‘Suits’ season 6 exclusive: Erik Palladino on Kevin Miller – Mike Ross relationship, trust issues, and Frank Gallo
This season on “Suits”, we’ve seen Mike Ross spend the entirety of his time behind bars, trying to figure out the best way to ensure his survival and who exactly he can trust. One of the people at the top of the list, at least for now, seems to be Kevin Miller, his current roommate. The two have some common bonds that could suit them well on the outside world, but there is one inherent problem now hampering their relationship: Mike needs to use Kevin as a smoking gun for another case if he wants to ensure that he gets the deal from Sean Cahill. He was hesitant to do it due to his own moral code, but seeing Rachel once more and the life he’s missing caused him to change his mind.
We spoke to the man behind Kevin in Erik Palladino (who you may also know from “ER” or a recent run on “NCIS: Los Angeles”) about the part, his take on Kevin, and how Wednesday night’s new episode may be the biggest one of the season to date.
CarterMatt – What was your initial feeling on Kevin going into the season?
Erik Palladino – I got the script for it, and I was very excited about it because he felt like a character I could connect to on many different levels. One of the things that I connected to right out of the gate was that he’s a father — he has two kids, I have three children — and the whole idea of being away from them and how hard that would be. That’s something I immediately connected to. One of the things that I always try to do as an actor is find out what is the thing that can scar [using] razor-blades on the character, that will leave him as vulnerable as possible. What is that touchstone? His touchstone was his children. For me, I immediately knew that this was something I would connect to. I was looking forward to dealing with that and seeing how that unfolded over the course of the season.
The other aspect of it was the cat-and-mouse and not knowing who to trust. There’s a lot going on with the character and in the storyline. That makes it rich, and there is a nice about a richness to the character right out of the gate in the first episode.
How much were you told about Kevin going in?
I knew about [him] hiding stuff and not knowing who to trust, but they revealed about what he was hiding because I asked those questions.
The writers, they don’t want to reveal too much to the actors coming up because we may want to play it. It’s nice to keep the actor off-balance, because then you keep the audience off-balance. That’s a good thing, especially with this particular storyline.
We see that Kevin does form a bond with Mike in the early episodes, and yet, he’s also in prison so he’s clearly done some very bad things. Do you view him as someone who likes to do good things for others but may have [made some mistakes], or someone who gravitates towards these bad things who just happens to have a few softer moments?
I think Kevin is a good guy. A long time ago, one of the best things I heard — I think I read it in a book — is that we as actors are lawyers for out characters. It’s an interesting analogy being that this is ‘Suits,’ but it’s true. Whether he’s in prison or whatever kind of individual I’m playing, even if I’m playing the worst-of-the-worst guy, I can’t go in saying ‘I’m playing the bad guy.’ I have to find an angle in which he is human, and the humanity that will make him relatable on any level.
For me, Kevin is a good guy, but the circumstances that brought him here may not have been such a good [decision on his part].
How much did working on the prison set influence your work this season? It had to feel weird and almost like a prison at times, given that you were very much segmented from much of everything else on the show.
Yeah, it’s strange. The only times I see the other actors are table reads, and then every now and then another actor may come into our world. Our world is a completely different setup and a departure for what the show is. As an actor, I feel very disconnected from the rest of that world. Patrick [J. Adams] is the only touchstone to all of that. I’ve hung out with Patrick socially in Toronto a number of times, but the other guys I don’t really know at all. I know a little bit, we go and do a table read once every ten days, and then we got back to our prison cell.
You mention that you and Patrick have had a pretty good relationship, so do you think Kevin and Mike could be friends on the outside world?
Yeah, if it all works out in prison … or it could not, we don’t know. If it works out we could possibly have that friendship … if nothing bad happens. (Laughs.)
We’re set up now where Mike took Sean Cahill’s deal, and is going to try and use Kevin. Do you think Kevin is the sort of guy who, thanks to being in prison, is perceptive to what he is up to?
Absolutely. I think it’s probably the first thing that you learn when you enter prison. Go slow, give as little information as possible, and figure out who you can possibly trust so that you get out alive. Who are you going to align with, or who is going to f–k you over, for lack of a better word.
One of the things that I really like about this storyline is that Mike is this sort of guy who’s always been one of the smartest guys in the room, and that he’s tried to fake it until he made it as a lawyer. Do you think that he could underestimate someone like Kevin, who could pick up on what he’s doing pretty quickly?
He’s definitely more experienced being in this environment; he’s been there longer. I think in doubling back to going slow, Kevin and Mike are like two boxers in a ring feeling each other out. We’re only in the third or fourth round, and as the rounds progress more will be revealed. They are seeing what each guy is about, especially with Mike after that first episode. His level of caution is high, and [Kevin] is as well. In this environment, Kevin is very careful about what he says and who he says it to, because in this situation it’s life-and-death.
How would you describe the relationship between Kevin and Frank Gallo? Was there one there before Mike arrived?
I think that Kevin knows that Gallo is the alpha dog in this environment, and he just wants to not be near him in any way or have any dealings with him in any way. He’s just looking to keep as much of a low profile in this environment as possible.
Whenever Gallo enters his universe, you can see it. I’m like ‘I don’t want to be near this guy, I want him away from me, he’s bad news!’ Anytime I approach a scene with Paul Schulze, I view him as Darth Vader entering the room and I want nothing to do with him (laughs).
I know there is a big episode coming Wednesday, so is there anything vague you can tease?
I will say that it’s the most revealing episode to date for the season. I would be remiss if I did not tell the audience that this is an episode that you have to watch. It’s a must-watch episode for the season.