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Gabriel Macht on ‘Suits’ and Harvey Specter
September 13, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Gabriel Macht (top) and Sarah Rafferty have been best pals for almost a quarter century, so it’s a nice bonus that they’ve gotten to star together for seven seasons on the USA legal drama Suits.

“The comfort level is huge,” says Macht, who plays alpha lawyer Harvey Specter. “It’s nice to be able to take risks, even allow each other to fail sometimes, and know they’re always there.”

But Wednesday’s midseason finale of Suits (9 p.m. ET), builds up to a short, stunning moment in which Macht’s and Rafferty’s characters are everything except comfortable.

No spoilers here beyond that. You’ll have to watch.

Rafferty (left) plays Donna Paulsen, who at the start of the series was Harvey’s smart secretary and who this season was promoted to COO of their law firm, Pearson Specter Litt.

Harvey and Donna have always been close personally as well as professionally. Rafferty says Donna “guides Harvey through his emotional life,” at which he is far less adept than he is at lawyering.

Thanks in part to that guidance, Harvey isn’t the same guy he was when the show started.

“When you have seven years to develop a character, you see a lot of growth,” Macht says. “You have time to find the minutia, the little moments that show how he changes.

“We also have the luxury of flashbacks where you can see some of his youth and cockiness. You can see where that pans out and where it fails, and how he’s learned from it.”

Harvey still comes off as the guy who commands the room, who gets the first shot at all the oxygen, but Macht says some of that is a strategy.

“Deep inside I think he has an anxiety, a lack of confidence,” says Macht. “So he compensates with overconfidence. He goes for other people’s throats.”

The 45-year-old Macht, whose previous roles include Denny Colt in the film The Spirit, recalls that he had some confidence issues himself when he took the Harvey Specter role.

“It was a challenge” to put on Harvey’s skin, he says. “And I also had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to come through, as one of the two lead characters on a major TV show.

“But I always loved the character. His gusto, the balls he has.”

Some of Harvey’s growth is reflected in the evolution of his relationship with the show’s other lead character, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, right).

Mike started off as a brilliant kid with a great legal mind and a small problem: He had never gone to law school and wasn’t legally qualified to practice as a lawyer.

Harvey hired him anyway, a decision with consequences that have fueled much of the show’s tension and drama. Only now in the seventh season has that issue been sort-of straightened out, which has given Suits enough time to develop multiple subplots.

Rick Hoffman’s Louis Litt (below), the firm’s other name partner, has been everything from a tragic victim to comic relief. Mike has developed a strong relationship with bright young aspiring lawyer Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle).

“It’s still the story of Harvey and Mike, I think,” says Macht. “There are times when Rachel and Donna are there to support them. But Louis and the women have gotten dramas of their own, and that’s great.”

“When I took the role, I told an actor friend about it,” says Macht. “And he said, ‘How long can you tell that story for?’ But [creator] Aaron [Korsh] has done such a great job in developing it that I think we could go for another 15 years.”

That’s unlikely, of course. Among other things, Suits is the last show from the “old” USA, when the network featured character dramas with a light side. These days USA favors action dramas and darker stories.

“At this point, we don’t know if this will be the last season,” admits Macht. “It could be.”

Whether or not that’s the case, Wednesday’s midseason finale leaves a lot of possibilities for the second half, and Macht says this also reflects the way Suits and its characters have grown.

“Harvey at first, was a guy who lived on the edge,” says Macht, but over the course of the show, he’s accepted some adult responsibilities that have reined him in.

“We’ve seen him looking out for his mentee Mike,” he says. “Until, at this point, they are equal, well, almost equal in some ways.”

He also gives major props to Rafferty.

“Donna is Donna,” says Macht. “People love her. I was in a small town in England, someone recognized me, and the first thing he said was, ‘I’m a Donna fan.’ To me, that’s great.

“Sarah has finessed that character so well. If Donna had been played by anybody else, this would have been a whole different show.”

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