'Suits' postmortem: Creator Aaron Korsh on the season 4 premiere, what's next

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Image Credit: Ian Watson/USA Network

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Suits‘ season 4 premiere, stop reading now. Creator Aaron Korsh takes us inside the row between Harvey and Mike, the introduction of multiple new characters, and what’s to come. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In our walk-up to the premiere, you said the plan wasn’t always to put Mike and Harvey at odds, which they are now that Harvey’s had to side with a client who’s plotting a hostile takeover over of the same company Mike’s investment banking firm has its eyes on.
AARON KORSH: We always knew Mike would be a client of Harvey’s. When the writers room pitched me all the specific story ideas [of what could happen next], I actually didn’t kind of like them, and I got a little afraid, but we’d already cut 316, so he was already leaving. And somehow, separately, they had pitched an idea for a one-off story episode to do in the back six last year. I always ask them to comb through the history of the show to come up with ideas, so they don’t seem like they’re coming out of nowhere. For example, if we ever meet Harvey’s brother, it’s not like hey, five years in we’ve never heard of his brother and we need him — you’ll have heard of him many times. So they combed through and they found out in episode 209, Rachel tells Mike she once had an affair with a married guy. They were like, “What if that guy was the son of a client of the firm, and that guy comes back?” I thought, “Oh, that’s a great idea for an episode.” But we never got around to doing it. And then over the break, I thought, “Let’s get Harvey and Mike on opposite sides of the takeover battle, and the client that’s on Harvey’s side is the guy that Rachel used to have an affair with.” Like, what a better set-up for a season than that?

So what does Logan Sanders (Betrayal‘s Brendan Hines), the client Harvey had to side with in this takeover war, bring to season 4?
Look, if Harvey and Mike were on opposites sides of a takeover battle with a guy who has a different vision for this company than Mike does and a different strategy of winning than Mike does, that would be cause for conflict enough. If on top of it, that guy used to have sex with Rachel and is working closely with Rachel — obviously that is gonna cause a lot more sparks, and we’re gonna take advantage of those sparks. Brendan Hines has the ability to be both soft and vulnerable and also hard and harsh. It’s a good ability for an actor to have both of those things, and we see both sides: Logan has a push-pull relationship with Harvey. He’s got a push-pull relationship with Rachel. He’s obviously got a contentious relationship with Mike. The addition of his character really allows for a lot of juicy stuff moving forward this season.

We are so pre-conditioned to hate the character that you need someone who can give us a reason to empathize with him occasionally.
I’ve often had to reiterate, I think to myself as much as to the writing staff, that no matter how nice we show this guy to be, people are gonna hate him. So that was part of the reason why the first scene where we meet Logan with Harvey, I wanted him to bond with Harvey — because at that moment when he’s coming in, we don’t know that he’s gonna be Mike’s enemy and we don’t know that he used to sleep with Rachel. At least that’s one scene where we have an opportunity to see that but for the situation that we’re in, Harvey and Logan might have really had a connection. We do another scene in episode 2 where we try to highlight if Mike and Logan were not in the situation that they’re in, they might have gotten along, too.

How did you decide to make the company they’re fighting over — one owned by new recurring character Walter Gillis (Family Ties‘ Michael Gross) — be a DVD distributor. Is that just your love of movies?
I often don’t care what the actual business of the company is, I’m more worried about the personal dynamics in the show. I don’t know how much we state this or it’s just implied, but Gillis is a huge conglomerate. He’s in many, many different things. He started out manufacturing and distributing DVDs — that’s not all he does. But we use it just to have a bond: Thematically, Jessica and Malone [played by DB Woodside] are watching movies. Obviously Harvey and Mike share a love of movies.

Let’s talk about Jessica and Malone. At the end of the hour, she decided they were going to sleep together one last time, and then she’s going to hire him and their relationship will be strictly professional. I anticipate that she will have to keep fighting to not be romantic with him.
I think you anticipate correctly. [Laughs]

I’m excited for Jessica to have this meaty of a story line. Why was now the right time?
We had met her ex-husband, and he died. We’ve gotten over all the fighting and a few months have passed, and both in the show and in her life, maybe it’s time for her to enjoy her life a little bit. So that’s what she’s done. And also, as far as Suits goes, it was time to explore her personal life a little bit more. This is a great opportunity to do it, and the challenge to do it, as with all of our characters, is to not feel like we’re doing a complete step-out away from the firm and having some personal story that has nothing to do with it. So by making him someone who is already involved in our life — à la Donna and Stephen, and obviously Mike and Rachel, and even Louis and Sheila and Harvey and Scottie met through work — it’s just a good way to accomplish that. I’m very happy with it.

I loved the scene when Jessica surprised Harvey at his place, cooking dinner to ask him what she should do about Malone, who was strong-arming them into hiring him so he wouldn’t come after them as Woodall’s minion at the SEC. It felt like their friendship was truly back and perhaps better than ever.
I think we’ve always managed to have certain soft scenes with them, be it them having a drink in Harvey’s office. I don’t think we have another scene like this one, but I was really happy when we did that scene. We were struggling with who Jessica should ask: Should we meet her sister or something? And I was like, “Harvey hired Scottie. She should come clean to Harvey, tell him what’s going on.” And when that scene came out, we were like, “Can we say all this stuff?” There’s tension. She kinda makes an off-color joke at the end. [Laughs] It ended up working and we liked it. One of the things I’ll say is, we could have played a lot of secrets and the revealing of secrets this season — like that she’d slept with Malone, or that Rachel used to be with Logan — and we decided there’s so much to play, let’s not play the, “You kept a secret from me.” So we tried to get that stuff out-of-the-way early so we could just let the dynamics themselves play. And that was part of the reason why we wanted her to go to Harvey, because we didn’t want to play Harvey discovering it.

You establish in this episode that Harvey is dating again. Jessica has clearly been getting lucky. What about Donna? Will we see her get into another relationship this season?
I try to keep the balance of business and relationship [on the show]. The difficulty with pursuing a Jessica/Malone relationship, and Mike and Rachel having some personal story, is if we then on top of this introduce a new love interest for Donna, I feel like the show can tilt too much towards relationship-centric. So I want to have a more Donna-centric story line and possibly Donna relationship story line, but we don’t have room for it in the first five or six episodes. Having said that, we do reveal some back story about Donna in those five episodes more than once. We’re kinda using the Donna-Louis relationship to shed some light on Donna’s personal history and family history and on the choice she made to become a legal secretary.

Louis had wanted to be the guy who goes after Woodall, but he was waiting for Harvey and Jessica to come to him. How will he react when he finds out Malone has been hired to be Pearson Specter’s new attack dog on that front?
You’ll find out very soon since Louis finds out in episode 2. I think Louis will behave appropriately to his character [Laughs] and yet it will have opportunity for growth in his character with the help of Donna.

I’m amazed at how much I enjoy Louis’ relationship with Katrina (Amanda Schull), considering we weren’t supposed to like that character when she was introduced. Will we see more of their friendship?
Yes and no. Here’s the good news and the bad news about having so many characters that we now care about: It gives you a lot of new and different things to play, which I really like. The bad news is, it’s hard to delve too deeply into all of them without feeling that it’s not the show anymore. It maybe takes away air time from one of your old favorites. So we definitely see more of Louis and Katrina, what I wish is that we had a little bit more of a Katrina-centric episode. I don’t know that we’re gonna get to do it.

Last question: Now that Malone has left the SEC, I’m assuming the recurring role Neal McDonough (Justified) has been cast in, Sean Cahill, is his replacement? So he’ll be doing Woodall’s bidding.
He is the new Malone at the SEC. You and I have discussed Justified — I’m a Justified fan as you are. Just in talking about the role with Neal, I discussed how much I loved him on Justified [as Detroit gangster Robert Quarles]. I kinda said, “Look, it’s not dissimilar: We’re a Western just like that is, and you’re the hired gunman coming to town to come after Harvey just like you came after Raylan. It’s just you’re a lawyer instead of a gunman.” I think he’s gonna be great.

I’m hoping the character is a little intense and crazy. How would you describe it?
[Laughs] I don’t know if he’s crazy. But he’s got a swagger, and a confidence, and he’s intelligent. He’s got a job to do, and he’s not afraid of Harvey. I would say that.


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