Suits: Malcolm-Jamal Warner auditioned for the USA drama 4 times
Malcolm-Jamal Warner has waited a long time to work on Suits. The People v. O.J. Simpson and Cosby Show vet auditioned for the show four times (including the pilot) before he was eventually cast as Julius, Mike Ross’ (Patrick J. Adams) prison counselor in the USA drama’s sixth season. And, it was definitely well worth the wait.
EW caught up with Warner to discuss how Mike and Julius’ relationship develops as the season progresses and his long history with the series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why has Julius taken such a special interest in Mike?
MALCOLM-JAMAL WARNER: I think Mike is an interesting case study because here’s a guy who really, in his heart of hearts, doesn’t feel like he’s done anything wrong. And, Julius can tell that Mike is not a bad guy, and there is something impressive about why Mike is in jail and how he spent these last five years of his life not really being an attorney, but having all of these great cases. But, there’s something that’s still troubling to Julius in that Mike still doesn’t feel like he’s done anything wrong. As a counselor, I feel like Julius is not going to be satisfied until he can get Mike to at least see and admit that he was wrong and that he’s in jail for a reason.
In the last episode that aired, there was a bit of a thawing in Mike and Julius’ relationship when Mike took the job in the kitchen. How does their relationship progress as the season goes on?
As you’ll see in upcoming episodes, there’s a shift that takes place in the relationship in terms of they do get a little deeper. There’s an upcoming episode where Julius is actually sharing more of his story and sharing more of himself with Mike and we find out some more about Julius’ past. The thing that Julius realizes as a counselor — having been on both sides as a therapist and having had a therapist earlier in his life — the way to get through to someone is by opening up to that person about yourself. So, we do see that there is another level that their relationship will go to.
Can you tease what we’ll learn about Julius’ past?
Julius had a wayward past. It was his experience with a counselor that made him turn his life around. It’s one of the reasons why he has become a counselor-therapist himself, because of the wayward life he was living initially.
Because you’re Mike’s prison counselor, you’re pretty much stuck in the prison world. Will we get to see you share any scenes with any of the other characters?
That hasn’t come up yet, but we’ll see, I was only supposed to do a couple of episodes and fortunately, [showrunner] Aaron [Korsh] keeps bringing me back. So, I don’t know what he has in store.
What made you want to join the show? Were you a fan before you were cast?
Brother, I auditioned for the pilot of the show. Through the years, this was like my fourth audition. So I’ve been auditioning for Suits for quite some time. I really dug the pilot and once the show started airing, I really dug the show itself. I was a big fan of the show.
What roles on the show did you audition for?
There was a role in the pilot, and I don’t remember the character’s name, but I think it was the one that Pooch Hall was doing in the first season. Then, the role I really wanted [Jeff Malone], they ended up casting D.B. Woodside. Look, I was just dying to play opposite Gina [Torres]. Then, I was up for the role of Kevin, Mike’s cellmate.
That’s funny. How did you end being cast as Julius instead?
Aaron liked what I did, but decided to go in a different direction. So, he asked me to come back and read for the counselor.
What’s your experience been like on the show so far?
Everyone’s been really cool. One of the great things about the show is the cast. Even in the sixth season, they still like each other. There’s definitely this air of mutual respect around the set, which is very cool and sometimes a rare thing for people for people to still like each other six years later.
Finally, what can you tell us about how Julius becomes involved in the threat of Frank Gallo as the season progresses?
I’m trying to find the word for it without giving away too much… He’s definitely helpful and it may not be directly with Frank Gallo, but he definitely helps makes some things happen.
Suits airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.