Interview with Gabriel Macht from “Suits”

It’s been a little over a month since I posted my first article on DefectiveGeeks highlighting five reasons to watch Suits. Since then, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview Tiffani Thiessen and review an early screening of the White Collar summer finale. Hard to believe so much could happen in such a short time! It all came full circle yesterday morning, when I had the chance to join a phone-in Q&A session with Gabriel Macht, who plays Harvey Specter on Suits.

The first season of Suits is already coming to a close, with only two episodes left: “Rules of the Game” airs tonight at 10/9c, and the season finale “Dogfight” airs next week on September 8th. In the interview, Gabriel discusses what the remainder of the season has in store and reveals a few tantalizing hints about Harvey’s “mysterious past.” He also sheds light on the relationships Harvey has with Jessica and Mike, as well as give some wonderful insight into the truth behind Harvey’s tough exterior.

Click on the cut to read my write up of the interview!

Gabriel starts off by talking about the upcoming guest stars on Suits and what their characters will mean for Harvey’s storyline. Gary Cole plays Cameron Dennis, a District Attorney up for re-election who Harvey once worked for as an assistant. Gabriel describes Cameron as “Harvey’s Harvey,” the man who mentored Harvey and someone he holds in high regard. In tonight’s episode, Harvey discovers that Cameron had buried evidence that resulted in an innocent man being put in jail. “There’s a lot of loss there when I find out he wasn’t above board,” Gabriel says. “We’ll see how Harvey’s mentor let him down.”

Alicia Coppola plays someone in the Attorney General’s office who wants to end Cameron’s re-election and comes to Harvey for help, and Chi McBride will appear in the season finale as the interim District Attorney. “Not to give anything away,” Gabriel says, realizing the irony. (Obviously, Cameron doesn’t win the re-election.) Harvey will try to right the wrong he had unwittingly helped commit and comes to McBride’s character for help in clearing the innocent man’s name. Unfortunately, the new DA plays everything by the book and makes this difficult for Harvey, and the two will come up against each other.

Speaking of guest stars, Gabriel mentions that he would love to have his wife Jacinda Barrett on the show. “She could be a strong woman who comes in and teaches Harvey a thing or two,” Gabriel suggests. That would definitely be wonderful to see! (Dear USA Network: Hint, hint.)

Throughout the Q&A session, it’s clear that Gabriel is as much of a fan of the show as the audience is. He calls the success of Suits a “miracle” and attributes it to the smart writing, describing the show as “a procedural with witty banter.” He also credits the wide appeal of the show’s characters. “The ensemble of actors are so unique from each other,” he says. “We all work so well together, we all really like each other off-screen and it makes it a lot of fun to take the piss out of each other on-screen.”

Gabriel also touches on something else that I think many fans have responded to, which is the strong women on the show. “All of our female characters are really, really strong,” he says. “In many cases stronger than some of the men.”

Arguably the strongest character on the show (male or female) is Jessica Pearson, played by Gina Torres. Gabriel talks a little bit about Harvey and Jessica’s relationship, drawing parallels between them and the relationship between Harvey and Mike. Jessica had seen the potential in Harvey when he was younger, and gave him a second chance by putting him through law school and getting him a position as the DA’s assistant. “Harvey was a bit misinformed sometimes on the reasons Jessica put him there,” Gabriel says. “You’ll see how that reveals itself, and how that relates to the story now.”

The similarity between Harvey’s relationship with Jessica and the one he has with Mike is brought up again when Gabriel discusses Harvey’s motivations for hiring Mike: “In many ways, Mike is a representation of what Harvey was when he was a kid, and he got a real shot from Jessica to break out of the world he was in and get a second chance. And there’s a huge thing to say about second chances and the compassion someone has to give someone another shot. Mike made bad choices but is truly a good person at heart and is really bright and deserves a second chance. That’s what happened with Harvey early on. He sees Mike as a younger him, and sees it as a way of giving back. It shows Harvey’s compassion and underlies his M.O. of not caring.”

Over the course of the season, it’s become clear that Harvey Specter really does care a lot, despite all his claims to the contrary. Gabriel agrees, “I think the bottom line is this: I think Harvey is actually a really emotional guy.” He then goes on to theorize on the motivations behind Harvey’s pretense of not caring: “I think he’s been hurt and I think he’s been broken. And I think the way that he covers for that is that he’s created this incredible armor.”

It’s comments like these that really reveal how much Gabriel thinks about Harvey’s backstory, ascribing motivations and history to almost every aspect of his character. This includes Harvey’s signature look: the Tom Ford custom tailored suits and slicked-back hair, as well as the jazz and blues records in his office. I asked Gabriel about these, curious to know how much of it was scripted and how much was based on his own interpretations. Gabriel reveals that it was a collaboration between designers, writers, directors, and himself.

“We all sort of created this guy together, and I’ve sort of taken a little bit of their vision and expanded it in as many ways as I can,” he says. “We saw Harvey as a real man’s man, a Cary Grant meets a Steve McQueen in the modern world. He’s about presentation and he cares about what he wears.” Once again, Gabriel expands on this further by hinting at a possible history behind Harvey’s look: “I had this idea that he had met a woman who came into his life who knew about fashion and knew about design, and that’s the one who got away. And he took on this sort of thing, and he felt like it would work in his line of work, in closing deals and being trusted.”

When asked about the differences between being in movies versus TV shows, Gabriel admits that he avoided doing television for several years. After a role in The Others, Gabriel exclusively pursued film roles for a time. The idea of playing different characters from movie to movie appealed to him most, but Gabriel wasn’t getting the opportunities or, more importantly, the quality of writing he wanted. It was the latter that attracted him to Suits and the role of Harvey, and Gabriel seems excited to delve deeper into his character. He hasn’t given up on films entirely, and mentions the possibility of doing movies during hiatuses.

The Q&A session really reinforces what Gabriel has mentioned on several other occasions: the actor is nothing like the character he portrays. Gabriel seems like a very down-to-earth, laid back kind of guy, both friendly and approachable. He’s very enthusiastic about his work and proud to be involved on the show, expressing his appreciation several times throughout the interview. It’s always great to know that the actors are just as invested in the story as the fans are, and it’s a real testament to the quality of writing on the show.

Tune in tonight to watch Suits on USA Network at 10/9c, and don’t miss the season finale next Thursday on September 8th!

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