By Danielle Turchiano. Photography by James Elliot Bailey.
When Charlie Weber was a child, his mother put him in a drama class to help him come out of his shell. Although he shifted that outlet briefly — from theater to sports during the later years of his high school career and the one year of college he attended — now the star of ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder” can’t imagine doing anything else. “I make jokes about this hapless English teacher, this character in my head — but the truth is if this hadn’t worked out, I would be so lost. I’d be doing whatever I had to do to get by, and I’d be so miserable,” Weber says.
When did you decide to pursue acting professionally?
In high school the drama program shifted to musicals, and that’s not a skill set I possess, so I let sports be my outlet, and I agreed to play football in college. I was invited to play at the University of Missouri and I played there for a year, but when all of the talented people are plucked and put in one place, it’s scary, it’s tough. I knew that wasn’t the thing I wanted. You have to make bold choices at a very young age — everyone does — when you’re approaching that shift and thinking, “Am I going to go off to college? Am I going to get a job? What is my specialty going to be? What am I going to do with my life?” We’re in positions to make those decisions at 18, and mine was to ditch everything and move to New York.
Why New York over Los Angeles?
That’s where I was placed in a weird way. The universe put me in New York, and I’m so happy it did. I loved living there, and at that age, it was a great time in a great city. I ended up getting to do a lot of student films — no budget, somebody just wrangled up a camera and went to shoot stuff, and it was fun, it was great.
What was the first moment you felt like the decision to pursue acting was the right one?
Once I booked a job that actually paid me money, I was like, “Oh, I can do this!” I came out to visit Los Angeles and from a general meeting I got a line in a movie, and then once I got out here I got a pilot that didn’t go and then a part on “Buffy [The Vampire Slayer].” As far as feeling like I actually might be able to do something here, [that] was when I got “Buffy,” [which] was a job I was going to have for awhile on a reputable cult hit TV show, so it was just like, “We’ll see where this goes, but it feels like this is happening.”
Would you consider “Buffy” your big break?
In a weird way, every gig is a big break. I’ve been a professional actor for 18 years, and for me to get to here, it was peaks and valleys, but I was always working, and I’m one of those people who something like “How To Get Away With Murder” came around [for] because I stayed in the game.
What were your initial impressions of Frank in “How To Get Away With Murder” when you first read the pilot?
There was so little on the page, but I thought there were endless possibilities. He was so layered for this guy who said five things over the course of the brilliant pilot. There was so much intrigue throughout the script. This guy who’s just standing there with his arms crossed, you just know something else is going on, and so I wanted to be that guy to bring those things to life.
With so much kept vague about Frank early on, how do you approach adjusting to what you imagined versus what is revealed about him later in the show’s run?
At the end of Season 1, we found out Frank was indeed the murderer, I feel like I had been playing him as someone capable of that the whole time, but never was there mention of it — never was there a glimmer, it just all made sense to me. I’ve never really had to abandon a choice. But then in retrospect, sometimes you find some other things. In Season 2 Frank confesses to Laurel that he did, in fact, murder that girl, and at first I thought it made no sense because the two people who knew he did it were dead, so why would he confess? But what I realized was he’s so damaged that that’s the only way he can show he loves someone. And that’s kind of a beautiful and tragic thing.
What keeps you just as intrigued about Frank now?
How he fits in with Bonnie and to be a character in that backstory. We’ve seen numerous reasons why he’s such a disaster, and for me, now the intrigue is going forward and his desperate need to be normal. He’s not, and he never will be, and he’ll fall apart again. He’s just one of those characters who will never be OK, so what does that lead to?
Can he ever get to a place where he can have a normal life?
He can’t grow out of this, in my personal opinion. I think he might only regress. He’s definitely a functioning person, but psychologically there’s no coming back from where he is.
Is he the character who you think needs Annalise (Viola Davis) the most?
Frank or Bonnie [does]. Regardless of whether we love each other or hate each other — or if any of us are even capable of love, whatever our version of love is — these three people can’t exist without the others. We have to be in each others’ atmospheres or we’re going to die, everything will unravel. Frank and Bonnie all but have a death wish, and all they do is serve [Annalise]. Everybody clings to something in life — whatever it is you choose to make your thing. For Frank, Annalise and Bonnie is his thing.
Other than acting, what is your — Charlie’s — “thing”?
The people I love: my daughter, my friends, my family. I surround myself with some pretty cool people, and we all have a great time together, and so I just like to hang out with the people I love and see what happens. We always have a good time.