411mania Interviews: Rick Hoffman (Suits)
Rick Hoffman has been bringing TV audiences memorable characters for years, with critically acclaimed work on Jake in Progress, The Bernie Mac Show, The $treet, Philly, and Samantha Who? Currently he can be seen as Louis Litt on the USA hit series Suits, which airs its season finale tonight at 10pm.
Al Norton: Congratulations on the third season pick up.
Rick Hoffman: Thank you very much. We start in April. And thank you so much for what you wrote at the end of the year.
Al Norton: Yes, we named you to our TV Entertainers of the Year list, and you’re quite welcome; it was extremely well deserved.
Rick Hoffman: How did you come up with such crazy stuff? So wonderful.
Al Norton: I’ve got to say, you and Louis are among the more frequently raved about characters and actors on our Facebook page.
Rick Hoffman: It’s funny, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have a very goofy face (laughing). I think that’s one of the main reasons. What do you say to that? It’s so nice, thank you so much.
I noticed the difference really and truly for the first time last week. I’m up here in Toronto visiting my girlfriend and we’re in the mall and it’s a whole new level of appreciation for this show. It’s hard to believe the impact it’s been having. I keep thinking people are going to come up to me and throw whatever they got at the food court at me but they come up and they say such nice things. This is the greatest thing to have happen. I’ve been a part of a lot of other jobs and I’m proud of those, too, but this is a blessing, a really, really phenomenal blessing.
Al Norton: When you got the script for the Suits pilot, how did you know that Louis wasn’t going to be a stock “jerk-at-work” character?
Rick Hoffman: I didn’t. You never know what happens. One little bit of faith I had in this particular job was that when I first came in to audition, Aaron Korsh (Suits’ creator) said to me, “I was such a big fan of Philly.” Philly is a show I had done years ago with Stephen Bochco and that character got a real dimensional, human side, and that sort of helped in my faith that when we got to turn a corner with the other characters, Louis wouldn’t just come around and say, “hey, you need to do this, you need to do that” and they’d really start working in on the real human character underneath.
Once they saw that that kind of worked, the writers just jumped on it. This has become the job of a lifetime because they put this guy in so many situations with such a roller coaster of emotions, and as an actor, how can you ask for anything better?
Al Norton: Did they have a conversation with you saying, “we’re really going to do a lot more with Louis in season two” or did you just find out by reading the scripts and say, “I can’t believe what they’re giving me”?
Rick Hoffman: Pretty much the latter, pretty much the latter. We’re all friends so Gina (Torres) is like, “look at you!” and Meghan (Markel) and Sarah (Rafferty) have been so great. Everyone is so supportive of each other, it’s kind of nauseating.
Al Norton: I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Gina and Meghan and they’ve both had really wonderful things to say about you.
Rick Hoffman: I don’t have children but Gina does, Sarah does, and Gabriel (Macht) does, and for any holiday where we’re up here working, we all get together with the kids and it’s very familial. We’re all like a team and we know we’re a part of something really good. I am about to go out in 8 degree weather and look for a place for Sarah, who’s moving up here with her family. I love them all and I’ve never had that experience before.
Al Norton: I think for a lot of fans it was the Sucker Punch episode and in particular the scene in the bathroom that really opened their eyes; when you’re doing something like that, do you know at the time how good it is?
Rick Hoffman: We all read that script together at lunch and we were all foaming at the mouth to film it. Kind of like at a big fight and you can tell the boxers are extra excited the first few rounds so they’re too hyped up, you try to calm yourself down because it’s such good stuff. You need a couple of extra takes to make sure you get it right; you have to get it right because you love and respect that material so much. They’re couldn’t be a better example than in that bathroom scene; I thought for sure I blew it…
Al Norton:…you did not.
Rick Hoffman:…when I finally saw the end product I was like, “hey, that’s pretty good, that’s what I was going for” but when you’re doing it you start to get numb to everything. In those heavy scenes the cast is always there for each other. It’s not like we think, “ok, you do your thing and I’ll do mine.” We coach each other. In the Blood in the Water episode I did the same thing for Gabriel that he did for me in Sucker Punch; whenever these types of scenes go on, we are in communication with each other about the work, letting each other know what’s working, what to push, what not to push too hard. There’s just a tremendous amount of respect within the entire ensemble.
Al Norton: What’s your favorite thing about Louis?
Rick Hoffman: His innocence. He doesn’t know he’s a schmuck and I think that’s why he’s likeable. He doesn’t know what’s coming out of his mouth half the time and I know many people – and I’m sure you do, too – that are socially inept and they may seem like the biggest douche bags in the world but ultimately they have a Mother who tells them that they’re wonderful. Everybody’s the hero of their own story and he’s the way he is because that’s the only thing he knows. I feel bad for the guy every time I read a new script; it’s the first character where I get heartbroken that I have to play this.
Al Norton: Louis got a little action this season and as an added bonus, you got to play opposite Rachel Harris.
Rick Hoffman: Yes, Louis definitely got action and I think that is creepy to most people. No matter what the circumstances are when working with Rachel – we had a scene where we were shooting outdoors in truly ridiculous heat – there is a great respect for one another that there’s no impatience and you don’t focus on anything else. It’s just a good time when you’re doing scenes with her. She comes up with something each take that I think is hilarious and that inspires me. I get a lot of satisfaction when I make her laugh because I know if she’s laughing, it’s funny.
Al Norton: I’ve got to imagine the outtakes from those scenes are pretty entertaining.
Rick Hoffman: Most of them are hilarious but the problem is I have a very dirty mouth so they can’t put them on blooper reels. If anyone ever got the chance to look at those takes, there is some ridiculous stuff. I wish I could see them because it was so much fun to make those mistakes. For instance, there was something that happened in a scene with me and Rachel in the hotel room. I had to go down on her slippers so I went down on the first take and all you hear is this gigantic rip because the entire underneath of my pants split. I just happened to not have on, and I don’t mean to gross you out, but I didn’t have on any underwear that day, so it was all there…The entire crew and Rachel were hysterical watching me run out covering my junk.
Al Norton: You’ve been a part of two very funny shows – and I’m thinking in particular of Jake in Progress and Samantha Who? – that seemed to be done in by scheduling more than anything else…
Rick Hoffman:…That’s correct…
Al Norton: How hard is it as an actor to be a part of something that you know is good and then you’re just sitting around on your hands waiting for the people that you work for to do something with it?
Rick Hoffman: I can’t even tell you how frustrating that is. You care so much. I found that character in Jake in Progress to be one of my favorites, just the whole idea of him is such a genius idea that Austin Winsberg had created, and I love John Stamos as a person, too, so it was just a shame. Ultimately though, that’s the nature of the business, and that’s something that was very hard for me to learn over the last 13 years. I’ve had moments of lots of anger, an occasional bit of rebellion and not wanting to work because of the odds you face, but then you realize that if you love acting as much as I do, you have to keep putting it out there and lo and behold, the stars are aligned and something like Suits comes along and it’s like having a winning lottery ticket.
Don’t miss the season finale of Suits, tonight at 10pm on USA