Shane Mahood/USA Network
Chancellor Agard
January 19, 2017 AT 10:00 AM EST

Suits ended the first half of its sixth season with a seismic shift: the departure of Gina Torres, who played Jessica Pearson. When the show returns, we’ll be entering a post-Jessica world, and the responsibility of introducing us to this new status quo fell on the shoulders of series star Patrick J. Adams, who directed the winter premiere. 

Adams was gracious enough to give EW an exclusive inside look at his latest turn behind the camera on the USA legal drama, and below you’ll find five ephotos of Adams trading in his usual suit-and-tie for a more casual look as he works with his fellow costars in the episode.

“The episode itself was a blast to direct,” Adams tells EW, noting that it was “strange”  not having Torres on set. “She’s been a part of our family for so long. While I think it’s good for the show to have something like that — a kick in the pants, something dramatic that affects all of the characters really dramatically — it’s really hard to lose a member of your family like that.”

Shane Mahood/USA Network

Adams previously directed season 4’s “Derailed” and season 5’s “Self Defense,” however, this is the first time he’s directed a premiere episode. “I just thought it would be a fun challenge to sort of be given the responsibility of manning that initial episode back after we’ve been away for a long time,” says Adams. “What I ultimately learned is that you can’t fall into the trap of trying to make anything other than what it was.”

He continues, “Obviously, being the episode that we come back to after Jessica has left the firm, there’s a lot of stuff going on and lot of emotional territory that these characters are trying to work their way through. So I wanted to do justice to that and make sure I didn’t feel like we rushed through the whole thing.”

Shane Mahood/USA Network

Although directing and acting in the same episode can be taxing, Adams says his cast members helped make it fun by being open and honest with him and being willing to take risks when asked.

“Gabriel [Macht] and I get along really well, both when he’s directing and when I’m directing,” he says. “I think we have a lot of patience and a lot of respect for how the other person views the material and a lot of trust. So, a lot of those scenes just came out very naturally by a lot of actors that trust each other, me giving them the space to play, and us sort of discovering it as smoothly and as quickly as possible.”

See the rest of the photos below:

Shane Mahood/USA Network
Shane Mahood/USA Network

Suits returns Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. ET on USA.

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