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Gabriel Macht: The Smartest Actor On Television

Brittany Frederick Brittany Frederick
December 1st, 2011 11:00am EST

SuitsHe first came to my attention in 2005, when he appeared in the television movie Archangel, adapted from the Robert Harris novel. Macht played relentless news reporter R.J. O'Brian, who badgers and bullies his way into accompanying college professor Fluke Kelso (Daniel Craig) on a quest to find Stalin's son. It was a tricky character in a complex novel, who on film could have easily become insufferable. If that wasn't enough, the role was opposite the man who would become James Bond a year later.

I was viewing the film for Craig, but was surprised at how Macht sold me on O'Brian. He had charisma, wit and unexpected depth. And so, I filed a thought away in my head: This guy's an actor I ought to watch.

Maybe we're just now catching up, but Macht has been good for a very long time. There were all too brief appearances in Behind Enemy Lines with Owen Wilson and The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino. In 2004, he starred opposite John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson in A Love Song For Bobby Long, which he calls a film "that I'm really proud of."

He played a superhero in 2008's cult hit The Spirit. Just before stepping into the Tom Ford suits of Harvey Specter, he deftly handled two vastly different roles: dark comedy in the film Middle Men ("that needs to be seen by more people"), and action hero in the sequel S.W.A.T.: Firefight, where he matched wits with one of film's hardest-working actors, Robert Patrick.

Which brings me to another reason why Macht is so good at what he does. Perhaps talent is born, not made. Education is a matter of learning. But you cannot create his work ethic. Not only does he put his best effort into each role, but once a part is in hand, he probes in places most actors wouldn't even think to consider.

"I read the script a few times. I try and find whatever hints there are in the script to create a backstory. I'll ask all the questions - the who, what, when, where, why and how. If it's not there, I'll try and create it for myself," he explains. "I sit down with the director and we talk about the script, and I try and get his vision of the material. It's my job to expand on his vision. I usually like to sit down with the wardrobe designer, so I'm simultaneously working on the outside and in, trying to create a look for a character and why does he make those decisions. I'm trying to use what's inside the lines and merge the outer and inner lives."

I can name actors who work very hard. I can even name a few who write their own backstories; my friend Ben Daniels, late of Law & Order: UK, had pages of things he envisioned for his character on that series. Macht is the only one I know whose acting process involves collaborating with the wardrobe department. It seems different at first blush, but makes perfect sense. He knows there are many more pieces to the character than the ones we see and strives to put all of them together.

That belief that he's just one part of a greater whole extends to how Macht handles himself. While he may technically be the star of Suits, he doesn't put himself first - except to be a leader on the show's Toronto set. Even in that, he works in concert with his equally underrated co-star, Patrick J. Adams.

"You're the guy who works the most, but your role is no more important than number thirty-five, because we're all trying to tell the story," he says. "Both Patrick and I sat down before we started working, and we said, 'Look, we're number one and two,' and very often those are the two characters that create a certain kind of atmosphere on the set. We didn't want to approach this with ego, we wanted to be very supportive of each other and work as a team, from the cast on down through the crew. And I think we did a pretty good job of that. The crew is lovely and we've got a really great ensemble."

Photo Credits: USA


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