The Spotlight: Patrick J. Adams in 'Nine Circles' at the Bootleg
Patrick J. Adams is having a good run. After working a brogue and a kilt in playwright Bill Cain’s Ovation Award-winner “Equivocation” at the Geffen Playhouse two years ago, the Toronto-born Adams snagged a role in the much-anticipated HBO drama “Luck,” the horse-racing series written by David Milch ("Deadwood," "NYPD Blue") and directed by Michael Mann.
Adams followed that with a lead in the USA legal dramedy “Suits,” playing a quick-witted con artist who makes a living taking other people's bar exams — until he's hired by a law firm that expects him to actually practice law.
Now the actor is back on the L.A. boards in another award-winning play by Cain, opening at the Bootleg Theater: “Nine Circles,” the story of an Army private recently returned to the U.S. with an honorable discharge, only to find himself engaged in a fight for his life.
Did you always want to be an actor?
My dad was a journalist. He was in Rwanda right after the genocide. In Berlin when the wall came down. He was always disappearing and coming back with amazing stories. So telling stories for a living made sense to me. There was a small window when I wanted to be an astronaut. It may have coincided with not getting cast in a high school play.
Who do you play on "Luck"?
A financial prodigy named Nathan Israel. I like to think of him as a baby shark in a sea of great whites.
Have to ask: How was it working with Dustin Hoffman?
Our first scene was his character interviewing me for a job. Of course I’m terrified. All I can think of is how I don’t belong there. On the first take, I just said the lines and got through it. The director comes out and tells me, I want to see that you’re more nervous. Dustin clocks that note. Take 2: I say my first line and Dustin just stares at me. And then he rips into me. All improvised. How worthless I am. How I don’t know the first thing about acting. There are 70 people standing around watching. The cameras are still rolling. I go white hot. I can’t remember who I am. I want to vomit. But it became this dance. I would say a line, and he’d say, “I see you acting. Start over.” It was a miniature master class. He just rode me nonstop. He gave me the gift of saying out loud all the garbage in my head. It was so painful and scary. I went home and thought I was going to be fired. But the phone didn’t ring and the phone didn’t ring. And then it was time to go to set again.
Things seem a little less charged between you and “Suits” costar Gabriel Macht. His slick corporate lawyer and your scrappy con artist make a pretty good team.
When we first got to Toronto to shoot the show, Gabriel was planning to stay in a hotel. But we both ended up moving into my mom’s place. It was totally unplanned, just two guys trying to save money. Those 10 days ended up being one of the best things that happened for the show. By the time we got to set, we had a great rapport.
More important, let’s talk about Gabriel’s hair.
At first we went really hard on the gel. Then we went too soft. Finally some middle ground was reached. Disaster averted.
With two TV shows, how do you have time for theater?
The entire time I was up shooting "Suits," I was running back to my trailer to help get "Nine Circles" produced. It's a no-brainer for me to keep that part of life alive. Theater is a way to keep challenging myself. Rehearsal on this show is like climbing a new mountain every day.
“Nine Circles” is a courtroom drama, a psychological thriller and a love story. I saw a reading several years ago, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. Why does this show have so much power?
The events in the play are based on a true story, but one that the mainstream press ignored; the subject matter was too charged. A high school student ended up covering the case on his blog.
The play is about the birth of a soul. Even though so many destructive events take place in the story, it ends on a moment of absolute freedom. If an audience can participate in that, it’s incredibly transformative.
What was the most helpful note you received from playwright Bill Cain?
He’s a priest, but the advice he gives is not about faith in God, it’s about faith in yourself.
— Charlotte Stoudt
"Nine Circles" runs at the Bootleg Theater Oct. 21-Nov. 12. "Luck" premieres in January on HBO.
Photo: Patrick J. Adams, soon to be seen in "Nine Circles" by Bill Cain. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times