When “Suits” ended its first season last September, things looked grim for faux-lawyer Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) as his shady former best friend marched himself into the office of Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), the founding partner of Mike’s law firm, to reveal Mike’s secret: He doesn’t even have a law degree, just an eidetic memory that allows him to retain a comprehensive knowledge of the law.
Last week’s gripping season premiere of USA Network’s hit Thursday legal dramedy neatly resolved the most burning issues in that cliffhanger. Jessica is decidedly unhappy to learn that Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), her right-hand guy, conspired in Mike’s deception, but she ultimately agreed not to fire Mike in the face of a much more serious threat: the return of previously unseen senior partner Daniel Hardman (new cast member David Costabile), who has a major grudge against Jessica and Harvey.
“Now we have Daniel Hardman coming in to reclaim his space and try to get his power back,” Macht tells Zap2it of this season’s major new story wrinkle. “Hardman’s return may be a game-changer, and [Harvey and Jessica are] not sure what that means. He doesn’t come across as a very trustworthy guy, but as we move forward you’ll see that he has some good qualities, and at least to some extent, he’s trying to make amends.”
Macht pauses, then adds with a chuckle, “OK, Hardman basically was blackmailed by us in the first place, so he definitely wants Jessica and me out of there.”
But then, twists and reversals are second nature on “Suits,” which premiered last summer to relatively little fanfare but quickly blossomed into a critical and popular hit. In fact, many of the show’s fans consider it the gold standard among USA’s consistently successful original series.
“The reaction I am getting on the street is incredible,” Macht says. “It’s very odd. I’m actually very different than Harvey in so many ways, and I definitely dress nothing like him when I am not working. I’ll run into people who ask me what I’m working on, and I say, ‘Suits,’ and they say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s like my favorite show. That’s you?’ My point is, I always get a strong reaction because people have become so invested in these characters.”
None of them more than Mike, the gifted college dropout who saw his dreams of becoming a lawyer fatally torpedoed after he was caught selling an exam to the daughter of the local dean. Gifted with a prodigious memory, Mike was eking out a living taking tests (especially LSATs) for other people when fate led him to Harvey, a newly minted senior partner at Pearson Hardman who was looking for a legal associate.
The part instantly resonated with Adams, who was at a low point himself after getting fired off an NBC comedy pilot that left him wondering whether he needed to make a career change.
“The show wasn’t about his gift; it was about how he had squandered it and how he had this potential that he never had found a way to realize his dream,” Adams recalls. “Through some very strange circumstances in the pilot, he was given this opportunity to finally prove to himself that he is capable of doing something he was always meant to do. I thought for sure that was something I could connect to in a very real and personal and emotional way. I mean, I had been fired and broken down, and here I got the opportunity to go in and just speak from the heart and do these scenes about a young guy who feels that he has all this potential, but it just hasn’t come together yet.”
Adams not only connected with fansbut with the voters at the Screen Actors Guild, who nominated his work in the first season as best performance by a male actor in drama series.
“To be honest, it was an honor just to be considered to be nominated,” Adams says. “Last year was such a strange, surreal year for me. When the actual nomination came out, I already imagined I had won the prize, because I couldn’t imagine feeling any better than that.”
But then, the core ensemble of “Suits” doesn’t really have a weak link. Torres radiates smart, elegant power as Jessica, while Rick Hoffman manages somehow to be both dangerous and pricelessly comic as Harvey’s jealous rival, Louis Litt, and Meghan Markle’s smitten Rachel starts out this season not realizing that Mike still hasn’t heard the call she drunk-dialed one night in which she poured out her feelings for him.
“Suits” fans also will be finding out more about the history of Harvey and his wisecracking assistant, Donna, played by the incomparable Sarah Rafferty.
“I think Sarah actually has worked out more stuff about Harvey and Donna’s past than I have, but I also think [the writers] have worked out more than they have told us,” says Macht. “You’re not going to find any of that out in the first episodes of this season, but you will a bit down the line. Donna is way more prevalent this year, and Sarah is just fantastic.”