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Rick Hoffman lights up campus with funny anecdotes and critical advice

KPU hosted the acclaimed “Suits” actor for a discussion on April 16

Rick Hoffman is known for his role as Louis Litt on “Suits,” an initially harsh and competitive character with the signature phrase “you just got Litt up.” 

But at an April 16 event with the Kennedy Political Union, Hoffman lit up the room in a different way — with personal anecdotes, hard-hitting advice and playful impressions. Hoffman shared his experience acting and discussed the importance of committing to pushing through life’s many challenges.  

Moderated by KPU Director Shreya Joshi, a junior in the School of Public Affairs and the Kogod School of Business, and Todd Friedman, an adjunct instructor in the School of Education, the event was among KPU’s most popular of the year with likely over 200 attendees, according to Ian Whitehouse, KPU’s deputy director of production and a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and Kogod. 

Starting the conversation, Hoffman shared how he got into acting — by happenstance. 

He said he loved seeing his first show on Broadway at age 12 and sometimes found himself thinking “he’s not doing it right” when watching TV. However, he didn’t start acting until high school when he auditioned simply because a girl he was “crazy about” was going to be in the musical. It was then that others noticed his talent and encouraged him to pursue acting at the University of Arizona.

He said it was his natural fascination with why people behave the way they do that drove him throughout his career, including on “Suits.”  

“It was people's behavior that got me — observing why people act the way they do. So that's why I think I can sell it,” Hoffman said. “I didn't know why, but I guess it was just a natural thing I was able to sort of be able to, I guess infuse conversation and really act like I know what I'm talking about.”

Before “Suits,” Hoffman found himself in Los Angeles, waiting tables as he made his way into the industry. 

He spoke about working on several shows that lasted a year or two before moving to Toronto to shoot “Suits.” Even then, he said, he thought he was only going to shoot eight episodes and “it ended up being nine years and that changed my entire life.”

He shared how the industry is now more “cutthroat” than ever, and advised students looking for a career in Hollywood that they need to be all-in. 

“You have to be in it for the long haul,” Hoffman said. “You have to be passionate about the business — no Plan B. There can't be a Plan B. If your parents tell you there's a Plan B they come from a different generation. They don't understand you got to be possessed. Otherwise, you're gonna get sidetracked, distracted … it will just deter you from getting what you want.”

He shared how he always enjoyed scenes with Sarah Rafferty, who portrayed Donna Paulson on the show, because they got to play around with improv. The scenes he said were most “satisfying” to shoot, though, were scenes that required vulnerability and deep emotion. 

“The ones that scared the shit out of me — the ones that were most challenging, that I feared every time you read a script was when I had to show vulnerability, because that was something that I never thought as an actor I could personally achieve,” he said. “And it became like a weekly thing for that show that I would have to somehow cry about something. And you know, there were daunting weeks where I'm like ‘How am I ever going to do this?’” 

The hardest of these scenes, he said, was when his character had to confront Donna and Jessica about Mike being a fraud in the season four episode “This is Rome.” By then, however, the cast had incredible chemistry, and these relationships kept people watching through the hard moments. 

“And you know, of course, but it was the chemistry of the characters,” Hoffman said. “And because of that people get lost in that family and they want to watch more and more and they want to see what happens, but it is not law.”

“It could’ve been about fly-fishing,” he told The Eagle before the event, but the chemistry that formed through “one of those alignment of the stars types of situations” was what drove the show, not the legal drama. 

Hoffman joked about how people said the show inspired them to go into law, saying that to try to follow “Suits” that “you might as well be in Willy Wonka.” To the many students in the room who said they were studying government or hoping to go into law, though, he gave broad advice. 

“I just hope that when you're going through it — because there will be the shittiest of times when you're going through it … that's a gift,” he said. “It's weathering that. It's just making sure you understand that that's in anything. If it's all roses, something's wrong. Period.”

Some of Hoffman’s favorite fan experiences included “the most thrilling” moments like this one, where he got to sit in front of hundreds of students eager to see him. But the most impactful moments, he said, came when fans shared how the show got them through heavy times. 

“When someone comes up to me and I can see that they're telling the truth that during a hard time in their life that my character got them through, you know, depression while somebody was sick in their family. It couldn't be anything,” he said. “And I've had hundreds of those, and those always make me feel okay, I'm doing something for a living that really affects people for the positive.”  

He also talked about one interaction with a young fan he FaceTimed with as they were suffering from a terminal brain tumor, saying that it was “one of the most, you know, tough but unbelievably heartwarming” moments and adding that “there isn't anything more real than that.”

Off-screen, he told The Eagle that one part of his life he doesn’t often get to share is his experience of becoming a father.  

“It's a wonderful way to learn the most about yourself because kids will tell you that you're a fucking asshole in the sweetest of ways,” he said. “And you are able to look in the mirror — you have to look in the mirror every day — and learn about yourself all over.” 

Through his personal and professional experiences, Hoffman emphasized the value of perseverance. 

“If you're feeling pressure, that is a privilege. That means you're close,” he said. “So don't push it away. Welcome that shit. I know it's hard, but it's important. It's so important.” 

This article was edited by Marina Zaczkiewicz, Sara Winick and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Ariana Kavoossi. 

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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