'How to Get Away With Murder's' Marcia Gay Harden: Hannah's a "Bloodhound"

As if covering up a murder wasn't hard enough, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and her conspiratorial students now have a new obstacle in their way: the formidable Marcia Gay Harden.

The Oscar-winning Harden burst her way into the twisty world of ABC's How to Get Away With Murder in Thursday's midseason premiere and made her debut as Hannah Keating, the presumed-missing-but-actually-dead Sam's (Tom Verica) sister. Arriving on the heels of her brother's implication in the murder of Lila Stangard, Hannah's search for answers is just getting started and will be yet another hurdle for the merry murderers as the season progresses.

So what surprises does Harden's Hannah have in store? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Harden to talk Hannah's mission, her relationship with her sister-in-law, and being "like a dog with a bone."

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We see at the end of the last episode that Hannah is immediately suspicious of Annalise's claim that Sam killed Lila ("Let me be clear, whatever his wife told you, my brother is no murderer"). Why is there such an air of mistrust about the whole situation?

To me it seems so normal. If someone said my brother is a murderer, I'd be like, "Are you out of your mind? He's not a murder! I know this person!" which shows two things. One, it shows this insistence of innocent until proven guilty, right? When the bodies are discovered in the mass murderer's basement, you always go, "But they were so nice!" You know? "They borrowed sugar from us!" We don't suspect those dark things about our neighbors. So part of her defense of her brother is normal behavior. A normal person is not entrenched in the world of murder like all of these people are.

The second part is, something doesn't smell right. I suspect Hannah's been watching the trial, and reading the paper, and she can't get ahold of her brother. He's missing. She knew about the affair and didn't approve of it, but something isn't right, so you have to imagine there is a history between the ladies where Hannah just never trusted Annalise. She's not an apparent person. She's a hidden person. And I think Hannah's the opposite — a no secrets, "this is what I'm thinking," no bullshit, straight shooter sort of person.

How much will we learn about the history between Sam, Annalise and Hannah?

I think you'll learn quite a bit about it. I know in the writing and in the improv-ing you learn quite a bit. It's not like, "Oh, we went to the prom together when we were such and such an age." It's nothing like that. You learn, in a more general way about why they always butted heads with each other and you're left wondering who is telling the truth, or if Annalise is telling the truth. And then the end of the episode is this sort of shocking discovery that changes everything for everybody.

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With such an uneasy level of trust and complex familiarity between them, how are Annalise and Hannah going to navigate their relationship going forward?

Well they start off by working together. Annalise offers up some information and they're working together, on looking through files and things like that. But at the end of the episode, everything is turned on its heels by a big discovery and then it's kind of all-out war. I can't say too much.  

With the discovery of Sam's body or one of the other pieces of missing evidence inevitably popping up, how will that relationship change when Hannah realizes her brother was actually murdered?

It becomes a very darkly suspicious relationship. It becomes cagier. Everything is simply heightened. So, I think where Hannah had initially been in a more "let's figure this out together" situation. She becomes much more accusatory, and suspicious, and really starts looking at the Keating Five. Let me just say, if she's a bloodhound, suddenly, there's a thousand other scents interfering with where she thought she was. It's very confusing, and she has to doggedly try to follow the right scent.

Obviously, not everyone at Keating & Associates knows about or is dealing well with the Sam's slaughter. Is it possible that she may find an ally or two in her pursuit? Bonnie (Liza Weil), perhaps?

She's kind of targeting Bonnie. That's the target. The young ones she doesn't mess with as much. She just sort of intimidates them. She sees in Bonnie a possible source of information and she knows that Sam had feelings for Bonnie, so Hannah can play people. She's not above manipulation, that's for sure.

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Series creator Pete Nowalk mentioned that Hannah is a psychiatrist. How does that give her an edge?

I think she sees through people. She sees behavior, she sees body language, body posture. She hears the way things are worded. She uses her psychiatry to battle in general with a different kind of artillery, a different kind of weapon. You can't go up against Annalise, tank for tank; you just can't do it. She's going to win. She's stronger in that way. But you can go in from the side. You can go in with a handshake, maybe, and learn some information. So Hannah's way is different. I'm not going to say it's sneaky — because I don't think of her as sneaky. She has different operating tools.

What's the most important thing fans should expect with Hannah?

The most interesting about Hannah is that she's a dog with a bone, even when she's wrong, she's a dog with a bone, and she believes she's right. And that can put a lot of people in hot water and that's what she does.

Check out a sneak preview of Harden in Thursday's episode "Best Christmas Ever," above. How to Get Away With Murder airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Twitter: @NotPhelan