In a miraculous stroke of good fortune, USA Network opened the doors of its brand new drama series SUITS to the press so that we could see what is really going on in the hallowed halls of the fictional law offices of Pearson Harden. As can be seen from the set photos, it was rare chance to see a new show being built from the ground up – to watch the glass tower world of New York City be rebuilt in a Toronto film studio. Providing their exclusive insight on their characters and the secret ingredient to this new show were stars Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty, Rick Hoffman and executive producer Doug Liman. (Unfortunately Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle were tied up filming and were not available for interviews that day.)
SUITS invites viewers into a world where it is the ultimate con: a hotshot lawyer takes a genius kid and passes him off as an attorney working within his firm. Whether it is a game, a con or something more, the surprising friendship and relationships that arise out of this masterful illusion makes for surprising and compelling television. Meeting the actors who brought these intriguing characters to life helped explain some of that mystery – with good casting comes great characters. And even better yet, the secret to a successful television series.
What types of stories can we expect to see as the season progresses?
DOUG: What I love about SUITS is the kinds of cases that get brought into this law firm are very specific to the fact that it’s a super high-end New York law firm. So it is more than a legal show. SUITS, for me, is about plucking this kid who is really existing on the fringes of society and giving him a suit, a very high paying job, a beautiful office and all the trappings of really having ‘made it’ in New York City — the toughest city in the world to make it in. That is the heart and soul the show — more than: how’s he going to solve these cases? Just like the episodes, the season may evolve. Like I feel like as a filmmaker, I’m evolving and like I’m in a particular phase of life where I’m really about ‘intelligence’ being a super-power. Obviously, it’s something that I explored in Bourne Identity because Matt Damon could also kick ass. But both with SUITS, Patrick Adams’ character’s super power is he’s just the smartest guy in the room. And in the film I’m currently prepping, the protagonists’ super-powers are that they’re incredibly smart. They’re literally rocket scientists. So there’s a definite connection, the same way that like COVERT AFFAIRS connects back to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which connects back to Bourne Identity, and connects to Fair Game. SUITS is sort of part of a new chapter in my life of being fascinated by the people who are the smartest people in the room. We’re not really going to ever become a courtroom drama be cause that’s not what the show is. Because you’re plucking Patrick Adams out of the fringe of society and planting him in this rarefied world of the highest floor of a skyscraper in mid-town Manhattan. We’re also have the cases sending him out into a rarefied world that he previously hadn’t been exposed to — the Hamptons and the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. That sort of rags-to-riches will permeate many of the stories. Not all of them because there is occasionally a pro bono case.
It sounds like Alice in Wonderland. Was that a theme that you were kind of going for in SUITS?
DOUG: It is, very much so. It is like when’s the clock is going to strike midnight. When does the prom end or when does he turn into a pumpkin? Like that. It is hanging over him the whole time because, in fact, he didn’t go to law school and he didn’t finish college. He’s having this amazing experience – a young good-looking man in New York making $180,000 a year. It’s pretty much hitting the jackpot. But since it’s not legitimately earned, because he didn’t go to law school and he doesn’t have a degree, there’s a threat that it will be taken at any second. And the cases are simply a part of that world.
The electricity between Gabriel’s character and Patrick’s character really jumps off the page. Did you know right away that they would work that well together?
DOUG: You know, it doesn’t always happen on Day One. That’s one of the things where we just became more and more surprised by how great the chemistry was. Like I would say it was good at the beginning and just got better and better and better — and continues to get better. You’re not supposed to say it, but Episode 2, in my opinion, is better than the pilot. Then we just saw Episode 3 and we’re like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s better than Episode 2!’ It’s their chemistry’s just getting better and better. It’s just extraordinary.
Did you do a lot of readings with Gabriel and Patrick or did you just know? Like did a lot of people read for the roles or did you just see them and you’re like, ‘No, this is it’?
DOUG: I haven’t been able to do those ‘chemistry reads’ really since I did Go. Since then it’s been really like maybe you get them together once but you the real work is seeing at the end of the day. There is a roll-of-the-dice associated to it. Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a massive roll-of-the-dice. Because of Brad and Angie’s schedule, I literally never even got them into the same room until the first day of the shoot.
It’s got to be kind of exciting when you ‘discover gold’ like that — when you find that magic chemistry after you actually cast the star of the show — particularly, something like SUITS. I mean, as a viewer and as a reviewer, I watched the pilot episode and I was startled by the instant chemistry. You’re just like, ‘Dang! That does leap off the page a little bit and it comes across on the screen really well.’ And it kind of was intoxicating to the point where we’re kind of all addicted and we kinda go, ‘Damn, it’s like a drug. What happened?!’
DOUG: Yeah, they’re just incredible together. But there’s no trick and it doesn’t always happen. I mean, it hasn’t happened in every one of my movies. It hasn’t happened in every one of my TV shows. You just do the best job you can. Their chemistry that’s really hitting now, it’s months of working together. So there’s no way to know. I mean, back when I was doing independent films like Swingers, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn and I were all out of work. So we were able to hang out for a while. It took years to put that film together and then with Go, I tried to recreate that experience by spending four months casting the film and bringing people in and reading them opposite each other and really doing that. But ever since then, I’ve been sort of forced to sort of make educated guesses.
Smart guesses. It seems to be a good formula. (Laughter.)
You have the rags-to-riches story for Patrick’s character but how do you counter that with Gabriel’s character? What keeps him evolving and interesting?
DOUG: That was the key thing about casting Gabriel. Harvey Specter has such confidence and arrogance and yet you still have to love him. There’s certain actors you can cast who you don’t have to sort of tone down say what might be a negative quality played by a different actor, such as arrogance. There’s certain actors who can embrace it and you’ll actually love them for that arrogance. And that was the critical thing for casting that role. So there’s no luck involved with casting Gabriel. He’s such a brilliant actor and he had already had demonstrated that. Then he comes into the room and you see that he can pull it off. It’s different than finding the chemistry. That’s about: will you still love him no matter how arrogant the thing he just did is? That’s like when I was casting Bourne Identity. I didn’t want to tone-down Jason Bourne’s back story. Even though if played by the wrong actor you would be forced to tone it down because people just wouldn’t root for the guy. ‘Cause he did a bunch of bad things in his past. That’s all you know about him. Played by the wrong person, you’d be like, ‘Oh, why am I even rooting for this guy?’ Yet, suddenly you’re forced to have him save a puppy dog. Because Matt Damon just feels so inherently good, that just comes through. You can sort of throw the darkest past at him and it still works. The same way with Gabriel Macht. You just root for him and love him — no matter how arrogant we go, you still love him. So I’m really excited about figuring out how we can explore that and where the boundaries of that are. Because, obviously, there’s a line that you cross where you actually wouldn’t root for him anymore and we want to dance around that. We are a character-driven show and we’re starting already at a really interesting place with him.
Could you talk a little bit about the casting of Gina Torres in the role for SUITS? ‘Cause that’s an unusual choice but she’s amazing in the role.
DOUG: Why do you think it’s unusual?
She gets usually kind of type-cast as like the rich wife kind of role or, in the case of Firefly, perhaps a warrior type. But to see her in a SUITS capacity where she’s the business person is a little different.
DOUG: I’m sort of known for casting against type. Certainly we’re here in Canada. Casting Sarah Polley in Go when she had done the Sweet Hereafter, doesn’t really get any more against type — except maybe casting Matt Damon as Jason Bourne when he had done nothing but sort of cerebral roles. So I definitely try to not be limited by what someone’s done before. In fact, if possible, I go the other way and say, ‘Okay, they’ve done that so I don’t want to see them do that again.’ It really is completely a meritocracy. It’s not even what you’ve done before. That’s one of things I also love about television — film is so much about who’s on this list and who’s on the short list. It’s people come in to audition for my next film and I’m like, ‘Alright, you’re really great, but they’re never going to let me cast you.’ Like that will never happen in television. It will just be you’re really great, then cast them. That happens all the time in film and it just doesn’t happen in television. It’s like, ‘Who’s actually really great for that part?’
Did you have like a gut instinct with Gina when she read for the role?
DOUG: Yeah. It just clicks. And if it doesn’t click, you keep at it till you find someone where it does click. ‘Cause casting’s everything in it. I mean, casting’s everything in film, almost. But if you can throw enough special effects at it you can get past it. But for the kinds of movies I like making, and the kind of television shows I like making and basically for all television, it’s all casting. If you don’t get the casting right, it doesn’t matter how clever you are with the writing or with the directing, you’re never going to make it work.
With how well COVERT AFFAIRS is doing and the other USA shows, does that put pressure on SUITS? Are there goals that you want to hit or is it just want to just make a good show and it does what it does?
DOUG: You can’t really set out to make a hit. You just set out to make something that you really like. In fact, SEINFELD’s like one of the most successful shows ever — they didn’t really set out to make a hit. They just liked it. That being said, when you see Gabriel and Patrick’s on-screen chemistry you can’t help but know it’s a winner. I’ve had really good luck in my career of being involved in a lot of great on-screen chemistries. Most famously Brad and Angie. But I’m incredibly proud of the dynamic between Vince and Jon in Swingers and I feel like Patrick and, and Gabe have that same dynamic in SUITS. That’s what I love about television — that it’s driven by character. It’s not driven by special effects. Even in COVERT AFFAIRS, which has a ton of action and we travel the world, the biggest stories are the ones where it’s about [Annie’s] sister or about her love life.
Watching the pilot, you and Patrick have awesome chemistry, has there been a moment so far when you’ve felt that? Like, ‘Wow, we’ve got some major chemistry here?’
GABRIEL: It’s hard to answer that question. Yes and no. I mean, if I say yes, that could potentially mean that I’m looking outside of myself and looking at the two of us, but then I could say yes and I feel that all the time when I’m with him on camera and without. It’s hard. Chemistry is such a funny word. It’s like, is it manipulated or is it manifested or is it just authentic? And I think from the second I met Patrick, I felt like we got along and I think, more importantly, we have a nice rapport. And if that comes across as being great chemistry, then all the better. But, for us, I think we’ve got a really nice way with each other.
Did you do any sort of preparation for Harvey, like did you maybe go visit a law firm or maybe like spend the day there?
GABRIEL: You know, I didn’t. My sister is a former Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx. My aunt was in family law. One of my very close friends was a top corporate attorney in Los Angeles — he’s now one of Gerry Brown’s aids, so he’s an aid to the governor. And my cousin was also in family law, a divorce attorney. I’ve just been around it my whole life, so I’ve observed bits and pieces along the way. And I feel like when I get the scripts each week, I don’t have to Wikipedia and try to figure out what all these terms mean. Because all I have to do is really just fake it pretty well. But I’ve been in court on the jury and I’ve been a potential jury member – I got out of that, thank god!
How did you come to this project or did they come to you? What was the process?
GABRIEL: I’ve been working in film for the last 10 years. I haven’t done series in 10 years and I was getting to the point in film where I was getting some great opportunities and working with terrific people and there was just something about the level of writing for the characters that I wasn’t getting. They’re out there, but I wasn’t getting some of those opportunities. And I thought, ‘You know what? Let me start reading some television. Let me see if there’s a little bit more consistency in the writing for me. What I was looking for was to be challenged by it. So I read some cable shows and this was the one that I liked best. I went and I met the producers, Doug Liman, Dave Bartis, Gene Klein and the show runner, creator, Aaron Korsh. We just all got along really in the meeting, in the conversation, in what we thought about the character, and how we saw the arc of where [Harvey] was going to go, as well as what the tone of the show was. It just seemed to fit all the stuff I really wanted to be a part of. So I went back and I read for them and it worked out that they wanted me to play the guy. So that’s how it came about.
Would you say that SUITS is primarily a legal show or a show about the relationship between Harvey and Mike, or a combination of both?
GABRIEL: I think that it’s in the guise of a legal drama, but it’s all about the relationships and how everyone’s dealing with each other. Something that’s great about this show is that the characters and the way it’s been cast — and I say that without like a chip on my shoulder and like maybe apart from me — it’s like everyone is so unique. There’s just great characters that we are playing and that the writers are dreaming up. We’re finding out more and more about the characters as the episodes continue. As obviously seen, each character develops into more even 3-dimensional characters after the pilot. I just think that that’s a huge thing. When you get a great ensemble who are in tune with each other and have a great rapport, there’s something in that dynamic and you’re off and running. I think what USA does well is they are sort of create a procedural show, but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re watching it. It feels more about, ‘What are these guys doing to each other and what’s going on between the dynamic of these two characters?’
It boils down to chemistry. There’s so many legal dramas. Do you think that it just boils down to the chemistry with your cast?
GABRIEL: I don’t think that’s the bottom line. But I think what’s great about our show is that it feels — for lack of a better word—like it’s a miracle to have anything be really great. I’ve been in a bunch of movies and some of them have been great, but it’s like when you have a baby — it’s a miracle when you have a child — and so if something comes out like great — and this is a really good show — it’s like almost like it’s a miracle. That that has something to do with everything from down the line, from the writing to the direction to the design.
Maybe you can talk a little bit about what inspired your character, Harvey to actually build this ‘house of cards’? Was there a tipping point that caused him to suddenly go, ‘I’m going to make this decision to do something completely unethical, but it sounds fun’?
GABRIEL: That’s a good question. You know what, it’s funny. I haven’t really thought about that. It’s hard when you do a pilot. You try to come up with whatever back-story you can. It’s like some people have a little of back-story, but sometimes it is just not in the writing. So, as we go through the episodes, we’re going to see a little bit more and a little bit more. Now, my character’s definitely layered and comes off as like a real ‘hard ass’ — real tough, but underneath, he’s really fair. When he’s dealing in a case or when he’s dealing with Mike or he’s dealing with any of the other characters, I think he’s morally in line with what’s right. Now, he made this choice. I think that choice is something like he’s just sort of bored with the young associates coming out of Harvard. Having been to Harvard and with no street smarts, nobody’s got any sort of balls, for lack of word.
Do you think boredom drove him to, ‘I’m going to do something totally insane’?
GABRIEL: I think so — and I think he knows he’s on a television show! (Laughter)
What about in his own mind?
GABRIEL: I’m joking! I think great characters take big risks and I think that’s part of like what works about this show is that [Havey] makes this like grand risk of using a guy, who’s brilliant and has street smarts, but doesn’t have a law degree. And [Harvey] figures, ‘You know what, he’ll figure it out.’ I think Harvey thinks that he’s the smartest guy in the room – always. He’s won every single case thus far. So hopefully we’ll see that maybe he loses a case this season or next season and what does that do to him. How does that penetrate his armour?
So it’s not so much boredom – it’s gamesmanship he wants a challenge?
GABRIEL: I think it’s a challenge. I think he’s up for a challenge at every quest.
So to him, this might be the ultimate game?
GABRIEL: Could be. But I also think when he opens the door and he sees in that waiting room a bunch of jack-offs, he just figures, ‘Why not this kid, you know?’ The guy’s got heart and I think there’s something about Harvey. Underneath, he knows he’s got a lot of heart and you don’t necessarily see so much of that at first in the pilot. But I think he sees a younger version of himself sitting there and I think he has run into a bunch of problems, early on, that we don’t know about. So I think he sees himself in Mike and I think there is something about Mike that’s going to bring out a little bit more sensitivity for Harvey. I think he needs a little bit of that. So they’re going to teach each other how to be a little bit stronger and how to be a little bit more vulnerable so that they can work together and figure it out.
How far are you into shooting this season and what sorts of situations can we expect to see Harvey be getting into?
GABRIEL: We’ve shot five episodes and we’re in the middle of our sixth episode. What’s great, by the way, is that I’ve seen a couple of the episodes — and you only hope that the episodes after are as good as the pilot. We had 3 weeks to shoot the pilot. Now we have 7 days to shoot every episode. I will say that the two that I’ve seen really match the pilot and there’s a couple people who are saying they think it’s gotten better – and is now really awesome. I feel like the episodes are on par and they’re great. I haven’t seen them with the perfected music and the colour correction and all that stuff, so they’re a bit naked. But we’re all feeling really good about the scripts that are coming in and where the show is going, as far as the direction. What type of challenges does Harvey get himself involved in? Well, in this episode there’s something interesting. There’s a merger going on and the other counsel happens to be someone Harvey went to law school with — who was number one at law school, while he was number five. So that’s fun. Just that there’s a bunch of innuendo in there and in seeing who’s trying to beat the other in negotiation. A lot of this show is a lot about winning and losing and who’s smarter and who’s stronger. So there’s something interesting with that.
Going back to Harvey as a character. He is a bored, wealthy, good looking, successful, arrogant, kind of character. How do you make him sympathetic or likeable to the audience? And how do you relate to that?
GABRIEL: You saw him as bored?
Well, he’s obviously at the top of his game and successful and he’s made this decision maybe out of boredom, but he’s definitely an arrogant and cocky, yet successful person. How do you make him likeable?
GABRIEL: I don’t relate to him at all. Because that’s just not who I am. He’s so far away from me. But I’m trying to bring a little bit more of myself to him because that’s what we do as actors. He is totally like a hard-ass, sophisticated, who cares about his presentation, and cares about how slick he is and smart and clever. I think underneath, we’re going to see, as the show goes, more vulnerability out of him. You’re going to see that he cares about the ALS victim that’s gotten a bad drug and is having a really bad side-effect. You’re going to see that maybe the woman that he’s loved for so long, got away, and he’ll be challenged by that. You might see him lose at some point — where you’re going to see a crack in armour, his suit — to see that, sort of, peel away. I think there’s a real mystery about him and that is interesting. You always want to see the mysterious character exposed, and little by little we’re going to peel the layers. I think he’s really sensitive in many ways that we just haven’t seen yet. I think you’ll see those moments along the way with Mike, with Jessica, with Louis. You’re going to see him just ride Louis and then all of the sudden you’re going to see that maybe Louis’ insecurity hits home and you’re going to see how he’s like, ‘Okay, I understand.’ I find that to be really challenging and interesting and I really think that that’s where the arc is going.
You said something about ‘the one that got away’? When I was watching the pilot, I detected a connection between, Harvey and Jessica. Do you think that there was any type of a personal relationship in the past or is it all just strictly been professional between them?
GABRIEL: This may be different than the writers – and I’m not creating this thing — but what I think it was is that [Harvey] was sort of like a ‘scrapper’ early on and somehow got into the mail room — wasn’t even a lawyer, didn’t think about going to law school — but he was really quick on his feet. And he got into the mailroom and [Jessica] saw that. She put him on her deck when she was rising up. I think she started mentoring him, and as she mentored him, it’s sort of a mirror of [Harvey] mentoring Mike. I think what happened was that [Jessica] put him through law school, and she thought, ‘You know what? This kid should be a lawyer.’ I don’t think there was a sexual thing going on with the two of our characters. I think he looks up to her. He respects her and he’s got to fall in line with her because she gave him a shot. She basically took him and believed in him. I also think that part of how [Harvey’s] put together is he did meet some woman who taught him about all that stuff — like helped him design his apartment and helped him with his style and he became aware of fashion and got really like into it for a little while — and then she got away. So now he’s just going to play the field and have some fun until he finds someone who is that woman again. Maybe she comes back. Who knows. That’s sort of how I see his like connection with women and with Jessica.
Maybe you could talk about the process of becoming Donna. How did you find out about the role and what drew you to it?
SARAH: I was drawn to the whole script. The whole script was amazing because I think the creator, Aaron, really has this amazing ability to write these characters and when you’re introduced to them, you just like get a hit of, ‘Oh, I get who that person is.’ Donna, in particular, I was just drawn to her because she’s so comfortable in her own skin and so confident in her own position at the firm. Certainly because she’s been with Harvey for 15-17 years — before Harvey was Harvey — she was teamed up with him. So she’s smart. She’s confident. She has a big heart. I think she operates really from a place of compassion and empathy, and I think she has that for Mike — although she’s doesn’t, necessarily want Mike to know that. That’s pretty much it.
Do you think Donna knows about what Harvey’s done? The fact that he’s brought in somebody who’s not a licensed attorney?
SARAH: She definitely knows. Because in the pilot — I think that little bit was cut — but when Harvey is told he has to get a new associate, he goes and tells Donna, she sets up the interviews. So she’s there and he comes out and says, ‘You got to streamline this process, give them all a hard time and just send the good ones back.’ So basically, I’m looking for somebody who — when I say, ‘What the hell’s wrong with you? You look like you’re 12 years old and your hair is a Ronald McDonald colour.’ We want somebody who can play, who’s going to be cool at the office, who can go toe-to-toe with Harvey — who can, maybe, someday be a Harvey. And none of the guys were doing that. And then in comes Mike, with his line, ‘I don’t really care about the interview. I’m just ditching the cops. ‘ It’s like – Bing! She just knew. She got a hit form him that he’s the right guy. She knows every detail. Like many assistants, she hears every single conversation. She’s linked in. She knows absolutely everything about Harvey’s, personal and private life.
Is Harvey aware that she knows what’s going on?
So Donna’s definitely part of the ‘boys club’ in this situation?
SARAH : Absolutely. I think that’s another thing that really drew me to her. She’s a secretary and she’s very feminine, but she can be one of the boys and still get to have all the fun of being a girl.
Do you think she’s in a ‘power position’ because not only is she in on the joke, but she’s confident enough to go, ‘Hey, I’m going to hold you by your short hairs, unless you guys do exactly what I want, in these kind of situations’?
SARAH: Do you mean, in a power position with Harvey too?
Yes, because she’s in on one of his biggest secrets right now.
SARAH: Absolutely. But I think she’s in a powerful position because over the years she’s become indispensable to him. I mean, it’s like, in terms of all the technical aspects of his professional life and knowing exactly who to call at the courthouse to get whatever Harvey needs. She takes care of all the relationships that make his life move smoothly, making all the gears turn. So I even imagined maybe there was time when Donna went on vacation or went away to go be in a play or something — because she had been an actress or whatever — and she back and Harvey was like, ‘You are never leaving again!’ kind of thing. You know, that kind of assistant that you just rely on.
So Donna’s kind of more of the ‘work wife? He cannot live without her.
SARAH: Yes. I think like all great assistants, [Donna] anticipates he’ll buzz her to say, ‘do something’ and she’s done it because she’s listening. She knows exactly where it’s going to go. She’s already put in the call. She already has that person on hold for him. It’s that type of relationship.
You don’t think she’s getting off on a little bit of a power trip because she’s that indispensable?
SARAH: Oh — she is! (Laughing) No. She’s sort of like the boss of the secretaries and she having a lot of fun too. There’s an episode when Harvey has to buy in to be partner and he plays a little joke on the other partners pretending that he didn’t know that he had to have a certain amount of money. And Donna had actually gone and got the certified cheque for him. Then later he said he had the cheque the whole time and Jessica asks, ‘Why would you do that?’ And he says, ‘Because, basically, I look cooler that I had it the whole time and I was playing a joke on you guys.’ And she’s like, ‘Well, how’s anybody going to know? Donna’s already told all the secretaries.’ Like [Donna] sort of takes care of all his image issues — any of that kind of stuff. I think she’s a ‘queen bee’ in that way.
SARAH: You know, it’s a fun job to be with the like super, slick guy. It’s a cool lifestyle.
Do you think that there’s a romantic tension between Donna and Harvey or does he just have that with every girl?
SARAH: That is a really good question. Gosh, when I take myself out of it, I think Harvey is the type of guy who has a romantic tension with everybody. I think in the pilot he has it with the waitress right away — two seconds in. I think that if there is a romantic tension with Donna — if there’s like a Ms. Moneypenny thing going on — and I think there might be, I think it’s really safe and playful. It’s like a way that they just play with each other. It’s obviously those things sometimes can get confusing and who knows. Maybe Donna sometimes feels it, but she’s such a player. Like there is a reason they united — ‘cause she can play.
Is she the female Harvey?
SARAH : I think she could be. I think that’s why he picked her to be his assistant.
How much of the back-story to your character do you have any input on? How much of the back-story do you know and how much do you get to kind of engineer as you go along?
SARAH: I think, technically, all you have is what you have on the page as an actor. Whatever’s in the script. That’s all that you’ve got and from there you generate your own back-story. You think back about what would make this person behave this way. What were the events that lead up to that. But when SUITS got picked up to series and I got a chance to sit down with Aaron, the creator, he was able to offer what he thought. I think Donna was an actress before she was a secretary.
Were you’ve given some kind of parameters?
SARAH: I have some kind of idea of what’s coming. But then sometimes you’re surprised when the next script comes in and you find out your character had a first marriage that didn’t go right or something that interesting. But I think sometimes the characters are written so well that you kind of have a sense that there was something like that going on. As an actor, when you read it, you just sort of know. You’ve made up something like that in your head anyway.
When creating a character like yours, did you have anybody that you tired to base a little bit off of? Did you have someone in mind?
SARAH : It was definitely a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But I sort of — in a super general vibey kind of way — I kind of thought about some of the like classical actresses. I feel like Donna has a timing and a wit that was kind of big in the ‘40’s films. Like His Girl Friday, that kind of thing. So I thought about them a little bit. But not in any kind of specific way. I wish I had a better answer for that. It would be cool if I was like, ‘I’m doing Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.’
Like Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
SARAH : Exactly.
In the pilot they kind of set things up as this kind of ‘dynamic duo’ of Mike and Harvey. Are we going to see some situations where it becomes a trio and Donna gets to join in on the action? To take a more active role in the action?
SARAH: Yes. We are shooting an episode right now where Donna gets to team up with Mike. There’s like this associate ‘mock trial’ competition and Mike has to present as a lawyer and he goes up against his nemesis. Donna is his star witness and she gets to come in and perform. She thinks she’s going to come in and hand him this case — that he can win it. So we’re next to each other at the table. We’ve got a plan — the whole thing. When [Mike] asks her if she’ll be his witness and she says, ‘Oh, you’re so cute. I’ve been fielding offers for months!’ Like this is my big moment. Every year everybody’s coming after [Donna] to ask her to play the traffic cop, or the Russian mob boss. So she passes on those other offers to help Mike out because she really is loyal to Mike and because she likes Mike, as an individual. But really it is because that’s how she’s loyal to Harvey. Because he’s Harvey’s guy.
How do you think females watching the show can relate to your character?
SARAH: Oh, I should ask them that. I hope that they relate to seeing somebody in the workplace, who is really confident in their skills and what they bring to the table, and that they have a unique skill set and talent to offer the workplace. Somebody who’s really confident and really comfortable in their own skin – and maybe they’ll get to see somebody who might have a work crush on respond. I don’t know. I can’t speak to that! But I think those are all things that maybe we can relate to. I think Donna’s really vulnerable too. I think one of the reasons why she’s so good at going toe-to-toe is that she’s developed a pretty good mask. We all do that, in our own ways.
What do you want to see happen with Donna this season?
SARAH: Oh my god, that’s the hardest question. That is so hard. That’s so hard ‘cause I’m already so grateful for all that’s already there. I feel like the creator and the writers have set her up. There’s so much room for her to grow in the coming season. So I’m just excited for the audience to maybe get a chance to understand what makes Donna tick and maybe see a little bit of the mask fall down a little bit. To kinda see what’s going on underneath. Maybe a little peek into her personal life would be sort of fun. To see what’s going on back there that makes her like this. Or more of an understanding of the history, like some of the stuff that [Harvey and Donna] been through together, if that becomes revealed.
What can you share about Donna’s wardrobe? I really admired what she was wearing in the pilot.
SARAH: Oh, gosh, we had such an amazing costume designer, Christopher, on the pilot. You know what was so fun is that he was great. He’s like your fantasy. You wish he was at home with you because he’d have some like amazing piece that you’d never buy and then he’d pair it with a Club Monaco accessory or something. Lie he did that kind of great mix. I think, with Donna, the thing that’s fun about her wardrobe is, like Harvey says at the outset to Mike, ‘I care about how I look and you’re a reflection of me, so go get your suits.’ Obviously Donna knows in that she gives [Mike] the card for the tailor. She knows that this is coming and where the tailor is and she has a relationship with that tailor. But she doesn’t have to dress like a lawyer. She doesn’t need to be ready for court. She doesn’t need that kind of thing. She’s not a woman trying to fit into a man’s world. She gets to dress in a fun way. Harvey compensates her incredibly well, so she can spend her time on the Internet finding her clothes. And I think her clothes in the workplace environment can be a reflection of the fun that she wants to have — sort of reflecting that she’s fun and feminine and confident.
So it’s a window into the soul of who she is?
SARAH: I think clothes are really important in that way. Especially since you notice them.
I think it is part of her power. It says, ‘I’m a woman. I’m powerful and you will do what I say.’
SARAH: Exactly, and what was so interesting was that Christopher insisted that she wore fishnets. But in a classically elegant fishnet. But he put them on and I was like, ‘oh, I get it!’ Like it just sort of says that she’s a girl who can wear fishnets to the office in a elegant way. It just speaks to who she is in some way. It was really cool.
It added element of mystery, it was kind fun.
SARAH: Yeah, and even if you can’t necessarily see it, you know it.
You feel it.
SARAH: So it helps you feel like you’re not just you in your sneakers hanging out. It helps you transform.
What do you want to tell us about Louis?
RICK: The quick version is he is the ‘douche’ of the firm. But to get a more psychological angle, from the beginning of the pilot, he gets defeated by one of his equals — which is Harvey Spector, played by Gabriel Macht. It’s a character that is interesting and becomes more and more interesting because in life, people lose — whether it be a promotion or they fail at work — it all depends on how they handle it and compose themselves afterwards to recover. And this particular character doesn’t; or, at least, on the outside it seems like he does, but on this inside he is just completely broken to pieces. It clearly shows how he treats his co-workers for the first part of the series. He handles it very poorly and turns to the dark side. But there’s other sides to Louis Litt that hopefully we’ll get to see in episodes down the road.
Why would you want to play such a fractured character?
RICK: Well, fractured. Everybody’s fractured. In general, it’s just the level of the dimension of fracture. How heavy the fracture is. In this particular case, he’s pretty much a walking wound. His suit is his shield. He covers himself for who he really is. He doesn’t want anyone to see who that person is. And who that person is, is actually much softer than he comes across — especially the first couple of episodes. Actually they’re switching around episodes so we don’t know exactly the order but that’s what makes me so interested in this character. That there are lots of different levels to Louis Litt. It’s very rare that you get an opportunity, as an actor, to play roles like this. Most of the last five years I’ve been doing a lot of guest spots that have been very one dimensional and one-notes and it’s a blessing to be able to work on a show like this. Luck of the draw that all the characters are multi-dimensional.
What would you describe as being your most fun moment, so far, that you’ve been able to do in the role of Louis?
RICK: I think it’s going to be in the second episode, the one after the pilot. I am a really good tennis player, apparently, and also love to take my shirt off in front of dudes and make them feel uncomfortable. In that episode, that was the most fun. There’s another episode coming up that’s just going to be unbelievably challenging, from a dramatic standpoint. But, for me personally as an actor, it’s so hard to get jobs like this. Even if I’m playing ‘glorified background,’ it’s fun. Just being up here working has been an unbelievable blessing that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Especially, let alone a show that’s as well written like this.
How did you feel when you first read the pilot script?
RICK: I have played different levels of ‘douche’ over the last 11 years, but this guy, I was immediately psyched. Because this guy is much more refine. He’s more of a Yago like character — or as someone had said, ‘serpentine.’ It’s just a much more cerebral, maniacal type, like a damaged soul. Which I find to be very interesting to play and challenging. Cause I’m not damaged, at all. No baggage.
Who would you say you’re having the most fun working with on the show, so far?
RICK: Well, I still have yet to work with certain actors, but Gabriel and myself always have fun.
You’re working with somebody like Gina Torres and she’s a very strong force of nature.
RICK: I can’t stand that girl. [Laughter.] No, actually just now I’m working with Gina. We’re working together. The really good thing about this is it is kind of scary when things like this are so easy. Because everybody has a different energy. Out of the six episodes thus far, it’s a pleasure to work with one another. Sarah Rafferty, I can’t wait to work with. She’s just hilarious. Thank god, they made her a regular. She really adds a lot of fun to the show.
Do you think Louis actually might suspect there’s something going on with the new associate? Does he have like a Spidey-sense that something’s not quite right? Does he have any sense that [Mike] isn’t exactly what he’s supposed to be?
RICK: From the get go. First of all, he knows Harvey very well. He knows that Harvey is this gunslinger, by the seat of your pants kind of guy. So he knows something’s up. When he notices the briefcase situation and when [Mike] gets drug tested, that leads to more question marks for the rest of the series; and it ends up something they use that as a troublesome point for Mike Ross, Patrick’s character.
You said something a minute ago about, Louis has, has a soft side that he’s kind of hiding…
But, clearly, he’s got it in for Harvey. Is there a line that he won’t cross? I mean, just how far will he go to stick it to Harvey?
RICK: I’m not sure what version you saw of the pilot — there are two. I don’t know if they’re were going to throw that scene back in. They didn’t want to make [Louis] so douche. So, the bottom line is, he’ll go to any point necessary to screw over Harvey. Because [Harvey] truly does deserve it. Louis is the hardest worker of that firm and you’ll see as the series goes on, but [Louis] just isn’t as smooth as Harvey — and he hates that because he’s an ugly duckling. In all senses of the phrase, in life [Louis] has tremendous insecurities. He is just not smooth. He is the opposite of smooth.
How did you prepare for the role?
RICK: How did I prepare for the role? This is an unimpressive answer. For whatever reason, I have been able to tap into many different levels over the course of 11 years of ‘asshole,’ as one would say. I think all of us have had moments where we get cut off in traffic or somebody lies to you or we’re hurt. There’s injustice all over the place, wherever you go. I’m so sensitive and I’m very aware of my surroundings, so I always hate to see when people act shitty or do things that are unfair; and for some reason, I am able to tap into that. I’ve always been curious what makes those people think they’re doing the right thing. So that’s why I make money playing those assholes. They think they’re innocent and that’s what I love about them. That’s what makes it, to me, so interesting. Everybody’s the hero of their own story.
Although it’s always so much fun to have a character on a show that you love-to-hate, do you personally hope that viewers will get an opportunity to see your character in a sympathetic light, at some point?
RICK: They’re going to earlier than I thought. I had a conversation when I got hired for the job. I was just so excited to have this job, but Aaron Korsh, who is the creator — when we had found out that we’re doing this show — because he had been a fan of Philly which was years ago and he saw what they made the character in that show turn into, which was also a very twisted, not as twisted as Louis but a little ornery and just a real human being — Aaron told me right away that they were going to try to turn that corner quick and the did. What’s kinda nice about — this is something I feel personally — I find a lot of comedy in all these like idiotic forms of behaviour. For instance, I swear to God, this happened this morning. I’m at the gym. I’m going to the shower. I have my towel ready for me to go into the shower. I turn my back for maybe 15 seconds to hop in the steam. I go back to the shower and there’s a guy in it and I open the curtain, I’m like, ‘Hey man, I’m sorry, that’s my towel’ and he’s like, ‘No, it’s my towel.’ What do you mean, it’s your towel?! All right man, I don’t even have the energy to argue with a naked man about whose towel it is. So I said, ‘All right, take your towel.’ So now I have no towel, but that’s not fair. That’s the kind of stuff. This guy thinks he’s good. How funny is that? So somehow, to me, it is about the comedy of it all. I can take that somehow, and it comes out as well in these characters –which hopefully makes you love-to hate-him. Opposed to just hate him.
After hearing first-hand how each of these new characters have been brought to life and the stories they will weave throughout the first season of SUITS, it is not a wonder that I am counting down the minutes to see this amazing show. The pilot episode sets the stage for a tremendous story of illusion, gamesmanship and friendship. Discovering how far they will go and how long they can get away with this scheme will not only entertaining, it will be captivating. Make sure to tune in for SUITS premiere on Thursday, June 23rd at 10:00PM (running 90 minutes long). SUIT then airs Thursday nights at 10:00PM on USA Network.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).