SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Suits Season 8 premiere.
Suits 2.0 launched tonight with the season premiere of USA Network series’ eighth season, the first without original co-stars Patrick J Adams and Meghan Markle. The new opening sequence reflected the new setup — an ensemble legal drama led by Gabriel Macht and a regular cast featuring three original members, Macht, Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty, and three new ones, Katherine Heigl and newly promoted Dule Hill and Amanda Schull.
The Season 8 premiere established the battle lines at the newly merged Zane Specter Litt, with Harvey Specter (Macht) and Heigl’s Samantha Wheeler going at each other as part of a wager between Harvey and Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) over who will be managing partner. And while the managing partner question was answered by the end of the premiere, with Harvey handing the reins to Robert, the episode put Alex and Katrina on a collision course as each had been promised — by Harvey and Robert, respectively — that they would become name partner next.
In an interview with Deadline, Suits creator Aaron Korsh talks about the revamp and the impact of Samantha’s arrival, Wendell Pierce’s presence on the show, the conflicts that will be brewing in Season 8, possible new romance (and a baby?), which characters’ family members will be making an appearance and will Adams’ Mike, Gina Torres’ Jessica, who is headlining her own spinoff series, or Abigail Spencer’s Scottie come back for a visit? Korsh also discusses attending the Royal Wedding between Markle and Prince Harry, the large Suits contingent there and the one guest he was stoked to meet there. Additionally, eight seasons in, Korsh also talks about when the legal series may end.
DEADLINE: Let’s start with Robert Zane, who is very prominent in the season premiere and the second episode, and is now managing partner. Will Wendell Pierce be available with his Amazon series Jack Ryan renewed for a second season? Is he in the entire eighth season, at least the summer portion?
KORSH: Wendell, because he is such a great actor, is in tremendously high demand. If I could have Wendell, I would use him in every episode. Unfortunately, I can’t because he is in such high demand, but the people at Jack Ryan, Amazon and the production, have been incredibly generous with giving us Wendell as much as they have. So, he’s not in every episode, but he’s in most episodes.
DEADLINE: I thought that the battle over who’s going to be managing partner would go on for a number of episodes. Why did you decide to resolve that right off the bat in the season premiere?
KORSH: In Suits, as it often happens, just because that question is put to bed at the end of the first episode does not mean it will not rear its head again. So Harvey could change his mind and want to be managing partner again, but even in spite of that, even if it is Robert that’s going to be managing partner, they’re still going to disagree over the direction of the firm and decisions that need to be made within the firm, and just because Robert is managing partner doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t going to want to have his way.
DEADLINE: What other conflicts will be dividing the partners for the rest of the season? We have Harvey’s promise to Alex that his name would go up on the wall next and Robert’s identical promise to Samantha.
KORSH: Obviously, they cannot both keep those promises, and that combined with the who’s running the firm, who’s really got the final say, regardless of who is technically managing partner, those things are going to be brewing throughout the season. But I would also say, unlike in some of the previous seasons, there isn’t necessarily just one overarching thing that is going on. This is almost a little bit more like a Season 1, where while all that stuff is going in in the background and definitely is always there, and we do build to a big brouhaha at the end of episode 10, there are a lot of other things that we have room to explore this year, and a lot of that has to do with Robert and Samantha and Alex and Katrina and obviously Harvey, Donna, and Louis.
DEADLINE: You made the comparison to Season 1, and to me, having seen the first two episodes, it seems that the show is a lot more procedural this season, with more self-contained, case of the week episodes, like Season 1. Will that continue?
KORSH: Look, it is possible that our most procedural episodes were in the first season. I would not describe, necessarily, episode 1 and 2 as that much more procedural, but there is, to some degree, more procedure. I would say, yes, there is, but if you look at Louis’ story in episode 2, it’s not really procedural. It’s a very personal story with Sheila about are they on the same page relationship-wise, and I think even the ones that are a little bit more procedural, they are designed to get to know how, for example, Samantha Wheeler operates. With the procedure in episode 2, Zane is trying to get Harvey to appreciate what he sees in Samantha Wheeler, because he’s made this promise to her. So, the procedure is a vehicle for that, which is a little bit of throwback to season 1.
DEADLINE: Speaking of Louis and Sheila, will we have the first Suits baby soon?
KORSH: Well, we’re trying. Let me put it this way, Nellie, we’re trying.
DEADLINE: You mentioned Samantha Wheeler. It seems like she’s been positioned as Harvey’s new sparring partner. They don’t seem to agree on anything now but will they eventually resemble what Harvey and Mike had as a dynamic?
KORSH: I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the last year of “how are you going to replace the bromance with Mike and how are you going to replace the romance of Mike and Rachel with someone or something like that?” To me, I don’t think of it as like anybody is replacing the dynamics of someone else, because they’re different. Harvey and Mike were, to me, like brothers, a big brother and a little brother because there’s a 10-year age difference. So, to me, Samantha Wheeler in no way can be like a little brother to Harvey. Having said that, their push and pull, I just think it’s going to be what it is. I hope to just be good. I don’t need it to replace something or not replace something, because I think it would be tough to replace Mike.
It’s more just like instead of Mike, we have a myriad of other new relationships. I really like Samantha’s relationship with Robert Zane and what it does to illuminate his character that obviously they have some sort of history that you don’t know that we will reveal over time. I also like her relationship with Donna, over the course of the 10, and with Alex Williams. We’re basically setting up a competition between her and Alex, and who’s going to get their name up next, and they have a good push-pull. So I love the dynamic she brings.
DEADLINE: Samantha and Alex’s rivalry resembles the first season of The Good Wife when Alicia and Cary competed for one opening. Will Samantha and Alex at one point realize that they’re competing for one spot?
KORSH: Yes. They will. It’s going to be stages of that happening because I don’t think it’s that difficult for them each to realize that they’re rivals with each other because they’re basically in the same spot. Episode 1’s title is Right-Hand Man, my script coordinator came up with that title. I thought it was great because it has a triple meaning. One, Harvey and Alex mistake and assume that Robert Zane’s right-hand man Sam is a man, but it’s actually Samantha, and Alex is sort of Harvey’s right-hand man, but also Harvey might not want to be a managing partner. He, himself, may prefer to be a right-hand man.
In any event, these two are figuring out they’re going to be rivals, and then there’s another thing — will they each find out that a promise has been made on their behalf and figure out, hey, they can’t both keep these promises, and what will happen when that happens?
DEADLINE: Was it a coincidence that Samantha is introduced as Harvey just ended his long-term relationship with Paula? So far in Season 8 there has been no romance for him. Is he going to stay away from dating, or is Samantha Wheeler somebody that he might be interested in romantically? Are we headed for another Donna-Harvey triangle, now with Samantha?
KORSH: I will say this. That was certainly not the intention when we brought her on, and it is not currently contemplated for that to happen. It’s more just, she’s throwing the firm into a new jumble, so to speak, because Samantha and Robert, they came over together. So, even though obviously Katherine Heigl is joining as a series regular and Wendell Pierce isn’t because he wasn’t available, within the show, Harvey doesn’t know that Katherine Heigl is a series regular and that Wendell Pierce isn’t.
To him, Robert Zane is now running the firm, and along with him came Samantha Wheeler, and we have to deal with the two of them, and so does Alex and everyone else. We’re not, right now, focusing on her as a love interest for anyone. We want her to integrate into the firm and see how it happens on a professional level at the moment.
DEADLINE: And what about Harvey and romance? Is it on ice for now?
KORSH: It is on ice for now. Yeah. There’s a lot of personal dynamics going on in the front 10, but none of them are romantic, with one exception…that I’ll tease, and I’m not saying who the romance is.
DEADLINE: Besides Samantha, there are no other new characters introduced in the first two episodes. Will we see new faces this season?
KORSH: Yes. First of all, we’re going to have some old favorites back. Dr. Lipschitz is going to be back, Gretchen is going to be back, obviously Sheila is going to be back, Brian, who’s a character we introduced, an associate we introduced who had a baby last year, will be back. They’re continuing, and that’s just something to keep in mind in terms of consistency, but we absolutely will be introducing new characters that will hopefully illuminate and shine some light on our existing characters.
I’ll just tease a few things. Louis’ sister Esther is going to make an appearance. We will see Harvey’s mom again, Harvey’s brother again. We’re actually going to meet Harvey’s sister-in-law for a change. We’re going to meet a family member of Alex’s. These are all in the first 10.
DEADLINE: And no Mike or Jessica?
KORSH: Currently no. I am absolutely open to either one, but as far as Jessica goes, there are some logistical things because once we start shooting the spinoff, Gina’s going to be pretty heavy in it, and I don’t want to burn her out, and then Patrick, you know when he had left, we both said we were open to it. It’s just I think some time needs to pass before we do that, and then if he’s up for it and we’re up for it, and schedules work out, it would be a great idea to have him back.
DEADLINE: I have to ask you, how was the Royal Wedding?
KORSH: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and everything that happened from the second we left our house to get on the plane to the second we got home, it was just one amazing experience after another, and the memories will last a lifetime. It was so great.
DEADLINE: Did Meghan say if she will be watching? Did she ask about season 8?
KORSH: You know what? I forgot to ask her that. I would be surprised if she didn’t catch some of it. Obviously the wedding was so overwhelming. There were so many people. I didn’t talk to Meghan too much, a little bit, but I did not remember to ask about Suits, I was too busy congratulating her. It’s pretty tough to describe how crazy it was because the atmosphere was so amazing, and seeing these people, there were countless people that had traveled from all over to see this thing. I wrote a little something about it in a tweet, and basically inside that ceremony and inside everything, it felt like a significant thing was happening in the world. In particular where it feels like we’re not in a great political environment right now, this was like a respite from that.
It was like acceptance and a joyful thing that felt like the world was thirsty for it, and that set the tone for the whole day. Then you come outside, and there’s all these incredible people that you’ve seen from a distance, on TV, your whole life, both political and entertainment people, and it was just amazing. On top of that, we were there with the Suits family. It hits you — we’ve been together almost 10 years, and all of our producing directors from the first 7 seasons were there, and cast was there, and so many people with their kids were there, and we had so much fun. The kids didn’t go to the wedding, but we really made a full vacation out of it, and it was great.
DEADLINE: How many Suits people were there?
KORSH: There were like 600 people at the wedding, and then in the reception, and from Suits, off the top of my head, it was me, Gabriel, Patrick, Sarah, Rick, Gina (Torres), and Kevin (Bray), Anton (Cropper), and Silver (Tree), and all of those people had spouses, and then Abigail Spencer was there, Meghan’s agent Nick Collins, so I guess we had about 20 people.
Even though you were at this place with 600 people, if you know 20 people, it was just like you would still look around and see all these people that you knew everywhere in addition to all these famous people, all these figures you’ve seen. I had a 20-minute conversation with John Major, who was the Prime Minister of England for about seven years, around the Clinton era. It was crazy. It was just one kind of amazing interaction after another.
DEADLINE: You mention Abigail Spencer. Her show Timeless is no longer, did you discuss her possibly coming in for a few episodes as Scottie?
KORSH: I didn’t. You know, I should call her. Every year, one of us will call the other one and say, do you want to come in, or she’ll say can I come in, and we’ll figure it out, and the challenge is, unless you’re going to pursue something between her and Harvey, because usually she’s not available permanently, and I have shied away from wanting to do another, they may be together and then they end up not being together. The challenge is to integrate her in a different way, and we’ve always figured out a way to do it, but I haven’t seen her since the wedding, and I haven’t talked to her yet about coming back this year.
DEADLINE: You just rebooted Suits heading into Season 8. How long do you envision the series going?
KORSH: I don’t know how long. Honestly, Nellie, I don’t know how long I envision the show going. It’s a collective decision, with some degree the actors and me and the network and studio, but to me if they ever said, look, season 7 would be the finale, then we would’ve made that the finale. There may come a point where I say I don’t feel good about continuing to tell these stories, but for me, right now, we’re not at that point. I think the studio and network feel the same way, and I think it’ll be a sort of a combined feeling of when they think we’ve done enough is when we’ll pack it up, but I’m not sure when that will be. I don’t have a prediction.