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Q+A: Gabriel Macht 'Suits' up for USA network

July 14, 2011 |  9:30 am

Macht2 
On USA network, it's no secret that characters are welcome. All kinds of characters: A conman-turned-FBI informant. Fake criminal profilers and phony psychics. Unusually attractive CIA agents who can sprint in heels. And, now, a cavalier lawyer with slicked-back hair who can shell out thousands of dollars a month as a member of a car sharing club.  

In the network's new series, "Suits," which airs Thursday nights, Gabriel Macht plays Harvey Specter, the said narcissist who works as a top corporate lawyer at one of Manhattan's most prestigious firms and recruits and mentors a college dropout/legal prodigy. He has the kind of swagger that can bully a witness and/or charm any female with a pulse.

Showtracker nabbed a few minutes on the phone with Macht to discuss the show as he made his way to the Toronto set. Yes,  we said Toronto. Read on...

The series is set in  NYC, but the show is shot in Canada. Were you bummed that you wouldn’t be shooting in New York?

Honestly, yeah, I was really bummed about that. That was the one thing that I was not happy with, and I continue to be bummed about it. I really feel that New York City is the greatest city in the world. And it’s a character in this show, and we should be there. We’re running out of streets in Toronto! I always thought this show should be there and it should never leave.

Maybe one day they’ll move production.

I hope so.

Let’s talk about your character. How would  you describe Harvey Specter, and was there anyone you tried to model the character after?

Aaron Korsh [the show's creator] comes up with this idea of writing about this relationship between these two guys. From my conversations with him, he based Harvey Spector on a fellow that was his boss when he was working in Wall Street many years ago. The whole story was supposed to take place on Wall Street. Then they decided it would be difficult to have a weekly series dealing with that world so they made it a law firm.

But, you know, when I read the pilot, I saw [Harvey] as this real, hard-lined, top corporate attornery who meant business. He’s the smartest guy in the room who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s tough, but fair. I think his moral code is really strict. Underneath the armor—which could be his suit, his presentation, or the way he acts—he’s got a heart and he’s very sensitive. With that, he loves life. He loves fast cars. He loves beautiful women. He loves great food. And he loves the game of winning. And I think when Mike comes around, he sees a younger him in many ways. He likes Mike’s street smarts—he takes risks, he’s got balls. There’s something about that quality that he admires.

He doesn’t want another one of those Harvard guys. I think, early on, Harvey got a big break by Jessica [Gina Torres] sending him to Harvard. I think Harvey comes from the streets. I don’t think he was one of these guys who grew up with things handed to him.

You sort of answered my next question—about what you imagine Harvey’s backstory to be. Harvey is so slick, it’s hard to imagine him ever not being that way. But I thought maybe he was a nerd in school. You see him as coming from the streets …

Somehow. I don’t know where it is. Obviously, I can pitch these writers all day where he comes from. The greatest thing about doing a series, which is what I’m learning, is that characters grow very slowly week-to-week.

Slowly but surely, we’ll learn a little bit more of his backstory—where he comes from, where he worked, what he’s done right, what he’s done wrong, and maybe he can fix some of the messes he’s made early on. You'll get a sense of why he is the way he is.

On that topic, do you find it challenging to make a character who, on the surface, is arrogant and self-involved and actually make audiences like him? 

Yeah, sure, it’s a challenge. That’s why its fun to do it. Even with his arrogance and all of that, he does have a great sense of humor. He takes the piss out of people—in a light way, not in a demeaning way. He can be harsh, though. Mostly just with Louis [Rick Hoffman].

And there’s been very little action in the courtroom—do you wish they’d give you more time there so viewers could see more of Harvey in action? Or do you like that we see his skills outside of it?

Macht3 Well, honestly, I’m not a massive fan of courtroom dramas. I think what the writers have done really well is they’ve taken what you would have in the courtoom and they’ve put it out on the street, they put it in the conference room. I actually like that about the show, that we’re not restricted to having a case worked out in the courtoom. Most law shows happen that way—it becomes all the same. 

So I’m guessing you didn’t prep for the show by watching “Perry Mason” or “The Practice.” Maybe “Ally McBeal”?

Nope. I definitely didn’t.

How about prepping on how to be suave? I mean, we know he’s a ladies man, but any chance we’ll see him settle down? What kind of woman might that take?

I think he loves women. I think early on he was definitely with someone who got away. Someone who influenced him about style and design and about the world. I think there was some point in there relationship where he was on the up-and-up—just this motivated, ambitious guy—and she probably wanted a family. I think he made that fatal error—because I think family is most important—and made work his first love and his first priority. I don’t know if that same woman is going to come back into his life and maybe give him a second chance or if she comes back and is married with a kid. Or maybe there’s another girl. I think, at some point, if we’re on for a while, we’ll see him fall in love with somebody. I think we’ll see her put him in his place and soften him up a little bit. And hopefully he can juggle both. I think that would be interesting.

For now, we’re going to see him, how do I say …

Having fun?

Yeah, we’re going to see him having fun. And we’ll see him get the girl and not get the girl.

Serves him right to not get the girl once in a while. But, I guess, when he’s driving around in that fancy car, girls find it harder to resist his charms.

That’s his go-to. Isn’t that a great idea? Here’s a guy who spends $10,000 a month on the nicest car company in the city and all he has to do whenever he needs a ride is just show up. I mean, does that even exist in the real world?

Mike would probably know. Let’s actually talk about Mike. Sometimes the student outdoes the teacher. And Mike is a pretty savvy guy. Do you think Harvey should be nervous that his protégé might oneday usurp him?

I think that would only happen when Gabriel doesn’t want to ‘Suits’ anymore.

No, no, no. I’m joking. Um, no, I don’t think so at all. I think there’s a great mentor relationship there.  Mike has a lot of heart and he has to teach Harvey—Harvey will never admit it, but he does. Still, there’s enough that Mike doesn’t know that will keep him in his place—as he should be! I’m kidding.

But I think there are tons of stories there to delve into the dynamic of that relationship—how they balance each other out, how they teach other.

Now on to important matters: How much time is spent in putting gel in your hair? Be honest.

Oh my god. You know, there’s an interesting thing with the hair. We’ve been trying to figure out what is it and what’s going on with it. The first four or five episodes we had it really slicked back. It was really smart looking—it’s supposed to be the modern version of the old-style man’s haricut, sort of like Gregory Peck or Cary Grant. In a few episodes, you’ll see him sort of let some of that go. You’ll see a bit of the hair’s softer side.

Are you serious?

Yep. The style is not as slicked back. We’re trying to find a balance. People do different things with their hair all the time, right? I might have it slicked back on some days, and let it go on others.

It must feel liberating. How about the suits? How much does Harvey spend on his suits? They’re clearly not from Men’s Wearhouse.

Well, I can tell you that every suit he wears is a Tom Ford suit.

Wow.

He’s definitely putting down a lot of green for that. He’s a man of style. When we created this character, when I sat down with the wardrobe designer in New York for the pilot, we really wanted him to be this man’s man. A real masculine, strong, Steve McQueen-type of guy who could pull off a three piece suit and make it a modern thing, wide lapels and all.

I’m trying to think back. I don’t think we’ve seen him not in a suit. Am I right?

He’s always in a suit. There’s one scene so far, though, that you might not have realized because it’s just my neck up: when I drive off in the Tesla, I’m actually wearing a jacket. And my hair was not as slicked back in that scene.

In an upcoming episode, you’re going to see him in a classic black button-down shirt.

It's like casual Friday.

Yeah. We’re slowly peeling back who he is when he’s not in the office.

--Yvonne Villarreal
twitter.com/villarreal

Photos:  Garbiel Macht as Harvey Specter. Credit: USA Network

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