Suit Up

Rick Hoffman is one of those actors you love to hate. Best known for his portrayal of smarmy anti-hero attorney Louis Litt on the USA Network’s Suits the Roslyn Heights native credits his experience playing an ethically-challenged lawyer in a Wheatley School production of Crimes of the Heart with prepping him for his role on the national stage.

“It was one of those special schools where the relationships between the students and teachers really mattered,” Hoffman said of his Long Island alma mater. “The teachers really cared.”

One English teacher in particular, Bernie Kaplan, took special pains to encourage Hoffman’s love of acting, the 44-year-old said. “He told me, ‘You know, this is something you should follow through on. You’d be really good at it,’” Hoffman said.

Drawing partly on this early experience, Hoffman has imbued his Suits character with a very real sense of drama and intrigue. When viewers last saw Litt on the program’s third season finale in September, he discovered that one of the other characters on the show, associate Mike Ross, had been lying about attending Harvard Law School—a requirement for all the firm’s attorneys. The question the show’s growing cadre of fans will be asking when Suits returns on March 6 is, what will Litt do? Will he spill the secret to his partner, Jessica Pearson? Or will he use the knowledge as leverage in some personal scheme? (Insider tip: Pearson already knows that Ross is practicing without a license.)

It is a tribute to both the show’s writers, and to Hoffman’s performance, that the question is so open-ended. This is an appraisal that creator and producer Aaron Korsh heartily backed up. “His work speaks for itself,” Korsh said of Hoffman. “I dare someone to watch and imagine someone else in that role. It’s not possible.”

Joining Hoffman in the critically acclaimed Suits cast is Gabriel Macht, who plays hotshot lawyer Harvey Specter, and Patrick J. Adams, who plays the embattled Ross. Hoffman, whose breakout role came portraying misogynistic stockbroker Freddie Sacker on Darren Star’s The $treet, said that although he considers himself a nice guy, he enjoys the challenge of playing a fractured character onscreen. Playing villains allows for the exploration of underlying anger and hurt, Hoffman said.

Supreme Courts
The top five legal television shows of all time

By Chris Connolly

The marriage between the law and television is solid. Something about a law office’s combination of debate, high stakes and high salaries lends itself to the screen. Although Suits is a promising up-and-comer in the history of TV law, it’ll need to make a very convincing closing argument to join the top five law shows of all time.

5. Perry Mason
Starring Raymond Burr as Mason, this show began as a radio serial. It featured its titular star not only setting his innocent clients free, but also exposing the guilty parties—usually within the courtroom itself.

4. Matlock
Conceived in the style of Perry Mason, Matlock expanded on the theme of the lawyer who not only defended his clients, but also solved crimes. The show, which ran for almost a decade, starred Andy Griffith.

3. Night Court
This series, starring a delightfully dorky Harry Anderson, explored the humor of an overnight misdemeanor court. Collecting a solid cast of world-weary bailiffs, a lecherous prosecutor and a temptingly aloof public defender, the show was funny and endearingly human.

2. Ally McBeal
The law was never the focus of this show, which starred Calista Flockhart. Instead, cases were used to advance the slapsticky, soap opera-style relationships that continually created dramatic conflict.

1. Law and Order
One of the most durable television products of all time, original recipe Law and Order has been cranking out drama for two decades. An appearance on the show is the working actors’ version of Oprah’s couch—a certification that one has “made it.” The series also holds a special place in New Yorkers’ hearts since 20 years of uninterrupted filming have made the cast feel like coworkers to the entire city.