MEANT TO BE I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I double majored in theatre and international relations and then I worked for the United States embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I've always loved acting. I was such a ham as a child. My dad is a lighting director, so I grew up on the set of [1990s sitcom] Married … with Children, a funny place for a little girl. I didn't know where that would end up leading me, whether I'd end up acting or be on the other side of the camera. I'd always been intrigued with politics, too, but when I was actually able to start making a living as an actress I realised that was where my heart was.
BREAKING BIG I had gone home for the holidays and a friend from college had invited me to a party. There was a manager there. My friend gave him a student film I had made with her and he called me and said: "You're going to make money and I want to take 10 per cent." It was very lucky, come to think of it, just to have someone give you a break so easily. It was like getting discovered at Schwab's [a popular hangout for movie actors and industry dealmakers, where Hollywood legend has it, Lana Turner was discovered]. But that doesn't mean it was always easy. No matter what gets your foot in the door, you have to be able to get all of you in the door. At one of my first auditions, I just had this moxy; maybe it came from working at the embassy, but I had confidence. I had gone in for a film and the part was Girl No1 and the line was: "Hi." That was it. The director and the casting people were there, and he said: "Can you say, 'Hi'?" And I said, "I can. However, I've read the script and I really respond to this other role and I'd like to audition for that." This panic spread across the room because who does that? Who takes that sort of risk?
IN THE NO What is so humbling about this industry is that it is not personal. You can be perfect for the part but then you walk in and you remind the director of a girl who broke up with him in high school and you're never going to get the part. That makes you more seasoned and able to roll with the punches. I was spoiled early on and then reality walked through the door. You hear so many nos. Specifically for me, because I'm bi-racial, I can go in for so many parts. If you're blond and blue-eyed, you may have 10 auditions but, because I could look what they call "exotic Caucasian", instead of having 10 auditions I would have 40. You hear "no" a lot more. It hurts a lot because you feel like all you hear is "no". It's really just about powering through. At a certain point, people just give up and once they've dropped out of the pool your chances of making it are so much better. It's a numbers game.
CRASHED PILOTS Because of my background in politics and being educated, there were always other things I could be doing, so there were moments of "Why am I subjecting myself to this?" I did five TV pilots before [legal drama] Suits and none got picked up. It's a huge amount of work and a huge commitment. [A pilot is] like your baby, then you wait and wait to see if it gets picked up and it's a hard thing to let go of. The one I had the most attachment to was one called The Apostles, which was my very first pilot. It's probably revisionist history but I look back on it now and think: "That would have been amazing." But who knows? Had any of those worked out I wouldn't have Suits and this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.
IF THE SUITS FIT ... I had gone in for the Suits audition and I could not get my head around the lines. It was a mouthful. I remember leaving that audition and thinking it was the worst of my life. I called my agent: "Nick, I don't know what to do. I really want this part. She's so smart. To see this character that's written like this, I need to get back in that room and do it again." We had no idea that, behind closed doors, they loved my read. They loved my take on Rachel and they were putting together a test-deal for me. It was a really good lesson in perspective. I think we are always going to be our own worst critics.
EATING UP HONG KONG A long time ago, someone shared this advice with me: don't give it five minutes if you're not going to give it five years. I think there's something really valuable in that. I never knew Suits was going to be the one. How could you know that? Had I given up, I wouldn't be experiencing all of this. I wouldn't be in Hong Kong and I'm a huge foodie. I went to the China Club last night; I took a bite of barbecue pork and had one of those "come to God" moments. Like, this is what it's supposed to taste like. What have I been eating all these years? I have a good amount of time to eat my way through Hong Kong. I hear the shopping here is prime but what can rival Rachel Zane's [Markle's character in Suits] closet? It's like having a best friend with the best clothes and you can borrow them all of the time.
Suits, which now runs to six series, can be seen on Netflix