'Suits' star Patrick J. Adams talks directing, speaking out on politics and what Meghan Markle is a 'pro' at
Patrick J. Adams has a lot to be proud of right now.
The actor, who has been at the helm of "Suits" for six seasons now, recently started to direct a handful of episodes on the hit USA Network series, which is something that he has "desperately" wanted to do for a long time. Not only that, but he also got married to "Pretty Little Liars" star, Troian Bellisario, at the end of last year.
"Suits," which has garnered an extra jolt of buzz as a result of co-star Meghan Markle's relationship with Prince Harry, is also more or less going back to square one, with Adams' character, Mike Ross (spoiler alert!) being given a seemingly fresh start.
I recently caught up with Patrick J. Adams over the phone to talk about where Mike Ross goes from here, directing and acting at the same time, his decision to speak out on important issues alongside his wife and why he would "never" give Meghan Markle relationship advice.
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Check out my full conversation with Patrick J. Adams below:
In last week's episode, your character, Mike Ross, became a "free man" after being let go from his job. What does that look like going forward?
The most important part of it is that he's not just out of prison -- which is great -- but he's also free of the burden of the thing that he's been living under, which has sort of come to define the show for six seasons now. For me, as an actor, Mike has an opportunity to completely wipe the slate clean. Obviously, his past will always come back to haunt him in one way or another, but he has done his time and he's on his path to make good on a promise he made in his closing statements of his trial, which was that he was never going to waste his talent again and make sure he helped people that needed to be helped. That really is the cornerstone of what he wants to do, and he has the skills now to really do that. He just needs to find a place to do that.
So is it going to take some time for him to rebuild that and get to a place where he's able to do that?
That's hard, right? Because there is going to be this push and pull. It's tough for him to be employed anywhere, because he has to fill out a form that says he was a felon, but there's also opportunity. He's incredibly gifted with the law, so I think he finds pretty quickly that there are places that might want to put that to use, especially at Pearson Specter, where he has this offer to go back and do the work he was doing before. But, as good as that is, I think he knows that's not the place for him. So, now he's got to choose between his old life and his new life, which is scary and hard to do. But after everything he's been through, I think it's time for him to take those risks.
Is that what you meant when you said during a recent interview that the show was going "back to its roots"?
Yeah, I think that these next six episodes have felt closest to what the initial show was about for me. The reason the first season was so fun was because it was watching a guy that was a fish out of water and didn't belong, which is endlessly fun to play. [Laughs] In these back six [episodes], he gets to be that again. It's different in the sense that he's got a history now; he's got something that's following him around. But, he's also way smarter, wiser and capable than he was in those first seasons. It's about getting people to see him for who he truly is, and, for me, that felt like it was sort of the heart and soul of what the soul was about -- at least from Mike Ross' perspective.
Now that "Suits" has been on for six seasons, in what ways do you think the writers have written the character Mike around you, Patrick?
That's a good question. It's hard for me to know where one ends and one begins anymore. [Laughs] I think that I'm pretty smart -- not photographic memory smart -- and I think Mike has always been smart, too. His sense of humor is probably a little taken from mine in terms of his sarcasm and his ability to rib and make fun of Harvey. There's an earnestness [to Mike], too, which I can have as well. I'm serious about the things that mean the most to me, and the same could be said for Mike. I think that all of those things sort of bleed into each other.
You've also recently expanded your role on "Suits" into directing. What has that experience been like for you?
As I came through school, I've always directed. I directed a lot of theater, and I've been a photographer for a long time, so I've always desperately wanted to direct something on camera. It can be a nerve-racking thing if you didn't go to film school, so I've kind of been able to use "Suits" as a sort of film school for myself. I've learned an infinite amount on set. It's so much knowledge coming in that I think you would have a hard time getting at a film school. I take it really seriously, and I have a great time doing it.
You're lucky when you do it on a show, because you have a whole crew of people who know exactly what they're doing. It's an established show, so your good ideas will fly and your bad ideas will just disappear. It's a good "training wheels" scenario to get used to running a set and making decisions quickly. What's still difficult, though, is learning to be an actor at the same time as you're directing -- that's something that is a skill set you could spend a lifetime trying to master. The key to that is surrounding yourself with people you trust and making sure that they're on the ball.
And, at this point, you must trust the "Suits" crew immensely.
Everybody has got each other's back in an incredible way, which is the only way you can pull a show like this together year after year. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Your wife, Troian Bellisario, also recently directed her first episode of "Pretty Little Liars." Did you guys share any tips or advice with one another about directing?
Yeah, it's funny: Troian has been on sets her whole life, so in a lot of ways -- even though I have the experience of directing -- she was in some ways more suited to it than I was. She knows how a set works. It's in her DNA, and she's wickedly smart. She was valedictorian of her school, so she knows how to do her homework. Even though I take it seriously, my style has a little bit of a "fly by the seat of your pants" to it. I was pretty blown away when she went into directing how much work she had done in preparation -- she was ready for every possible outcome! In the end, even though it was her first time, I think I learned more from her than she learned from me.
But, I could definitely give her a lot of tips going into it, like that time disappears pretty quickly, don't think you're going to have much room to try a bunch of different things ... things like that. Otherwise, she was in good shape.
As a couple, you two have been pretty outspoken when it comes to this divisive political climate that we're in right now. Why is it important for you to speak out on these more political issues?
We're constantly figuring it out. There are a lot of vocal people on comment boards who say things like, "You're an actor, just act! Nobody wants to hear what you think." And we wrestle with that, but most of the time when we feel compelled to say something -- or stand together with people who are being held down in some way -- it's hard to see injustice and not participate in it. It seems like now is the time [to fight for something]. The fight is very real, and there are a lot of people who are going to be really affected by it.
I think the problem right now, though, is that people don't take into account other sides of the argument. Troian and I are constantly trying to weigh what those sides are and trying to understand them. It's annoying when people think that actors are just these Hollywood elites, because it's our job every single day to put ourselves in the shoes of someone whose life we might not understand or agree with. That's why we love being actors, so it should give us the capacity to understand this whole part of this country that has felt hurt and scared and pissed off for the last eight years.
We're always talking about what that looks like, but, at the same time, when we see what we believe is injustice, we have to speak up about it. Even though my immigration status is not quite the same as someone from Yemen or Iran, I'm still an immigrant -- I'm still someone with a green card. I worked incredibly hard to get my green card, and I take a lot of pride in the fact that I pay taxes in this country and that I've called this place my home for 16 years. I know that for those other green card holders, especially from countries that are now considered suspicious and dangerous, had to work even harder for that status, so it's important for me specifically to say, "these people are not all the enemy." We have to take into consideration the work people have put in to make the country great in so many ways.
That's a little tangential, but I think the point is that we want to be careful not to be screaming about things we don't know about or understand. But, as actors, you're in a unique position to point out injustice, and I think it's important to do so if you can do it in educated and fair way.
You and Troian have been able to maintain a pretty amazing level of privacy as a couple, considering that you're both in the public eye. Have you given your co-star, Meghan Markle, any pointers on how to approach that aspect of her new relationship with Prince Harry?
I would never believe that I could give Meghan tips on anything! [Laughs] Meghan is a pro at knowing how to handle herself and what to reveal and how to deal with it. It's really kind of like watching an artist at work, and it's exciting to watch her deal with this in such a professional and classy way.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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