TORONTO - He's a little-known actor from a little-known series from a little-known network.
And yet somehow Toronto-bred performer Patrick J. Adams broke through the noise to score one of Hollywood's most coveted honours — a Screen Actors Guild nomination for best actor in a TV drama series.
The star of USA Network's legal dramedy "Suits," which airs on Bravo in Canada, marvels over the A-list company he's suddenly keeping as part of an elite group being honoured at a glitzy televised bash Sunday.
Fellow nominees include Steve Buscemi of "Boardwalk Empire," Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights," Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" and Michael C. Hall of "Dexter."
"I think it was a surprise to everybody but a surprise to no one more than me," Adams says of his inclusion on such an auspicious list.
"I think I'm still unpacking all of my feelings about it. On the one hand I'm still so blown away and still don't quite believe that it happened but on the other hand I'm really trying to own it and find a way to be like, 'Yeah, OK. You do good work and you work hard and you deserve this.' "
It's been a year of many firsts for the affable 30-year-old, whose career has ignited with his turn as a cocky but brilliant con artist-turned-lawyer on "Suits."
Adams is also set to appear on the hotly anticipated horse-track drama "Luck," debuting Sunday on HBO Canada, as a financial wizard who works closely with gangster Ace Bernstein, played by Dustin Hoffman.
The Canuck's first industry nomination (and his first chance to wear a tuxedo, he points out) is all the more remarkable given that he was on the verge of quitting the business not too long ago.
Less than a year before getting "Suits," Adams says he was fired from NBC's beleaguered summer sitcom "Friends With Benefits" (he was replaced with Ryan Hansen of "Party Down"). That humiliation capped a decade of guest starring roles on "basically every television show ever made," he says from his home in Los Angeles.
"I was in that typical actor position where I was ready — I had my bags packed and my ticket out of town — to just go and figure out how to become a community theatre actor in Toronto or something," he notes.
"I was done with the rat race and thought that me being fired was a definite sign that I just sort of wasn't built for the business. And then something like this happens and here I am... going to this awards show on Sunday."
Canadians up for prizes this weekend include Christopher Plummer for his supporting role as an ailing widower who comes out of the closet in the bittersweet film "Beginners." Plummer has already collected a Golden Globe award for his widely acclaimed role, and is also vying for an Oscar next month.
Meanwhile, "Glee" co-star Cory Monteith is in the running with his castmates for best performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.
Adams' bid for stardom started at age 19, when he left Toronto to study theatre at the University of Southern California. One of his first gigs out of school was the ABC Family movie "Christmas in Boston." It was shot in Toronto.
"A lot of Canadian actors joke you've got to move to L.A. before you can work in Canada," he quips, noting that he expects to spend about six months in Toronto this year shooting Season 2 of "Suits."
"It's kind of a beautiful thing to come back and have this great gig and sort of reach this milestone in my life and be able to sort of do it in my hometown rather than some strange other place."
Adams says he's grateful for the SAG nomination and the influence it could have on his burgeoning career.
"You always just want to be part of a different conversation and have that conversation be broader and have more people want to join the conversation," he says.
"If something like this makes somebody go, 'Oh, that guy from that show, I never really thought about that. Yeah, let's bring him in, let's meet with him, let's talk,' then that'll make me happy.'
The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards air Sunday on Global. "Suits" airs Mondays on Bravo.
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