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Neal McDonough talks new 'Suits' stint (and 'Justified' return?)

Things are only going to get more tense on USA’s Suits as Mike continues to battle Harvey (and uses Louis in the process—see a sneak peek of this week’s episode below). But Harvey has another opponent on the horizon. Justified‘s Neal McDonough makes his debut on the show in the July 9 episode as SEC bulldog Sean Cahill. He’ll face-off with Jessica and Jeff Malone first, but as McDonough tells EW, it’ll be high noon with Harvey sooner or later.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Suits creator Aaron Korsh is a Justified fan and says this role isn’t unlike Robert Quarles, the gangster you played in season three: You’re a hired gun, but this time you’re a lawyer gunning for Harvey (Gabriel Macht). How do you see Sean Cahill?
NEAL McDONOUGH: That’s exactly it. [On Justified], I’m from Detroit and I come to town, and I’m gonna take down anybody I need to take down. No one’s gettin’ in my way. It’s the same kind of character on Suits, except I’m kind of a good guy tryin’ to take down the bad guys. But there’s so much gray matter in Aaron’s writing, that’s it hard to differentiate, at times, who the good guy is and who the bad guy is in Suits.

That’s what I love about the show: Sometimes you’re rooting for the guy who really isn’t the nicest guy on earth and vice versa. So I’m tryin’ to do my job for the United States government, which is to take down guys who I think are doing off-color or wrong things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you like that character; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you dislike that character, either. That area is my wheelhouse when it comes to acting.

It’s interesting to hear you think of him as a good guy because fans won’t.
Technically he is a good guy; however, he isn’t. Things that Harvey does are certainly not the most legal of things, at times. So Sean’s gonna use anything he can to take down this horrible human being that is Harvey, in his mind. In the audience’s mind, it’s a whole different thing. But in my mind, that’s how I’m playing it. It’s really steely-eyed, and I get to mess with everybody a little bit, and then finally the table starts to turn later on. I won’t go into what happens, but it’s pretty awesome.

There’s one scene between Gabriel and I, it was just so much fun to play. Every once in a while as an actor, you get to work with an actor and watch him really groove, and enjoy his work, and think through it, and make fantastic choices. And that’s what Gabriel does. And in this scene in particular, he makes some phenomenal choices that made the rivalry between the two of us that much greater. It’s like an Ali-Frazier fight. I’m beatin’ him in a couple of rounds, and he’s the champ, and he thinks he’s coming back to win the fight at the end. Everyone who watches Suits understands how great Suits is, and it’s almost like this hidden gem on television. The numbers on the show are fantastic, but people may not realize that after this is all said and done, Gabriel’s gonna be around for a long time. If they’re gonna cast an American James Bond, cast him. He’s just a great guy to work with, a super family guy. I can’t say enough about Gabriel Macht.

Sean doesn’t come face-to-face with Harvey in his first episode. Does that happen soon?
[Sings in taunting manner] I’m not telling. This isn’t my first clam bake. With five kids now, I need job security also; let’s remember that. You ain’t gettin’ that one out of me.

People think of Harvey as the one with bite on the show, but I love how strong Gina Torres plays Jessica.
As soon as you’re on set with her and look in her eyes, you’re like, “Oh… oh, it’s on today. That’s right.” I think I have the upper hand against her, and then later on, she thinks she has the upper hand against me. It’s just so much fun. Everyone—it’s a great cast. I’m blessed to be a part of it for the time that I’m there.

I’m guessing you won’t say when or how Sean will finally interact with Louis (Rick Hoffman). I look forward to that dynamic.
I’m sorry. You’re breaking up. I can’t hear you. [Laughs]

Last question, then: Justified showrunner Graham Yost always insists that Quarles could still be alive. How is that possible?
Oh, Quarles isn’t dead. Graham and I had talked about me coming out of prison with my one arm, and seeking revenge or just wreaking havoc on the whole cast—and if it’s the last season, taking a few down. We’ve talked about it. Whether he can make that happen or not—are you kidding me? To jump back into Robert Quarles’ skin one more time for a last hurrah would be the joy of my career. It really would. Because he was such a fantastic, flawed human being. To go from this Oxy businessman to a complete degenerate, drug-addled nutbag [laughs].

Hopefully we’ll get one more chance at that, and I’ll take Raylan down, or Boyd down—I’m takin’ somebody down. Graham has been so good to me with Band of Brothers and Boomtown and then Justified. The famous saying I have is, “In Graham I trust,” and I always do. If he decides he wants me to come back one more time, I’m saddlin’ up.

Suits airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on USA. Watch that sneak peek of Mike and Louis below.


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