me so happy.
You are one of the original members of the Chicago Inclusion Project, which helps to increase the presence of minorities in media, be them women, LGBTQ, People of Color or Disabled. How much did that help influence your decision to take the role on HTGAWM?
A huge amount. I am very selective with the roles I take...I do not take any roles that I find offensive or pushing negative stereotypes, and I want to stay true to that. And for my first major television role to be something that not only is just one of those opportunities that's just 'oh, this isn't bad,' it's actually the exact opposite, where it's 'oh, this is how to do it.' HTGAWM is a perfect example of a show when it comes to diversity and inclusion so to be part of the project and then to be a part of the show, that's sort of the exemplification of that and just means the world to me.
So far, we've learned that your character is the one who created the flyers of Annelise. What was your thought when you read that in the script? That's a huge moment and a big thing to take on.
...I think in his [Simon's] mind, if Annalise Keating isn't around, then these five can't possibly have the special relationship that they have, so maybe if he can get another teacher in there, then he can get a fresh start. So I think that was his way of bringing Annalise down for his own benefit, but when I read that, I was like, 'Wow, Simon Drake must really be desperate."
What would you like to see happen in the future with your character provided he's not #UnderTheSheet?
Provided Simon is not under the sheet, I would love to see him get involved. I'd love to see the Keating 5 and him come to a White Flag agreement, and then just to see him get involved and become one of the students. That's what I would love to see as far as Simon Drake.
Any theories you'd like to venture out there about just who is #UnderTheSheet?
No. (Laughs). I can't I don't know what I could say...I'll say this. I do know who is under the sheet, and when I found out, my jaw hit the floor.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to play basketball, I love to watch basketball, I'm a huge NBA fan...I play the drums...I'm really kind of active on social and human rights, I keep active on that, and now it looks like I'll be a lot busier with that after [the election]. You know, I'm also new to L.A. I was only here for a play in the beginning, and then the show happened. It was kind of only going to be like a vacation, but now that I'm here for a while, I'm exploring L.A. every day.
Since you brought it up, I think a lot of us felt shock after what unfolded with the Presidential election. Is there anything you'd like to say about it?
I know as an actor it's best to stay away from politics, because no matter what, you alienate half your crowd, and I know that. But I think this is different. This isn't politics, it's human rights...I just think that if you voted for Trump that you owe the People of Color, the Muslims, the people with disabilities, and the women in your life an apology. I think you owe them an apology in why you voted against their best interests.