NEW YORK • When the American legal drama Suits returns for its eighth season next Wednesday, it does not take long to address the elephant in the room. Or rather, the elephants not in the room.
In its new season, the show does not pretend the departures of the leading actors Patrick J. Adams, who played Mike Ross, and the new royal Meghan Markle, who played Mike's love-interest-turned-wife, Rachel Zane, did not leave a hole in the show.
Instead, it will explore how losing Mike affects the remaining characters, particularly top lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), while also using the change as an opportunity for a reset.
The recurring characters Alex Williams (Dule Hill) and Katrina Bennett (Amanda Schull) are now series regulars and a new enterprising, disruptive lawyer named Samantha Wheeler, played by Katherine Heigl, takes the firm by storm.
Aaron Korsh, the show's creator, said: "I'm going to miss Meghan and Patrick, but I think there are still interesting stories to tell. And then on the other side of it, you have a rejuvenation with new energy, on screen and off."
With shows such as House Of Cards and Transparent losing lead actors because of sexual misconduct allegations, and Roseanne because of racist tweets, there is no shortage of TV shows reinventing themselves on the fly.
But the exit of Mike, a secretly unqualified attorney who has been the show's moral centre, is more akin to planned TV departures of the past, like Wayne Rogers' Trapper John McIntyre from M.A.S.H. or George Clooney's Doug Ross from ER.
"About a year ago, Patrick called me and let me know he wanted to move on," Korsh said. "So we had that amount of time to figure it out."
With Mike and Rachel married and gone to Seattle to start a socially conscious firm, the show will continue to focus on the story of Harvey, the hardworking, take-no-prisoners, romantically challenged head of the re-christened law firm Zane Specter Litt.
For Macht, the new twists, turns and personnel represent an energy infusion for the long-running show, which remains USA Network's most-watched programme.
"There's going to be enough of the old that fans of the show love," he said. "But also new dynamics which challenge the status quo."
The most notable new dynamic involves the arrival of Heigl's Samantha, a protege of Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce).
Viewers first meet her not in a courtroom or a corporate office, but as a ruthless aggressor in a kickboxing ring, a sign that for all her beauty and brilliance, she is foremost an aggressive, formidable player as Robert and Harvey engage in power struggles at the firm.
Heigl has long been a fan of both Suits and Korsh, she said, praising, in particular, the showrunner's knack for creating "strong female characters".
"When they apologise, they mean it. I don't know how many times a day I apologise when I don't have anything to apologise for," Heigl said.
The actress, who found fame on the medical soap Grey's Anatomy (2005 to present) and was most recently seen along with Hill on CBS' legal drama Doubt (2017), adapted quickly to the brisk banter of Suits, her new co-stars said.
"Katy brings incredible charisma, humour, groundedness and stability, and she gets the syntax and rhythm of the show immediately," Macht said.
"That new energy makes it a reboot," he added. "Also the infighting at the law firm - how we can love to hate each other, how we can each win to become the insider we all are striving to be."