Suits, the latest in a long line of American legal dramas to find major popularity in the UK, is not the most obvious of success stories. A flash, familiar stab at the crime-fighting buddy template, it’s tale of a dropout genius snuck into the upper echelons of a major New York law firm after acing an impromptu interview survives chiefly on the strength of its two leads, Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht. Playing reformed pothead Mike Ross and legal hotshot Harvey Specter respectively, their chemistry and easy charm raise a tired formula into the realm of snappy entertainment.
Meanwhile, the show’s other coup arrives in the form of Meghan Markle. Her performance as Rachel, the sharp paralegal who guides Mike through his early adjustments to life at the top of the legal profession, provides Suits with some much needed variety and emotional heft, not to mention some difficult romantic entanglements as one of Mike’s two onscreen love interests, a progression hit by the revelation that Mike is in fact not a graduate of Harvard, and that he previously earned a living by sitting exams for less able students. Speaking recently while in the midst of shooting Suits’ second season, she cites her own easy chemistry with Adams and a playful atmosphere on set as being key to the programme’s success.
How did you get involved with the show?
MM: It was just like any other audition. I was sent the material and was asked to go and read for the producers. I had just gotten back from vacation, and it’s funny because I’m normally completely ‘off book’, meaning I know all my lines and I’m completely prepared, but I walked in and this was not the case for my audition for Suits, which was called A Legal Mind at the time. I thought that I just blew it and I left the audition and called my agent to say ‘I have got to get back in for this audition,’ because I loved the part. He said ‘It’s my job to get you in the room and then it’s your job to do your job, there’s nothing we can do at this point’. Then a week later we hadn’t realised that all of the wheels were turning and that they had really loved my audition, and they had asked me to come in to test for the role, which was a huge surprise and I was so excited.
Your onscreen relationship with Mike is our way to getting to know your character isn’t it?
MM: When I found at that Patrick Adams had the role as Mike Ross that was the icing on the cake, because he and I had done a project for a different network several years before and had had great chemistry. Working with Patrick is so much fun and we’d known each other for years, so it’s very easy and it makes work a bit more like play when you can laugh at the same jokes and have a shorthand with each other which we really do. I’m sure that resonates in the Mike and Rachel dynamic.
Your character’s relationship with Mike changes dramatically over the course of the first season…
MM: At the onset Rachel is one of the strongest characters there, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the firm, and her Achilles heel is not being able to test well, which has kept her in the role of a paralegal for so long. She had become so used to having these young hotshot associates come in and just be rather obnoxious, and turn her off personally and professionally. But as they spend so much time together and as the season progresses and they work on cases together, one of the largest shifts is this trust that she begins to have in him, which of course is thrown a little askew when she discovers his secret. We start to see Rachel, who started off as such a strong, independent and almost disinterested character, soften quite a bit towards Mike Ross, and you definitely start to see more of that in Season Two.
Working as an actor, what is it like working with the uncertainty surrounding whether a pilot you work on is going to get picked up?
MM: I have done probably five pilots that haven’t gotten picked up, and ones that the industry, the buzz, the cast, we were all so certain they were going to get green lit. So the time that Suits came around, because I had felt so disappointed in the past when other projects hadn’t been picked up, I was really able to let go. When we eventually found out there was a communal ‘Oh my God!’ To have a second season on top of that, and great ratings, and to have people really respond to the show, it’s unbelievable.
Is an atmosphere of letting go the key to the show’s success then?
MM: Well, because our dynamic as a cast is so close knit, and because we all have such specific personalities both on and off camera that mesh so well, we are really lucky because we’re able to improv, be silly between takes and just loosen up a bit, so that the amazing writing that our writers give us is able to have a lot more life to it; because we’re able to take more chances.
In the last episode you your character interacts a little more with some of the other cast members. Do we see you broadening out of your character continuing next season?
MM: How it was conceived initially was that Harvey and Mike are the two pins in the middle of the wheel, and so each of the rest of us in the ensemble are the spokes that some off of them. So in all of Season One you don’t see any of us outside of the context of the office or out of relation to Harvey or Mike. Season Two is exciting for us as an ensemble because you do get to see more of where we come from what we do after work, our relationships with each other.
Patrick and Gabriel have a very snappy, likable rapport as Mike and Harvey.
MM: I think that they just have this really easy chemistry and banter. I think s somebody in Season One has said they were sort of like Clooney and Matt Damon in Ocean’s Eleven, they have that energy together which is easy and cool. You can tell that they get along, and they are both such good guys, I think it does help the dynamic that we all have such a solid friendship outside of the show. It definitely reflects on the two of them.
There is a great scene towards the end of Season One in which Mike is surprised at the revelation that Rachel hasn’t seen Casablanca. Have you?
MM: You know what I haven’t! And the creator Aaron Korsh hasn’t, which is why he wrote it into the show. Life imitating art!
Suits Season One is out on DVD today. Season Two arrives on both US and UK screens in June