“Suits” Stars Talk About The Roles That Transformed Their Careers

Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty, Rick Hoffman, Meghan Markle, Gina Torres, and Gabriel Macht reflect on their biggest, weirdest, and most memorable pre-Suits roles.

Gabriel Macht: Beverly Hills, 90210

Fox

Macht’s first on-screen credit, as high school student Tal Weaver in one episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 (which originally aired Oct. 10, 1991), still comes up frequently in interviews thanks, mostly, to the majestic mane seen above. “I always wore my hair in a ponytail, but the producers told me to pull my hair out,” Macht told BuzzFeed. “So I thought I would try it and now, 20-plus years later, we’re still talking about it.”

Much of that ongoing discussion is owed to the impact that 90210 had on pop culture, which Macht says was already in the air when he filmed the Season 2 guest spot. “The show had serious momentum going into Season 2; I remember the cast was on the cover of all the magazines at the airport.” That widespread attention also led to a pair of memorable on-set experiences for the then 19-year-old actor.

“I remember Jason Priestly being on his phone a lot and dropping all these F-bombs,” he said. “I thought that was funny because he was like America’s apple pie golden boy. I also remember having no idea what to talk about with Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth while we were hanging around the set.” So, in a bid to break the ice, Macht fell back on his theater training and decided to come up with a backstory he and Garth could share. (Their characters went to a Sting concert together.)

“I was coming from theater school, so I was coming up with backstory about our time at the Sting concert and she looked at me like I was crazy,” he laughed. “It was my first TV gig and I wanted him to be this sensitive guy — but I don’t think anyone named Tal Weaver, which is the greatest name in all of television, will ever come across like the good guy.”

Sarah Rafferty: Herbal Essences Commercial

 

YouTube

 

While you might not think it, Rafferty’s extensive theater training is actually what helped her land this still-memorable 1998 shampoo commercial. “I had just finished doing a play at an 800-seat theater, where I really had to use my full voice, so volume wasn’t an issue,” she said, laughing about the awkward audition.

“Let’s face it, the only thing more ridiculous than having an orgasm because you’re washing your hair, is to be in someone’s office auditioning to be the person who has the orgasm because she’s washing her hair,” Rafferty recalled.

“I was doing the tongue-in-cheek version of the Herbal Essences commercial: My eyes were rolling into the back of my head and I was practically falling to the ground. It was the most ridiculous orgasm that could possibly be happening. But when I walked out of the room, the other women who were waiting to audition gave me a little round of applause, as if to say, ‘I think you got it.’”

Rafferty jokingly blames the ad’s recent resurgence in popularity on Suits co-star Patrick J. Adams. “The cast was at Patrick’s lake house, talking about the job that allowed you to stop waiting tables, and I mentioned this. Well, Meghan [Markle] let out the biggest gasp and said, ‘That was like my sexual awakening!’ That’s when the real age divide occurred because I assumed the commercial was lost on a VHS tape in a storage unit somewhere, but Patrick pulled it up on his iPhone in the middle of nowhere in, like, 5 seconds — and then he tweeted it. Let that be a lesson; everything you do in this business will end up on the internet eventually.”

Patrick J. Adams: Friday Night Lights

NBC

While Adams ended up playing Connor Hayes, a banker who woos Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) in a pair of Season 1 episodes, he initially went after an entirely different role. “I auditioned to play Riggins, and it was terrible,” Adams told BuzzFeed, citing his ignorance of the show’s subtle storytelling style as a major reason for losing the gig.

“There’s this speech in the pilot where the guys are sitting around, drinking beers, and talking about how they’re going to run the world; I remember playing it so big. Later, when I watched the pilot, I saw the subtle, quiet way Taylor [Kitsch] played it and was like, ‘Oh man, I got that so wrong!’”

Luckily the casting director liked Adams, and called him back to audition for Hayes. This time, with a firmer grasp on the Friday Night Lights aesthetic, he nailed it. But Adams was still surprised by the free reign he was given on set to create his character.

“It’s unlike anything else on television, where you’re taken out of the creative process,” he added. “This show is designed around the performances and the actors; which was such a huge thing for me as a young actor, who was trying to figure out where he fit in this business and decide what kind of stories he wanted to tell.”

Meghan Markle: Fringe

Fox

Fringe’s second season premiere introduced FBI agent Amy Jessup, a new governmental foil for Olivia Dunham to spar with, and a potential love interest for Peter Bishop. But, after two episodes, the character inexplicably vanished. Five years later, Markle still lacks any concrete answers as to why the producers abandoned Amy — but she has a theory.

“That role was always crafted as being recurring or a series regular,” she told BuzzFeed. “Akiva Goldsman was directing those first two episodes, and he’d been doing all that DaVinci Code stuff [Goldsman wrote the screenplays for 2006’s The Da Vinci Code and 2009’s Angels & Demons], so this idea of how science and religion coexist was very much in the zeitgeist. I think it ended up being a storyline that scared off the studio or network, so Amy just evaporated. I was intending on being [in Vancouver, where Fringe filmed] for a while, but she was just phased out.”

While Markle came to terms with the decision long ago, and rightly asserts she likely wouldn’t have been free to play Rachel Zane on Suits if Amy Jessup continued on Fringe, she does feel bad viewers never got any answers about where Agent Jessup went. “Amy maintains this air of mystery and I kind of think fans assumed she was going to pop back up again — like Amy was the one behind all of the Fringe mysteries,” she said, laughing.

Rick Hoffman: Jake in Progress

ABC

On the short-lived ABC sitcom (starring John Stamos as a philandering publicist in NYC), Hoffman played Patrick Van Dorn, a struggling magician who hated David Blaine, but pretty much copied everything David Blaine did. That character trait led to one of the most memorable interactions the actor has ever had.

“The cast traveled to New York City and [I ran into] David Blaine,” Hoffman recalled as a cheshire smile inched across his face. “Blaine make a beeline right for me and, given how much shit I talked about David Blaine on the show, I was nervous because you know what kind of character that guy is. He walks right up to me, without any hesitation, and says, ‘Hey man, I like the show. You know what you should do? You should swim the Hudson River. Seriously, man, swim the Hudson River. You can do it — even at your size.’ I was completely taken aback. It was the coolest thing ever.”

Gina Torres: One Life to Live

(inset: ABC), Getty Images

Torres got her start in, as she put it, “off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway theater,” which is where a casting director for One Life yo Live caught one of her performances, and immediately called her in to audition for the ABC soap opera.

Torres was elated because “90%of the soaps shot in New York City at that time, and, if you didn’t get a commercial, it’s how you expected to break into television,” she said. “The soap world loves to tout how many film stars got their start in the soap world, so we all sucked down that Kool-Aid. Plus, growing up Latina, the novela is such a part of our culture.”

While she has nothing but fond memories — and utter appreciation — of her time in Llanview, Torres laughed about the sheer numbers of characters she played on OLTL. “Over the course of six years, I recurred as four different characters, which never happens,” she chuckled. “And I’m not talking about one-line characters you wouldn’t remember, I’m talking about four completely different, pretty developed, characters!”

“The first one was a nurse. Then I played another nurse in a different town because two of the characters had run away with a child, who got sick, and they had to bring them to a hospital. Then I came back as a lab tech/aerobic instructor, for four days, in the Max (James DePaiva) storyline. He had to change the results of a paternity test and had to distract me. Then, for my final appearance, I played La Contessa de Alba from Spain, opposite Tuc Watkins, who was a gigolo grifter. I mean, I always thought people must have been watching and thinking ‘What’s the deal with this crazy woman?!? She’s everywhere!’”

Suits premieres March 6 at 9 p.m. on USA.

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