Showrunners 2012: 'Suits' Aaron Korsh

"When the pilot [of "Suits"] was being shot, there was a question about whether we could show Mike (Patrick J. Adams) smoking pot or not," recalls Korsh.

From their obsessive rituals (Peppermint Patties! Oatmeal! Bruce Springsteen!) to the parts of their jobs they hate most (killing characters off, dealing with agents), TV's most influential writer-producers featured on The Hollywood Reporter's annual list of the Top 50 Showrunners come clean about the people, things and quirky habits that keep them -- and their shows -- alive.

Aaron Korsh, Suits (USA)

The TV show that inspired me to write:
M.A.S.H. springs to mind, L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, Cheers, Happy Days, Barney Miller. But I didn’t realize I wanted to be a television writer until two of my college friends became writers.

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My big break:
My first freelance script was on Everybody Loves Raymond. I was a writers’ assistant, and they let me pitch a story and write an episode. My first real writing job was on ABC’s Notes From the Underbelly.

My TV mentor:
Korsh: Phil Rosenthal,
the creator and showrunner of Everybody Loves Raymond. I got to sit in the room and see him run that show for two seasons – and I learned so much. Since he was the first, he was the most influential to me.

My proudest accomplishment this year:
My proudest accomplishment is what we did in the first 10 episodes of season two. I look back at the first half, and we don’t have any dingers in the bunch. In my first year as sole showrunner, we crafted 10 episodes that have a cohesive arc to them that build and give a satisfying conclusion.

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My toughest scene to write:
One of the hardest scenes to write was the boxing scene between nemeses Tanner (Eric Close) and Harvey (Gabriel Macht) that I wrote during the episode rewrite. So many people were so worried about the scene; it felt like it had so much scrutiny. We were under the gun, and it was difficult from a pressure, time and high expectations point of view.

The most absurd note I've ever gotten:
When the pilot was being shot, there was a question about whether we could show Mike (Patrick J. Adams) smoking pot or not. The network did testing and discovered that slightly fewer people liked it when we showed him smoking pot than when we didn’t. But the people who did like it thought the show was smarter, which I thought was interesting and odd. The network decided to go with appealing to more viewers. That wasn’t a major thing, but I would’ve gone the other way.

I'd rather delegate:
I don’t spend a whole lot of time on hair, makeup and the wardrobe for actors or too much time on the prep (i.e. locations). I wish I could spend less time on casting and in post, but I really care about those things and it affects the show, so I find it difficult to spend less time on that stuff.

How I break through writer's block:
Writer’s block is usually when you’re afraid. That to me is what writer's block is. The best way is to write, sleep, write, sleep to get it done.

If I could add any writer to my staff, it would be:
Korsh: Aaron Sorkin and David Milch. I have no idea how they’d act on a staff, probably not wonderfully – they’d be answering to me and that’d be weird – but I would love to work with them.

The show I'm embarrassed to admit I watch:
When my wife gets into it, I get into it: Survivor. Top Chef is another one.

The three things I need in order to write:
A quiet, comfortable space; a cup of coffee; and time.

If I could scrub one credit from my resume, it would be:
If taking one or two of those jobs off my resume could mean me getting staffed faster, then I would do that, but every job has led to me to where I am now.