8 Questions with...Rick Hoffman

Photo Source: Nigel Parry/USA Network

Rick Hoffman is the kind of charismatic actor who stands out even in the smallest bit roles. On the USA legal drama “Suits,” he plays the wolfish attorney Louis Litt—a part he calls “an unbelievable privilege and extreme challenge.”

In your four and a half years with “Suits,” what have you learned about yourself?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is just to not doubt myself as much as I do. Having self-doubt is definitely necessary, but it’s about not letting it get in the way. When it turns into fear, you run into problems. I’ve learned to dig out that doubt before it gets that far.

How did you get your SAG-AFTRA card?
I went to the University of Arizona; [I was] in the drama department there. I had a friend who was in the know about auditions in Tucson and Phoenix. I followed him up to some audition for a Disney movie called “Just Perfect”—without a card, with the hopes of sneaking into the audition. I ended up getting in there and auditioned for a mugger that had about 16 lines. And before I knew it I was cast and at the age of 20, while still in college, I had my SAG card. My scene was with a dog.

What do you wish you’d known before you started acting?
There are no shortcuts and you can’t wing your way through real hard work. I learned the hard way by not taking auditions seriously when I first came out to L.A. and probably wasted a good seven years. Preparation is 95 percent, and then 5 percent is talent.

What is your worst audition horror story?
It turns out my worst story turned out to be my biggest break. I had auditioned—poorly—for Patrick Rush four years prior to my first series. That was when I thought I could wing it. When my manager in 2000 said, “I have this project, let me give Patrick Rush a call,” I remember thinking, There’s no way he could remember me screwing it up. And then he said he wouldn’t see me! So I lied and said, “I’ve never met him in my life,” and I convinced my manager to lie and get me in the door. This time, you know, I was prepared for sure. I saw Patrick’s arms crossed when I first entered the room. But he went from that to, “I’m taking you to test.” That was “The Street,” a Wall Street drama with Jennifer Connelly. Patrick Rush to this day tells that story. We like each other very much.

On whom do you have an acting crush?
Oh, so many. I would say, as of late, it would be a dream to get to work with an actor like Kevin Kline. And, oh man, Gena Rowlands. I apologize for not [saying] the hip, new actor out there. Although Ryan Gosling is someone I’d love to work with. I know it’s important to know the kind of person you’re working with, and I know for a fact that he’s a good guy. We all know how a lot of actors out there are not exactly the kindest....

How do you typically prepare for an audition?
It’s an art in itself, auditioning. You have to find what works best for you individually. What works for me may not work for someone else. I can’t learn lines comfortably unless I have it done out loud with someone else. Lots of actors can do it by themselves. I need to make sure I’m getting the scenes out there with someone reading the lines back and forth with me so it becomes second nature.

What was your worst survival job?
Waking up at four in the morning to make bagels was pretty rough; that and working for many assholes in the restaurant business—very, very demeaning. I was fired from nine waiting jobs. I think the biggest offense I had caused was I didn’t have my pocket buttoned on my shirt. That’s the kind of mentality we’re talking about.

Which of your performances has left a lasting mark on you?
Well, the job I’m in right now, of course. But besides that, I would say one of my first jobs where I was given a line to say by the director—a movie called “Conspiracy Theory,” with Julia Roberts. I had a one-line scene, and I was so nervous waiting to do it. By the time they rolled and said to do it, they rolled the rehearsal and shot that. And I had made up my own lines in the rehearsal and they kept it in the film. That’s pretty much what spring-boarded me to getting a manager and more work. The point is, don’t ever be afraid to take risks or chances because you never know. As much as I was afraid, I was obviously not afraid enough to make up a bunch of lines in front of a major star and director. It’s always left a mark because to this day, in a very respectful form, I always bring my own voice to a role. You should never shy away from bringing your own voice.

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Jack Smart
Jack Smart is the awards editor at Backstage, where he covers all things Emmy, SAG, Oscar, and Tony Awards. He also produces and hosts Backstage’s awards podcast “In the Envelope” and has interviewed some of the biggest stars of stage and screen.
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