SUITS: Interview With Rick Hoffman

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC SUITS: Interview With Rick Hoffman

Rick Hoffman is an American actor who is best known for portraying Patrick Van Dorn in Jake in Progress and Louis Litt in the legal drama series Suits (2011-2016). His film work includes The Day After Tomorrow, Blood Work, Hostel, Cellular and The Condemned, while he has also appeared as a guest in TV shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, Chuck, The Pretender, Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, Crossing Jordan, Without a Trace, The Practice, CSI: NY, Lie to Me, Monk and The Mentalist…

Q: How would you compare Season 5 of Suits to previous seasons in terms of pacing and tone?

A: I wasn’t sure what to think based on the extreme choice-making of the writers for this particular season! I loved the idea of Mike getting caught, but it was a risk. I would like to be on that team. That is the team I want to be on because it is interesting, and what has ended up happening with these back six episodes is that people seem to be really responding to these high-tension episodes. Now, not only is there a resurgence from some fans, there is also a resurgence in the writers’ energy. And based on what I am hearing for Season 6, they are in this great creative group and it is exciting. How could you beat it as an actor?



Q: Those high-tension episodes must be rewarding for an actor but also quite stressful?

A: Yes. There are different types of stressful. In some ways you couldn’t ask for a better stress because it is challenging and because I am afraid I am going to fail the writers and what they want me to do! There is this scene where I am fighting Harvey or a scene where I am confronting Jessica about the lie and it is the most frantic eight days because I am like, ‘How am I going to get this right?’ Then it is rewarding when you hear that people are happy with it and you get to hear all these wonderful reactions from people.

Q: How would you describe Louis’s main points of conflict in Season 5? 

A: It’s different from the others because he is involved a lot more, and ultimately in these back six episodes he has been more of the utility guy, until he ends up somehow involuntarily getting screwed by it being his ex-girlfriend who has been the one. So he is doing his best to not let his demons get in the way with all this turmoil. He would not have been that way three seasons ago.

Q: So is that how the character has changed across the years?

A: That’s the difference. Now he has self-reflection and before he did not. I think he’s grown the most out of all the characters over the last five seasons. Mike is a close second. But Louis has definitely grown a lot because his growth was seriously stunted at the beginning of this series [laughs]. He has definitely come a long way.

Q: Do you think that when writers get to know the actors well they incorporate some of the actors’ own traits into the characters?

A: Aaron Korsh, our boss and the show’s creator, and the writers, they do pay attention. Aaron likes to talk to his actors quite a bit through the season. He is not like the small guy behind the curtain [in The Wizard of Oz]. He is a very available guy and he listens. And because of that he hears things and he enjoys things and treats you like a family member. So he will take something, and it might be a small hint of something that no one else notices, but it helps spice the character. Or, it could be a comment that I have recently made as the character regarding the University of Arizona being the worst potential law school.

Q: And that’s where you studied in real life…

A: It is my school. It is my actual university that I went to. Or it could be something like Meghan [Markle, playing Rachel] being a big foody in real life. And if you ever need any real recommendation you should go Meghan’s site, by the way; it is fantastic. So things like that are incorporated into the series. I think Aaron pays attention to that. They take different little things from everyone.

Q: How has the show’s success affected your anonymity?

A: It’s been a huge change because there isn’t any anonymity now. I’m not known like an A-list film actor or actress but there are a lot of people who really like the show and my character is so polarizing! And I have such a goofy, recognizable face it is hard not to notice who I am, even when I am wearing a hat or glasses [laughs]. It doesn’t matter where I am, people will call me by my character name or they will come up nicely and say something. It is the greatest thing in the world because who would have ever thought that would happen? You dream of something like that when you are still struggling and waiting tables. Also, what I find pretty fascinating is how you can be misunderstood at times, like when you are having a bad day. We all go through our crises and then sometimes you have someone stop you when you are in a rush to go to the hospital to see if your son is okay and they are like, ‘I love you!’ You want to tell them that you really appreciate it but you can’t talk to them right now, and they immediately think you are a dick. That’s the weird grey area that sucks. That’s too bad. We are all human and we all have bad days. You want to do your best to make everybody happy but you can’t.

Q: With the good fan experiences, have you had any that really stick in the mind, specifically?

A: They are the best. There is nothing better than a fan coming up to you, not knowing what to say, and you can see it in their eyes. You believe them when they tell you, ‘You make me happy.’ Any actor who walks away from that is such a moron. You get actors who act like they are so jaded and I am like, ‘Really? Do you remember; did you ever struggle?’ It is the greatest thing in the world [when you meet happy fans]. I love to take a picture, love to make a video for their friends. But it’s the ones that approach you with entitlement that drive you up the wall. The ones who are like, ‘Louis, Louis, take a selfie,’ as if you owe them, and even if I am holding my kid. Then they get angry with you and you are like, ‘Guess what, dude? You don’t even deserve a picture!’

Q: What are some of your own favourite storylines and moments from Suits?

A: I would say the scariest, the most challenging and the most rewarding for me was my confrontation with Jessica about Mike, the scenes with Donna and Jessica in those last six minutes of the fourth season’s tenth episode, called This Is Rome. I can remember it as if it were yesterday because I was terrified. Terrified! I read it and I immediately had that awful feeling in my stomach knowing that four, five or six days from now I was going to somehow have to try and attempt to do that in a way where the audience can believe in what you’re doing. Ultimately, it is not until the actual few seconds before that you know how it’s going to play. So that was kind of an insane gamble. But it came out okay, I think. I was proud of it and it was one of the most rewarding experiences. Comedy-wise, my scenes with Sarah [Rafferty, playing Donna] are always the most fun — any of those comedic scenes. And then my one particular scene I love is when I told D. B. Woodside, who plays Jeff Malone, that “I eat c—k for breakfast, lunch and dinner”. That was one of the most memorable [laughs].

Q: Looking back, was there an epiphany moment for you that started you out on this career?

A: I remember being about six years old and really getting into fun TV shows and just being so mesmerized at the time by them — The Love Boat, maybe The A-Team. I was always somehow an observer of people. I was always affected by people’s energies. And while I could not articulate it at the time, I could always tell what seemed performed and what didn’t. Then, as I got older, in the back of my head I was like, ‘Will I ever give acting a shot?’ I was too scared for a long while because it was looked down upon by my bully friends that I had in high school. Then in college I switched majors and decided to get into drama and I became like a gym rat because I found I had tapped into something that I was really passionate about for the first time — other than tanning and girls [laughs]! I just loved studying drama, which is a very strange thing for me to do because I did awfully in every other subject. But learning Shakespeare and Moliere and the Restoration period and all these things with theatre was the most challenging thing, and that led me to go out to Los Angeles. Then I ran into that car wreck for eight years where I was waiting tables and getting fired everywhere!

Q: It is almost like the standard actor’s apprenticeship, to wait tables in LA…

A: I think the proper thing is for actors to struggle! Then the longevity of their careers is longer because they really appreciate it.

Q: You have said how unpleasant people were to you in the service industry. Is that good training for Hollywood?

A: Do you want to know where Louis Litt comes from? That’s where Louis Litt comes from; people I have observed over the years when waiting tables — in certain ways of treating people and that sense of entitlement. As far as loving the world, and things I want to teach my son, they are all positive but the truth of the matter is that a lot of people are just awful [laughs]. I think that everybody should be in public service so they know what it is like because these people who do it are busting their asses, not making much money, and are really being treated badly.

Q: Did you question your desire to stay on the acting path while you were still waiting tables?

A: Absolutely. I was getting to about 29 and I was still living from paycheque to paycheque and I remember thinking, ‘Okay, you are going to have to get ready because you may never be able to find work, so you are going to try your best and stop making excuses for yourself. You are going to leave this town giving it a 100 per cent because if you don’t you are going to be a bitter, old man.’ When I had made that decision within four months I got my first series.

Q: And what are your own TV viewing habits?

A: I love binge watching, late at night. Sometimes, I will fall asleep in the first hour, otherwise I am up and will go and watch an entire season that night. It is the greatest thing in the world. If you get into a series, it’s like, ‘Ah, how great is this!’

SUITS

SUITS


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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