411mania Interviews: Meghan Markle (Suits)
Posted by Al Norton on 08.23.2012
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Meghan Markle from USA's hit series Suits.
You may recognize Meghan Markle from her multi-episode stints on Fringe or and 90210 or for guest spots on Castle, The League, and CSI: Miami, but chances are you know her for her current – and breakout – role as Rachel Zane on the hit USA legal drama Suits.
Al Norton: This may seem like a random question but it will make sense in a minute; do you watch Army Wives?
Meghan Markle: I do not.
Al Norton: Well you took part in my 300th column a few weeks back and said Models Inc. was the show you'd most like to see come back for another season and Sally Pressman, one of the leads on Army Wives, said the same thing.
Meghan Markle: No way (laughing)! Are you serious? That's amazing! Besides myself and (USA Newtork Press Manager) Amanda Cary I don't know anyone else who watched Models Inc. but now I do.
Al Norton: I don't talk to a lot of actors who worked in US Embassies before getting into acting.
Meghan Markle: A different kind of politics indeed, right?
Al Norton: You had the duel major in college of Theater and International Relations but when you graduated and went to work did you think you had left the acting behind you?
Meghan Markle: I always loved acting. I always loved the entertainment industry. If you grow up in a coal mining town perhaps you get into coal mining and I grew in LA, surrounded by the business. I spent a lot of time on set and it wasn't just the acting, it was the feeling of being on a team and being part of a production. I also hated the idea of being a girl from LA who goes and becomes an actress as it's such a cliché so, as you said, I had the double major. I started working at the US Embassy in Argentina during my senior year in college and what started as an internship turned into this epic experience for me, turning 21 while working there and having this big office and an apartment and being in a motorcade with Paul O'Neill, who was our Secretary of Treasury at the time. All of those were pretty fantastic things that happened for me then.
Interestingly, much like my character Rachel on the show, I don't test well and I couldn't pass the Foreign Service exam to save my life. I came home for the holidays and a friend of mine gave a manager a student film I had done and he called me the next day and said, "you're going to make money and I want to take 10%. I think you should stay in LA." I guess I had always wanted that as an option and I thought, "maybe this is my shot." I'm very lucky that it's working out.
Al Norton: Have you met with USA executives about selling that early part of your life as a series?
Meghan Markle: I have not but I should absolutely pitch it to Bonnie Hammer (laughing). I've got good tales to tell.
Al Norton: Sometime you talk to someone and hear that getting a role was a long and arduous process with all sorts of testing and readings and other times you might get it as soon as you leave the room; what was it like for you to land the part of Rachel?
Meghan Markle: The process was pretty lengthy but not as bad as it can be. Sometimes it can go on for months, with tons of waiting. I initially auditioned for the producers and directors in the end of August and left that read feeling like I had done the worst audition of my entire life. I remember calling my agent and saying, "I was off book, I was distracted, I don't know what happened. I love this project, I have to get back in the room" and my agent was very clear with me and said, "look, my job is to get you in the room and then your job is to do your job once you're in there. Get your head back in the game, I'm not going to call them about this again, and you're going to go on to your other audition tomorrow."
I thought this was a wake up call for opportunities lost but we didn't realize all the wheels were spinning behind the scenes and that they didn't think I was terrible but in fact thought I was pretty great. They called me later that week and asked me to test. When I found out Patrick (J. Adams) was playing Mike Ross I felt much more confident about the test because he and I had done a pilot together for ABC with Catherine O'Hara about five years ago and in that show we were cast very similarly – my character was a very wealthy girl, his character was rough around the edges, and there was a crush – and I knew that TV saw us a certain way, that we had really good on-screen chemistry.
During my test I read with him and at that point it was between myself and one other girl and it was maybe a week and a half later I got the call saying I got the part, at which point I screamed and cried and did all the requisite celebratory things.
Al Norton: So if you do a reading and think you were terrible but it turns out they liked you, does that make you rethink your choices, the way you evaluate yourself?
Meghan Markle: Right? I think more than anything I have a tendency to go with my gut. Rachel, I just connected to her right off the page; I see the words and I knew, "I know how Rachel would say this" because it's similar to how I would say it. My reaction when I left that audition wasn't so much, "oh my god, I'm a bad actor" it was more that because I am a perfectionist I always work off book and I worked off book for that and I came away thinking that I hadn't made enough eye contact and I stuttered over a certain line. It wasn't so much the delivery as it was the lack of preparedness that I stressed about. By the time I did the test I delivered it the same way but I felt so much better about it.
That's an interesting question because as actors we're our own worst critics and will reexamine our work till the cows come home but typically that first go round is what people respond to, or don't.
Al Norton: What did you see in Rachel that made you think, "I can work with that, I can play that"?
Meghan Markle: I just loved how intelligent and sassy she was. Rachel doesn't have a lot in the pilot episode but in her first moment when she meets Mike Ross, I immediately went, "oh, I love this girl." She was so confident without being bitchy. When I talked about it later with Aaron Korsh, who created the show, I told him my biggest concern early on was that she would come across as abrasive or bitchy. What he shared with me was that most actresses came into that read delivering those lines in a way that she wasn't likeable and for me what I connected with was her as a strong, confident, and sassy woman who has been so jaded by these hot shot associates who come in that she can't help but assume Mike is going to be just like them but that in all of that she's likeable. I certainly think that as last season and this season have progressed you are getting to see who she really is and I just love the vulnerability, the drive, and I love that she's flawed; she's so much fun to play.
Al Norton: And it seems like this year you've gotten to work with much more of the cast.
Meghan Markle: I have! We just had the table read for episode 211 yesterday and in the rewrite they put in a scene with myself with Gina (Torres) and that's the first one-on-one scene with Rachel and Jessica, so that I really look forward to. Episode 213 will have a lot of Rachel – Harvey interaction and I haven't had a lot of work with Gabriel (Macht) so that will be great, too. It's been a slow burn as they've given Rachel a relationship outside of Mike Ross but once they opened up her friendship with Donna and of course her budding new rapport with Louis Litt it's been great since I love working with these people on and off screen.
Al Norton: You mentioned Louis; to me the show has jumped from good to great in season two and one of the main reasons is that Rick Hoffman has gotten such a major chance to shine.
Meghan Markle: Hasn't he? I am so happy for him and so proud of him. Rick is like my big brother and such a tremendous talent. On a lot of sets you hope that you at least get along with everyone and here we've struck gold in the fact that we don't just get along but we all love each other, to the point that I'm not just killing time in my trailer in between scenes, I'd rather sit on set and watch Rick work because he's so good and I want to be there when he's done to clap and tell him that.
Al Norton: At the risk of sounding unprofessional, the episode at the ballet…you in that dress; I don't think anyone's looked better on TV this year.
Meghan Markle: Oh my gosh, thank you. That is so nice. I haven't watched that episode but…thank you. I'm blushing.
Al Norton: How big is that set you work on? The law firm seems huge.
Meghan Markle: Isn't it amazing? Over the hiatus between seasons one and two they put a lot of work into expanding out studio. We know have over three stages. We still do the exterior of the firm in downtown Toronto and sometimes fly to New York for exteriors as well but yes, they built out Rachel's office, Mike's cubicle, the courtroom…We have our own little compound across from Covert Affairs; it's a USA party over there.
Al Norton: USA has a tremendous skill in the way the mask cities and make you think that everything is filmed on location.
Meghan Markle: I totally agree. I am so proud to be working with them for so many reasons. They just make the best choices and as you said, they do amazing with the blue sky programming and make you wonder, "how is this not New York?" Even the backdrops they use. Rebecca Schull, who played Mike's Grandmother, when she was there the last time she looked at one of the backdrops and said, "I tell you I'm from New York, I've lived in New York my whole life, and I don't believe that's not NewYork." It's pretty remarkable what they do and a testament to how talented the crew is.
Al Norton: What do you watch on TV?
Meghan Markle: My favorite show right now is The Newsroom. I am just in love with it and I have been a fan of Emily Mortimer's for many years, since Lovely and Amazing. Other than that we work 17 hour days so there's not tons of time to catch up on TV but the show I'm most looking forward to is Homeland. I have the most massive girl crush on Claire Danes and will probably make a huge embarrassment of myself the day that I meet her and bow down. I like Breaking Bad. My number one favorite show of all time is still Jeopardy.
Al Norton: Do you get tired of people asking you about Deal or No Deal (Markle did multiple episodes of the show as one of the briefcase girls)?
Meghan Marklet: Yes. I do, I absolutely do (laughing). I'm enjoying this interview so much that I'll tell you that I'm just like anyone else and I take a job to pay the bills. I don't mean to belittle that experience because for many of those girls who are models, that was what they wanted to be doing. I've never been a model, that is not my thing, but I looked at it like I was an actress playing a model instead of an actress waiting tables to pay the bills. I held a briefcase and am grateful for the opportunity because it definitely helped me get into different auditions and then once I got the type of job I was looking for I left good old Deal and traded in those very uncomfortable shoes for something new.
Al Norton: I've never understood the criticism of actors for taking a job. People will ask, "why did they take that part?" and my response is, "I'm pretty sure they took it because it was offered to them and that's how they make a living."
Meghan Markle: Yes, I'm pretty sure they said yes to that because they wanted to eat. Truly, there is no shame in having done Deal. It's funny because it now creates this misconception that I was a model and this was something I was doing.
Al Norton: Your Wikipedia page and every single bio of you on the web I found said you were a model.
Meghan Markle: Isn't that crazy? It's the funniest thing because at a photo shoot I'm the one who doesn't know what to do. I got a note at one that told me to think less, which was challenging for me but I gave it a shot (lauging).
Al Norton: What can you tell me about the mid-season finale (airing tonight at 10pm)?
Meghan Markle: It's a pretty intense episode. I don't know how much I can reveal to you other than saying Mike and Rachel continue to get closer and all the stuff happening with who's running the firm comes to a head. I will say that jaws will drop at the end of the episode; the closing scene is a heartbreaker. I was talking with one of the writers and she said she watched the closing scene of the episode three times and each time was like, "nooooo." If that isn't a tease I don't know what is.
Don't miss the mid-season finale of Suits, tonight at 10pm on USA.