'Suits' Star Patrick J. Adams Gets Another Good Hand With 'Luck'

The recent SAG nominee tells THR about working with Dustin Hoffman, auditioning for David Milch and how getting fired from "Friends With Benefits" was the best thing that ever happened to him.
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Somewhere between getting fired from a doomed NBC sitcom and earning a SAG nomination for his starring role on USA's Suits, Patrick J. Adams found himself in an elevator with Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina and Joan Allen.

Despite the comedic setup, you may recognize it as a rather tense scene from HBO's Luck, where Adams is currently in the middle of a three-episode stint as ambitious securities trader Nathan Israel.

"Here's Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie, a two-time Academy Award winner, and I see this guy just looking at the numbers on the elevator go up and down as they test them," Adams tells The Hollywood Reporter of his 14-hour day filming the scene. "He turns around, looks at me and goes, 'That's pretty cool huh?' He had such a level of childlike focus and curiosity to make this moment look as real as possible, that I was blown away."

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Adams has been blown away a lot of late. In April he returns to Toronto to film the sophomore season of Suits, and he just lost the SAG Award for male actor in a drama series to Steve Buscemi, alongside fellow nominees Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall and Kyle Chandler. And all this from a man who got canned by the longest-delayed series of the 2010-11 television season.

"That was rock bottom for me," Adams says of Friends With Benefits, the ill-fated NBC comedy that replaced him with Ryan Hansen after filming the original pilot. "I was really in that tender place a lot of actors get to where it's not working. You've been working for 10 years, you've gotten jobs, you've worked with some cool people, but this dream of getting to really do this without the constant struggle all the time is over."

Fortunately for Adams, rock bottom was around the same time things started to turn around. The script for A Legal Mind (which later became Suits) found its way to him. "I couldn't believe what I was reading," he says. "It's so rare that a leading man is somebody who is so flawed as Mike Ross -- someone who was at the exact same place that I was. I thought I had potential, I thought I could do great things, but i kept screwing up somehow."

Adams calls the shoot a personal and professional success. The cast and crew got along well, they liked all liked the material -- and unlike his last pilot experience, the network brass didn't come in and recast him.

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He left the experience with "no illusions" of it being picked up and found himself waiting for the news while auditioning, for the second time in his career, in front of David Milch. Prior to Luck, he'd gone out for the Deadwood creator's unrealized 1970s cop drama, Last of the Ninth.

"I just flubbed that audition in the worst way," says Adams. "It was that feeling of, 'I love you, I love this, this is the actor I want to be,' and I just sounded like a little kid trying to say big words."

Appropriately enough, he had more luck with the horse-racing drama, which called him to say he'd gotten the part without even the need for a callback. Hoffman, who gave his audition a seal of approval, appears in nearly all of Adams' scenes as his stern employer. And the palpable tension that occupies the space between their characters is no reflection on the workplace environment.

"He is constantly pranking and joking and trying to get you to laugh and relax," Adams tells THR. "He knows that a young actor in going to be a little uptight."

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With just three episodes, Nathan Israel isn't a very big part, but Adams says what happens to the character is "of real value to the story." And it's afforded him a masterclass in acting with the ensemble and the chance to be part of a different kind of television series.

"I just love shows that don't hand everything to you, that ask you to be smarter," he says. "I think that's something really important that HBO has done to change the landscape of TV. It's not like you need all shows to be that way, but you have these shows that really ask you to have an opinion to have an insight and to notice things that other people wouldn't. It's really visceral in a way that watching TV rarely is."

Adams' second episode of Luck airs on HBO on Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV