“How to Get Away with Murder” gave Emmy winner Glynn Turman a way of honoring his father. Turman had a recurring role as the imprisoned Nate Lahey Sr. in the ABC drama’s past two seasons, a role that allowed him to pay tribute to his family’s experiences. Nate Sr. dealt with an unfair justice system that put him at a disadvantage, and as Turman notes of his own life, his father “was all too familiar with this system and we as a family are all too familiar with the system as a result of his experience.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Turman first joined “How to Get Away with Murder” in Season 4, with Nate Sr. introduced as part of Annalise Keating’s class action lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for not adequately funding public defenders. Nate Sr.’s drug case was improperly handled, resulting in an unfair sentence. He was eventually put in solitary confinement, which caused great mental instability that led to him murdering someone after being provoked. With such powerful material to work with, Turman was struck by how the process of playing this character was “inclusive,” adding that “being included in the building of this storytelling was a very wonderful opportunity.”
Turman initially “jumped at the opportunity” to work with star Viola Davis, observing that acting alongside her is “like playing instruments with one another.” As many have observed over the years, Turman says Davis is “one of the best,” and that he was “overjoyed to have the opportunity to work with such a talent.” He also got to share many of his scenes with Billy Brown, who plays Turman’s onscreen son, Nate Lahey Jr. This experience, in particular, was uniquely important to get into some of the complexities between fathers and sons in the Black community. “Black men in this business seldom, unfortunately, get a chance to delve with responsibility into the relationships that are forged in our communities,” Turman says. “We’re pigeonholed as to our experiences being just one particular way. This was an opportunity to peel back some of the layers of what makes a complex relationship that has a history in the black community for black men.”
Like many “How to Get Away with Murder” fans, Turman wasn’t exactly happy with what ends up happening to Nate Sr. in the end. Without delving into too many spoilers, Turman admits that “it sucked both artistically and in the reality of it all. It was a terrible fate and everybody was rooting for this character, as fans have come up to me and expressed.” However, he notes the plot development was great “it took everybody by surprise and the writers did what they were supposed to do.”
This kind of juicy and memorable part doesn’t come around too often for actors, but Turman has plenty of experience in that department — he won an Emmy for Drama Guest Actor in 2008 for his powerful performance as the father of Blair Underwood‘s character in the HBO series “In Treatment.” Getting that sort of recognition after a career dating back to the ’60s “meant the world to me,” he recalls. “It was a fantastic honor. It’s always wonderful to have your peers recognize you and recognize your work and think that you’re worthy of such a high esteem, prestigious award.” The Emmy is a constant reminder of “a job well done” for Turman and proves his worth to casting directors. “Now I don’t have to go through my whole resume when I’m introduced.”
Turman is now on the CBS limited series “The Red Line,” another project that deals directly with the difficult times America is currently going through. Working with such talent as Ava DuVernay is a blessing for Turman, who says “there are issues that need to be tackled and I’m just grateful that I’m still around to lend a voice to some of these events.” He has observed major change in the industry up to this point in his career, from the modern advances in technology to the widening opportunities for young filmmakers, particularly people of color. Turman likes to tell the younger generation: “You’ve got at your fingertips what we didn’t have at our fingertips when I was your age in this business. No excuses.”
Turman also advises to keep learning and to “fortify yourself in the knowledge of the craft.” It is essential to never be doing it for the fame or the money because it’s “not worth the battle scars” if you don’t love acting on a deep level. It is clear that the 72-year-old actor still loves what he does, and he gives credit to his generation of actors who are still going strong in the business. “For us old-timers who are still here and still doing it, I say, ‘Right on.’”
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