'Suits' Star Patrick J. Adams on His Directorial Debut: "It Was a Struggle"

The actor-turned-director sounds off on overseeing his colleagues and a return to the 'Suits' of the past.
Courtesy of USA Network

The second half of Suits' fourth season might be a short one at just six episodes, but it's jam-packed with opportunities for its stars. Three episodes after co-star Gabriel Macht made his directorial debut in season four's midseason opener, lead Patrick J. Adams is taking his turn behind the camera with Wednesday's "Derailed."

Adams is no stranger to capturing the cast on camera. Last month, the actor unveiled Behind the Lens: An Intimate Look at the World of Suits, a New York exhibit that showcased some of the star's photography that he hopes to eventually turn into a book.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Adams to discuss the connection between photography and screen, putting his mark on the episode and going through directing boot camp.

What kind of prep did you do for this?

As soon as we started season one, I put my hat in the ring. I saw that Chris Gorham was directing on another show shooting in Toronto, [USA's now canceled] Covert Affairs, and for a long time — because of my interest in photography and directing theater — I was interested in getting behind the camera. But I knew pretty much nothing. So early on I was shadowing at least one director every year, always asking questions — almost to the point of obnoxiousness. Having Gabriel Macht interested really helped, too.

Did you and Gabriel lean on one another?

I learned a lot by watching him go through it. Through my photography I feel like I have a pretty good sense how cameras work, but Gabriel had a lot of suggestions on how to work with producers and play the game in terms of working with people on the set. We were definitely helping each other out as much as possible.

What kind of tone were you going for?

The episode is a good balance of light and dark. There was some great, funny stuff in it with Louis — I loved directing that because Rick Hoffman had been so heavy and serious for the last few episodes after discovering Mike's secret. So that was a return to that part of Louis Litt that I love watching so much. But then there was a fair amount of weighty stuff, especially around Jessica (Gina Torres).

Was it nice to get to know your co-workers' characters more intimately?

Yes — and it was a struggle at first. I had to go through the process of figuring out what all of these stories were. That was probably my largest prep, really sitting down and feeling each character's process. That something I've never really considered; I'm always charting Mike's journey.

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What stamps did you put on the episode?

I wanted to find moments and let them breathe a little bit. Some of my favorite moments of television happen when people aren't talking. That's where the drama and the comedy of life can really happen, in those moments where words aren't available and the looks that people give each other.

Is that anchored in your photography?

Yes. It's also respecting the scripts as the cement that you build the episode foundation in, but also realizing you have talented actors that you want to let bring themselves to the part and experiment what might not be on the paper. Some of that stuff got into the final cut and some of it didn't. But the cast really rallied around the idea and delivered it beautifully.

Did it help that you've photographed them before?

There was a natural respect from the beginning, but I also had to earn it a little bit — anybody would. These actors have been playing the parts for a long time now so no matter who is coming in to direct there's a natural ownership of these roles. The first couple of days, my nervous energy did not inspire confidence in a few particular moments. But once I started to get my groove and decided to push people in directions that maybe they weren't entirely comfortable with in the beginning, they really started following me. I think that has a lot to do with having been on the other end of my camera for so long.

There aren't a lot of exteriors in the episode. As a Toronto native, was that disappointing?

There were two things that were scary and disappointing when I got the script. There were very few exterior shots and I had been excited to get out of the office. We've shot it almost every way imaginable so that was a big challenge to try and keep it interesting. The other difficult part was that this is by far the heaviest Mike Ross episode. I was a little worried about having to wear both hats for so much of it. In the end they worked out nicely. It kept our days on schedule and getting to be in those scenes allowed me to make sure I was as prepared as possible so that any scene I was in we could shoot very quickly.

What are your parting thoughts for viewers?

This is a nice return to the Suits of the past that people have really fallen in love with. Everybody is on the same page. Louis is dealing with a personal conflict that is also hilarious. Mike Ross takes a hold of a case — I think that's when he's at his best, when he's found something he believes in and he refuses to let it go. And we explore the Mike-Harvey relationship a little bit more than we have in the past few episodes. 

Are you looking forward to a blast back to the past? Sound off in the comments below. Suits airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on USA Network.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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