Jack Falahee now admits that when he was cast as gay law student Connor Walsh on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder four years ago, he had no idea how much he didn’t know.
‘It’s emblematic of my straight privilege, but I never thought his character would be so important to the LGBTQ community,’ the actor tells Fault.
‘I’m still not over how much of an impact the show has made and a lot of that is Connor’s character and his importance to fans. … Seeing the Twitter reaction was so overwhelming and I was just overjoyed at how meaningful the character is to people.’
Connor made an immediate impact at the start when he seduced a cute male information systems specialist to get information on a case.
It was Falahee’s first indication of his character’s sexuality.
‘Going into this, it was never written on the page that “Connor Walsh is a homosexual,” so when it came to the first love scene I just thought, “Wow, this guy is willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead” and now I know that was the heteronormativity in my mind back then that was rationalizing this whole aspect of his character.
‘It wasn’t until [series creator] Pete Nowalk was like “Oh no, Connor is gay” that I’ve been really trying to become a student of the history of LGBTQ rights and learning more about the struggle of those in the past and in the present day.
‘I asked Pete and my friends for a reading list on LGBTQ history because one of my favorite aspects about being an actor is that I’m continually having to learn about things I’ve been very uneducated on in the past.’
The IT specialist who Connor seduced has turned out to be much more than a one-night fling.
The character of Oliver Hampton (played by out actor Conrad Ricamora) is the love of Connor’s life and the on-again, off-again couple have struggled through a series of dramatic ups and downs.
‘The outpouring of love from the fans was so gratifying and humbling for me,’ Falahee says. ‘Receiving messages from fans saying “Connor & Oliver helped me come out to my parents” is deeply rewarding and to be any small part of the courage needed to come out will forever be a blessing to me.’
Falahee had not been open about his own sexuality until after the 2016 presidential election. He then felt compelled to to publicly come out as heterosexual.