Warning: This interview about “25th Hour,” the Season 5 finale of Suits, contains spoilers.
USA’s Suits has had game-changing season finales before, but Season 5′s is in a league of its own. After Mike accepted AUSA Anita Gibbs’s deal to do two years in prison if she wouldn’t go after anyone else at the firm, Harvey was hoping the jury foreman would tell him the verdict was going to be “guilty” so he could live with Mike’s decision. But it wasn’t; they’d found Mike innocent.
While Mike and Rachel planned a wedding, Harvey tried to broker his own deal with Gibbs: he’d gotten Evan Smith (Tricia Helfer) to give him proof of her client Liberty Rail’s cover-up — in exchange for the right to poach any staff and clients from Pearson Specter Litt — and hoped to trade the huge corporate murder case for Mike’s freedom. Gibbs, however, wouldn’t play ball. The only way she’d let Mike off is if Harvey convinced Mike to let him take his place. And Mike wouldn’t do it. He also wouldn’t marry Rachel now if it meant jeopardizing her future.
Yahoo TV spoke separately to creator Aaron Korsh, Patrick J. Adams, and Meghan Markle about the episode’s big twists and what to expect from Season 6, which begins filming in April. (No, there won’t be a time jump).
Aaron, when did you decide the season would end with Mike in prison?
Aaron Korsh: I think at the beginning of Season 5, we were like, “He’s getting arrested.” To me, if he was going to get arrested, he was going to go to prison. I’m sure we revisited it, we always do. But there are certain things that I sort of feel strongly about in my gut. I don’t like to do a cliffhanger and then undo it. I feel like if you’re going to just undo it, then it’s a cheat — you shouldn’t have done it in the first place. We could have gotten him out of it — I suppose that wouldn’t have been undoing it — but I just thought, “We’re not going to get him out of it. He’s going to go to prison.”
Patrick J. Adams: Early on, we were talking casually about where this was all headed, and he didn’t know how we were going to get there or what we necessarily would do after, but he said, “I think Mike’s got to go to jail.” I couldn’t have agreed more. I said, “Absolutely. I would love to see what would happen to the story and to the character if he finally had to pay the price.”
Korsh: I think a lot of audiences fear change, and I think actors crave change. A big change allows for the possibility of new life being breathed into a show, but if you do big changes too often, you’re in danger of, for lack of a better expression, jumping the shark. I don’t think we could do this too soon. Harvey says he fears change — that sort of comes from me. I don’t love change. But from a storytelling standpoint, you have to have some change, or you’re just going to be dead.
Patrick, what excites you most about seeing Mike in prison?
Adams: Mostly that I get to work on my prison body, you know? No, it’s that Mike has always sort of been a boy, this sort of child, and now he’s going to be forced into a situation where he’s really going to have to grow up fast. I think it’s really exciting to see what happens to somebody when the lie they’ve been hiding behind for so long is finally gone. In a way, he’s free — even though he’s going to prison, he’s free from this thing that he’s been living under for so long. He doesn’t have to lie anymore.
Where will we pick up in Season 6?
Korsh: There is no time jump. It happens almost every year: We’ll toy with the idea of a time jump, but then we think, “Aren’t we skipping the whole purpose of the cliffhanger? What are they going to do?” We’ll also think, “Do we time-jump and then flash-backward?” That’s fine, that’s how you tell the story. That still means we have to figure out what happened. Then we always go, “Well, if we’re going to do that, we might as well just go back in time and start where we were.”
It’s not finished being written, so I might change my mind, but the entire [Season 6 premiere] is the first night. It’s Mike’s first night in prison, combined with our people’s first night after discovering no one is left at the firm. It’s back-and-forth between those two things.
Mike’s first night is him being processed. He’s having interactions with various people, and then ultimately he lands in a spot and has a story in that spot. The notion of the first night at the firm, for us in writing it, was not entirely dissimilar to The Breakfast Club: They’re in this big empty place, and what are they going to do? As opposed to The Breakfast Club, where these people didn’t know each other, they all know each other. There’s going to be scenes where they have it out. How did they get here? Who’s fault is it? Then they’re going to come together and maybe have some fun scenes. It’s a huge emotional journey ending with, what are they going to do about their situation? If we’re successful, it’s going to be a different episode of Suits. It’s sort of slower, and almost like a play, but still manages to have a big emotional journey and some twists and turns that you will not see coming. Hopefully.
Are they even going to be able to stay in that office?
Korsh: The first night is about answering that question. Are these five people [Jessica, Harvey, Louis, Donna, and Rachel] going to even be together at the end of the first night, or are they going to be shattered? In large measure, the journey of Season 6 is, can they survive? Can they stay together? Can they manage to overcome this blow? Do they even want to?
I will just say, as a general thing, the last six [episodes of Season 5] were so tense, they were so relentless, that there was no real emotional room, in my opinion, for humor. I didn’t think it was appropriate. It’s sort of like if you find out you have cancer and you have a chance to get cured or not, you’re going to be on pins and needles for the short period of time where that happens. Once that’s over, you come back. We have some funny stuff coming in Season 6. We get back to some of those fun and funnier stories.
Does Mike have a cellmate who knows a lot of movie quotes?
Korsh: That is an excellent question, and there will be some movie-quoting in the first episode back, without a doubt.
And it’s not like Mike is going to get out of prison by the end of the first hour?
Korsh: He’s in prison. The last I checked, they don’t just show up and let you out. Look, I’m going to guess not many people thought Mike was going to end up walking into that prison. To some degree, I wish [USA] hadn’t teased that someone’s going to prison, but I think since their “Coming up on Suits” [promos] are usually so good at fooling people that people thought it wouldn’t be Mike or Harvey. But it’s like when he left the firm to go with Sidwell: if he comes back in five seconds, then why did we do it in the first place? You have to let it take its course. We wanted to change things up. We’ve changed the show. There’s no doubt. It puts a challenge and an onus on us to move forward. Obviously the premise of him keeping a secret is gone.
Patrick, are you hoping the prison storyline goes a full season? Or how long do you want it to last?
Adams: You know, I’ll be careful about wanting that. This is something I haven’t really talked to Aaron about. It’s tricky with our show. We’ve got characters who you love, and you love to see them working together. The last time that Mike was removed from the other characters in the show, when he went to work at the investment firm, we had always imagined that that would be a longer divide, but I think fans really responded very quickly that they didn’t love that. We had Mike and Harvey going toe-to-toe for a while, and then they shut it down and brought Mike back into the fold.
What we’re doing now, I think, is a harder thing to come back from. You cannot just throw us back into the old way of doing things — which is why I love it, and I think it’s been a big risk. I want to do it as long as we feel the story will hold it. Not being the writer on the show or knowing what direction they’re going to take it, it’s hard for me to know what that answer is. I’m trying not to marry myself to any idea of how long it could be. I’m excited to see if we can make an interesting new tangent of the show where Mike is dealing with the same set of problems that the other characters are dealing with — just from a different point of view being in prison — and seeing if our audience is willing to go on that journey with him.
Like helping wrongfully convicted inmates with his legal expertise?
Adams: Exactly. I imagine that the show’s not just going to be about him reading books in his jail cell and killing two years. To me, Mike always wants to be in service of something. He’s got a good heart, and he’s got a good moral code. I think somehow he’s going to have to find somebody that he’s in service to and some way that he can be helping people. I’d be interested to see how that happens in prison.
My fear, obviously, is that if people feel like Mike and Harvey are so separate the whole time that they’ll want us back together so much that we’ll have to figure out some way of getting him out of prison and back to being a lawyer, which, to me, just seems sort of impossible.
When Mike does eventually get out, he could be a great investigator for the law firm with his photographic memory.
Adams: Yeah. I think that’s where I’d head, and I think if he’s going to be of use [to them], I don’t really know how else he’s going to do it. But I’ve also learned to not get attached to any outcome because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Many times I’ve thought, “Oh this would be a great idea,” and it goes in the complete opposite direction. I trust our writers to come up with something pretty cool for him. The one thing I’m excited about is I don’t have to wear a suit every day for the next little while. It’ll be a real easy wardrobe.
Are you hoping for prison orange? Prison blue? I’ve seen different colors on different shows.
Adams: I always assumed orange, but I have blue eyes, so I guess a blue jumpsuit would be great. Maybe, because Mike has so much experience now, he’ll get it tailored. Fits just right.
Let’s talk about the wedding scene: Mike and Rachel were originally scripted to go through with the ceremony. But Aaron rewrote it the night before it was shot.
Meghan Markle: When I read the script, I think I shared with you before, my gut reaction was like, “I just don’t understand.” It seemed like it was just a choice for TV. I thought that with everything that we’ve worked towards, and Rachel having always really been Mike’s biggest supporter, and in these past three episodes us seeing her come to that breaking point, it was like the only act of grace that he could have with her in that relationship was to love her so much that he’s able to say to her, “You don’t need to marry me before all this happens. You should go and focus on your life. I love you so much that I will do this for you.”
Adams: The more we looked at it, it was like, what is a wedding? It’s a declaration of two people’s love for each other. In the end, I think what we shot was even more that. Mike says to Rachel, “I love you. I can’t make the next two years of your life be you defending yourself against the whole world for marrying me and potentially ruining your career. You need to live your life, and you need to know that I’m going be there, and hopefully it will all work when I get out.” To me, that’s such a more profound declaration of love, and such a more romantic gesture. I think if it had been a wedding, it would have just been this really sad wedding. It’s like, “Oh, we’re getting married, and now I’m leaving.” I think it clicked into place when we realized we could still get all of those emotions, if not more, by saying that this isn’t the right time for this.
It was really to Aaron’s credit that, on a dime, he could turn it around like that, and to everyone else’s credit that we could all roll with the punches and be able to make it work on short notice. I’m really happy that it worked out that way. I think it leaves more for us to deal with in the coming season.
Korsh: That’s a huge difference, obviously, whether they get married or not. I didn’t want to just make that change without running it by the network and studio. I’m in Toronto, trying to get people on the phone just so I can say, “Look, this is what I’m trying to do.” We were going to try to shoot it both ways, but we just did not have time to do that. Finally we got them on the phone, and they were like, “Listen, do whatever you think is right.”
Gabriel had just sort of mentioned to me, “Wouldn’t it be better if Mike doesn’t marry Rachel?” We talked about it a little bit. I said, “Look, the truth is, when we had started writing the episode, the idea was he was not going to follow through with the wedding.” He was going to not do it. We were sort of writing it as a team, and I was lobbied somewhat heavily to have the wedding because we wanted to give something positive to the fans as something negative was also going to happen. I was somewhat swayed by that argument, but really what had swayed me to have the wedding was [otherwise] they’d have to both decide to get married and then decide to un-get married, and I didn’t think we’d earned both those things [in the current script].
Literally, while I was up there to film the thing, we added in the sex scene between them. That did not exist before I arrived in Toronto. The way they decided to get married was a much different scene. We rewrote it, and we were like, “Maybe we did earn it.”
Markle: They were like, “In all of this angst and frustration and the drama going on, we haven’t seen Mike and Rachel connect in that way since the finale of Season 2,” so they wrote it in at the last minute to remind us that these two have this draw to each other that is magnetic. I just actually watched [the episode] last night, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, I think Mike and Rachel earned that moment.” Everything that Rachel is feeling, with every emotion right at the surface, is so vulnerable. We kept saying it’s almost animalistic — she yearns for him in that capacity. That was another one where I was writing to Aaron, being like, “I think she should say to him, 'I want to be your wife,’ and then he’s like, 'I want to be your husband.’ I’m really curious to see what fans are going to say.
Adams: Meghan and I are like brother and sister at this point, so a scene like that is basically just hilarious for us to shoot, but also really fun, because for these characters this is a big moment. I do remember feeling like it felt a lot more intimate than the stuff that we normally get to do. Anytime the show takes little risks like that, I think it’s a big win.
We all expect Rachel to stay faithful, but by not having the wedding, you also leave the door open, however slightly, for her to be tempted and for Mike to be insecure.
Korsh: That was the reason I had wanted him to not marry her in the first place. It didn’t have to do as much with this episode, it had to do with the next year. I was like, "It’s just better if they’re not married.”
Markle: Oh my gosh, don’t you think Logan is going to come knocking? He’s going to go, "Wait a minute… He’s locked up? I’m back.” [Laughs] You never know. I’m sure we’ll see her more in her other worlds — not just with her family, or at the firm, but we’ll also see more of her at law school. There are going to be more people in her world than we’ve been able to see, which as an actor, I’m really interested to be able to have more things to play with in that regard, but I have no idea what that’s going to do in terms of the stress that it puts on her relationship with Mike.
As a fan of the show, I root for Mike and Rachel to be together, completely. You saw that sex scene. I don’t think Rachel has that with anyone else. But I think it opens up so many possibilities, character-wise, besides just talking to him through a glass window or trying to figure out how we film conjugal visits. I was like, “Oh God. What’s going to happen next season?” [Laughs] I think the plot can thicken in a different way when, yes, of course she’s very much committed to Mike, but her world is open in a different way with them not being married, and him loving her that much.
What are your hopes for Rachel in Season 6, Meghan?
Markle: I do hope that once we get past that first or second episode that Rachel has wrapped her head around it, because I am left quite depleted and dehydrated from all of the tears scripted in the last three episodes, especially the finale, for poor Rachel. [Laughs] I think there’s been a lot of processing, and now it’s time for her to figure out another approach, because it can’t be so woeful all the time. Now it’s going to be the reality, so we’re having to make that work.
It’s a huge reset. I think it’s a really brave choice from Aaron and the writers, and it keeps it interesting. We had to shake things up. Who knows what’s going to happen with that, of course, in terms of Rachel. I imagine she’ll still remain Harvey’s associate, and they’ll be working on getting Mike out. It’ll obviously strengthen her friendship with Donna… I think the relationships of the people at the firm are going to stay as they’ve been, if not grow stronger, especially having to start from scratch together. I think it’ll only unite them even more.
I hope that in the rebuilding, that even though the stakes are just as high, we start to find a little bit more of the lightness and humor woven in. I think fans respond to both elements of the show, that it is a dramedy in that way.
To talk about one other dramatic scene from the finale, we need to discuss Harvey provoking Mike into punching him so he could see if Mike had some fight in him to survive prison.
Korsh: That was a scene the writers pitched to me early in the breaking of that episode. I thought it was great from the second they pitched it to me. I thought it was almost the mirror image of the scene with Harvey’s father from [episode 510]. The tough part was making it organic to the episode. Why are they fighting? What’s the start of it? What’s going on? That’s when we came up with [the Gloria Danner character returning] and “get Mike ready and toughen him up” and all that stuff.
On the night, it was a challenge. We had to block it. There were some stunt doubles in there. [Patrick and Gabriel] were exhausted. I thought they just did an amazing job. That is the last scene we shot in the entire episode. I think we finished at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that’s how late we went.
Adams: We didn’t even start blocking that scene until like two in the morning. We were exhausted when we began. I think it really helped the scene, ultimately. The desperation in that scene, and the sadness and the frustration and the anger, all of that was really easy to access because we were so exhausted. With every take we did, we just got more and more tired. I think that started to shine through in the performances on both our sides. We were both actually totally broken and exhausted. At the time it was pretty miserable, but the good thing is it was the last scene of the entire season, so once we were done with that, we could all go home and be done and get our break.
And Meghan, now that I’ve “asked you more,” I have to ask about the wedding dress. It was gorgeous.
Markle: Thank you. I will tell you the fashion-y answer, and then I’ll tell you the practical real-girl answer. From a fashion-y perspective, when we did the fitting, we did it with Kleinfeld’s here in Canada. My friend Jessica Mulroney runs the bridal salon there, so she brought Kleinfeld’s to us. It’s like Say Yes To The Dress on the set of Suits — it was a double whammy for fashion. We kept thinking, “What kind of designer would Rachel be drawn to?” Of course, the money that she comes from, and the Upper East Side, and how classic her style is but still modern, we thought Oscar de la Renta or Ralph Lauren.
I tried on probably six different dresses, and I did not gravitate to that shape of a dress whatsoever. It was actually our producer Silver [Tree] who chose that dress. When we put it on, what was so interesting was it was so fairy tale, and it felt like in the context of Rachel dealing with so much of this very adult, grown-up stuff, and remembering the backstory scene of her at the Plaza with her mom and how she’s been talking about this since she was a little girl… This was her little-girl-dream-come-true moment. Especially with everything happening, it felt like the dress deserved to be something whimsical that really reflected the lightness of it.
It was an American designer named Anne Barge. The neckline, when I tried it on, is much lower. It’s very open and ballerina-y, and Silver and I loved that. It was so pretty. Aaron and our producer Anton [Cropper] were both like, “You can have this dress, but the neckline has to be sewn up,” so it changed the whole dress, which bummed me out, but I still chose to keep it, because the other options wrinkled. They were beautiful silk, but I knew that I would be wearing this dress for two days of filming. I didn’t want to have them have to take the dress on and off me every single moment to have to steam it. Because it was taffeta, I was sitting on the floor. It was so light and so comfortable.
That is one of the ultimate reasons that I chose the dress, which brides have to think about as well. You want to be comfortable. For me, I was sitting on the floor of this church eating a bag of popcorn in between scenes, just waiting, because it was that kind of dress that you could just live in. Not as glamorous as one wants to hear, but you have to think about practicalities also. We have to sit around in Spanx all day long, so we’re all really aware of what it feels like to be a woman on Suits.
Last question, Meghan: one theory that I can see fans floating is that Rachel’s mother talking to Mike about how he’s never been a father (or a mother) might be foreshadowing a Rachel pregnancy from that passionate couch scene. Is that completely insane? Did the idea just blow your mind?
Can you imagine? I actually hadn’t thought about that. I think everything is possible. I instantly go to that place of, “What’s Jolie [Andreatta] going to say?” She’s our wardrobe designer. Rachel maternity wear. How do you rock the pencil skirt like that? [Laughs] Again, I think everything is completely on the table.