'Suits' Boss and Star Talk 100th Episode, Network Notes and Series Evolution

Suits Still Episode 708 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Ian Watson/USA Network

[Warning: The story below contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of Suits, “100.”]

Batman and Robin were back in action Wednesday night for a landmark episode of Suits, and it was about time for many fans of the long-running USA series. In the show’s 100th episode, Mike (Patrick J. Adams) and Harvey (Gabriel Macht) took on their two largest clients in an underhanded move that both brought justice to wronged prisoners and cleared new PSL member Alex Williams (Dule Hill) from taking the fall for the companies.

The episode was also rife with returning guest-stars, including Wendell Pierce, Jay Harrington, Paul Schulze and Rachael Harris, as Louis (Rick Hoffman) had to decide what kind of man he is. Meanwhile, Donna (Sarah Rafferty) dealt with a proposal from a married ex, and Rachel (Meghan Markle) pushed for a spot at the table alongside Harvey and Mike.

To go further behind the scenes in the making of the episode and to dissect what’s been referred to as a “love letter” to fans, THR caught up with series star and episode director Adams, along with showrunner Aaron Korsh.  

Why was Rick Muirragui the right choice to write this episode?

Korsh: I asked Rick to write it because he has been with the show since the first episode. He left for six episodes in season five because we did a pilot together but I don’t really count that because I kept working with him. So he’s the only writer that’s been here with me since day one. Rick has somewhat specialized in some of the flashback episodes and he’s very good at bringing ideas to special episodes to make it a little bit more special. I knew he would bring that to the table.

Why was Patrick the right person to direct it?

Korsh: It’s not the first episode Patrick’s directed for us; it’s the fourth. Patrick has always done a great job directing, so it’s not a special event necessarily. He’s got a great eye for the camera, and in addition he’s a very critical thinker. He’s always thinking about how to make this thing better and how to elevate it to another level. He’s an actor so he knows how to talk to the actors, and I knew the episode would be in great hands with him. With any luck he’ll direct for us again. It’s good to have the episode directed by someone you know that you can trust and will do a good job with it.

Patrick was there extra pressure knowing this was the 100th?

Adams: I had no idea that the eighth episode of the season was going to be the hundredth episode, but I knew that if I was going to direct in the first ten, there is a little more prep time before episode eight because we take off a few days or a week. So early on I made it known that I would love that slot. Part of that was also because our cinematographer Dan Stoloff was only going to be there for the first 10 episodes and then he was going to do The Americans after. I really, really wanted to work with him one last time because I learn so much about camera setup and about lighting every time I work with him. So I put in the ask for episode eight. And the response was that we'd talk about it. I didn't understand that there was this other element to it. Finally the producers called and said it turns out that it was the 100th episode, and we had to figure the politics of it and make sure it was fine.

Did you campaign a little at that point?

Adams: I just told them that I understood if they gave it to somebody else, but that I would take this opportunity very, very seriously and I would be honored to do it. I thought I could do a great job. A few days later they called and said, “Yep, we agree” and they let me do it. I was super excited and felt really honored.

Was directing something you had always campaigned for?

Adams: I said it very early on in the show because when we got up to Toronto, Covert Affairs was shooting right next to us and Chris Gorham was directing the second episode of that season. That was the first time I went, “You can do that? That's cool.” Our shows are made by the same production company so I just made it known I'd love to have this opportunity. So I shadowed other directors and spent some time getting to know the process. I didn’t direct for the first time until the fourth season, so they gave me four years to really wrap my head around what the responsibility would be, how I would do it and which directors I wanted to sort of be mentored by. I basically ended up shadowing two different people, Mike Smith and Kevin Bray.

What was your reaction to reading “100?”

Adams: After seven years, I felt like this episode could be something of a love letter to Suits because they wrote it that way. There were a lot of great classic Suits moments in it. But for me, it was also a way of putting all of the great things that I've learned and what I love about the show into the episode. I wouldn't have that opportunity as an actor, or as wide of power to do that as I did as a director.

How does the tone of Suits at 100 compare to the tone from the early days?

Korsh: The show needed to be a little more weighted or to carry a little more weight in order to last a long time. We still try to do a mix of drama and comedy. Our world is so established at this point that we’re able to pull off darker storylines like Mike going to jail. Once you’re a sixth year show, your tone is sort of established. 

Adams: Ultimately, the show grew up. Everyone on the show grew up. And everyone on the show was really interested in coming to do work that felt like it was a little bit more weighted. We still feel that after seven years people have invested so much time in these characters and stories that if you're going to make it worth their while you have to really take them seriously and not always just look for the joke. The show is smart because it has characters that are built for funny. Like Rick Hoffman can break your heart, but he's also so great with comedy so you can write him a B storyline that keeps you laughing the whole time while Harvey is dealing with a therapist or his heartbreaking mother issues. That's part of what the success of the show is really about.

What kinds of notes does the network give you guys at this point?

Korsh: The network and studio in general — even from the very beginning — have been incredibly supportive. They’re passionate champions of the show. They never sit back and say, “Do whatever, we don’t care.” And they never make us do a thing we don’t want to do. They’re like a mirror and ask questions that are smart. They want us to think about the repercussions of things we do. They push us to realize the consequences of the decisions we’re making and to make sure we’re really good at what we’re doing. This year early in the season Harvey was going to promote Donna to be partner. They pointed out that it was a big step. Of course it was too much. But that led us to think about Harvey being overwhelmed and making a terrible decision and then dealing with the consequences and Harvey having to basically demote her in another episode. They never said not to do it, but they pointed out the validity of it and we walked it back a little bit. That’s an example of a great partnership; it led to more story in the next episode.

Were there other special elements that felt integral to incorporate into “100?”

Korsh: The good news is that the episode landed at the eighth episode, which always lands pretty close to the crescendo that we’ve got going on in the first 10. I didn’t know that we needed inherently to double down on the specialness for 100. But when we got down to it and had to write the thing and figure out what we were doing, I knew we made the right choice with Rick. I like to think it’s just a great episode of Suits. Obviously we try to make every episode as good as we can — we’re never phoning it in. But we did try to bring a little extra love to the episode itself; at least that’s how I would phrase it.  

Suits airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on USA.

What did you think of the 100th episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling