Already renewed for a fourth season, the USA drama series Suits returns to finish up its season with all-new episodes, picking up in the wake of the emotional and shattering murder trial that affected everyone at the firm. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) must address the firm’s future, while Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) threatens to expose the truth about Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), and Donna (Sarah Rafferty) is left to keep all of their secrets.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Sarah Rafferty talked about how thrilled she is with the way Donna has developed, being the emotional glue for all of the characters, being grateful to play the light and the dark moments, that she doesn’t think Donna’s colossally high self-esteem can be shaken, that she’ll be taking it upon herself to try to protect everyone, in the remaining episodes, what Donna’s family might be like, why Donna gets Harvey, how surprised she was to learn about Donna and Harvey’s history, and that she’d love to see Donna get more involved in a case. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
SARAH RAFFERTY: Both, 100%. I’m so thrilled with how they’ve developed her, and who she’s become, and the crazy power that she wields at the firm, for being a secretary. You’ll see, in these back six episodes, that Donna is the emotional glue. She’ll do everything that she can to keep everybody together, when there are so many forces trying to pull them apart. That being said, I feel like they’ve set it up so that the sky is the limit with her. With all of us, really. There is just so much opportunity for continued surprising and challenging material. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited for Season 4.
Did you know, when you signed on, that Donna would be as developed as she is now?
RAFFERTY: I didn’t know. You never know what’s gonna happen. It was a leap of faith. I can honestly say that I have been surprised and delighted, and I’m deeply grateful for it.
Are you surprised by how much smarter, edgier and darker the show has gotten, with every season?
RAFFERTY: That’s gotta be, in large part, due to the support of the USA Network. They’re creating a platform where our showrunner and creator, and his team of writers, can do that. I think it’s really amazing that they do that. I’m thrilled to be a part of that. When we were first introduced to Donna, you would have assumed that she was juts going to be the witty, bantery, light character with four-lines and a joke, who was the secretary. But when the show has taken the turns to the darkness, she’s way in there. With the darkness of the Stephen Huntley thing, she was really put through the wringer. But as an actress, to be on a show where you can have those light moments, and then descend into the challenging world of the darkness, that’s so fulfilling. I’m so grateful for that.
Do you feel like she lost her self-confidence a bit, with that whole situation?
RAFFERTY: I think it remains to be seen. Ultimately, Donna has such colossally huge self-esteem that it’s going to be hard for her to lose any of it. I think that will really be tested when we see her get into a relationship again, to see if she’s carrying any of that baggage with her. But going into the back six episodes, she’s resilient. She’s back at work. She’s back tending to the home fires. She has a lot on her place with Louis being on the trail of Mike, and with Harvey being in a relationship. She’s actually really trying to help Harvey not screw it up.
RAFFERTY: In these last episodes, Donna does not have a storyline, like she had with Stephen Huntley in the first 10. She’s really busy circling the wagons. She has a keen awareness of all the threats that are coming at the relationships within the firm, and is taking it upon herself to protect everybody. She is employing all of the tactics that she possibly can, to do that. In some cases, she’s successful, and in some cases, she’s not.
Do you think she ever wishes that these people would just get their shit together, or does she love being in the middle of it?
RAFFERTY: She loves it! Are you kidding?! That’s oxygen to her. She just wants to be all up in everybody’s business.
Do you ever wonder what she was like in high school? Was she the same way, or is she that way now because she didn’t get to be that way then?
RAFFERTY: That’s so funny! I have thought about that. I’ve actually thought about what her family situation is like, that makes her be that way. I think she has brothers. I have three sisters, but I feel like Donna is the only girl among a bunch of boys, and that she really had to hold her own and fight for what was hers. She has never questioned her place in the center of the universe.
Why do you think Donna is able to be everyone’s go-to person?
RAFFERTY: I think she’s a people person. I think that that’s really where her skill set is. I think that’s why she’s so valuable. She can be a bit of a mother hen to Mike, and a great girlfriend to Rachel. And then, what’s interesting is that she’s put in a bind because she’s loyal to Harvey. We know how much history they have. It’s her job to protect him. It was so complicated, in the beginning of the season, when Mike and Rachel were going to get together, and Mike was going to tell Rachel what was going on. Donna loves Rachel. Donna wants Rachel to be happy. She wants Rachel and Mike to be together. She sees the potential in their relationship. But she knows the consequences of Rachel knowing, and that it puts Rachel at risk. It was just all a big, complicated soup.
Donna and Louis have some great interactions. How much fun are those moments?
RAFFERTY: It’s so fun! It’s so great. The Donna-Louis dynamic is really fun. What we’ll see so much of in these back six is that they just love each other. At the heart of that dynamic of them messing with each other and being so good at messing with each other and pushing each other’s buttons – ‘cause Louis can do it right back to her – is that they really just respect each other, so much. They really love each other. That’s called upon in these back six. That love and affection and familial relationship is brought to the front.
Do you think Donna wonders why Harvey doesn’t always take her advice, since she’s basically always right?
RAFFERTY: I feel like she just had a really good understanding of psychology and why people are the way they are. She understands how Harvey’s mother’s infidelity has affect him and how he is in his relationships. And what Scotty did in the past, with cheating on her fiancé with him, put him in a bad position. Donna understands how that affects Harvey, and how that affects his behavior. I think she’s just working to heal him and help him move on. She truly believes that she just wants him to be happy in a relationship and be successful at it. There’s a really interesting scene that comes up, at the end of this season, where she has to tell him something about him that she doesn’t want to tell him. They have a true friendship. She’s not always going to tell him what he’s going to want to hear, and he’s going to be pissed at her, but she has to just take it. It’s hard for her to do that. She doesn’t want to. But in order to ultimately protect him, she’s got to tell him some painful truths.
Were you surprised to learn more about the history between Harvey and Donna? Had you been given any indication that that’s what their history was?
RAFFERTY: No! Gabriel [Macht] and I were both like, “We thought they didn’t sleep together!” I thought it was an almost thing, not a totally, yes they did thing. That was news to us. Gabriel and I got the flashback episode and check in with each other and I was like, “I’ve been playing that they didn’t. You’ve been playing that they didn’t, right?” Well, it turns out that they did.
Do you think that Donna wishes she never knew Mike’s secret?
RAFFERTY: No. Mike’s an amazing lawyer. Mike’s amazing for Harvey. Mike has changed Harvey’s dynamic with people. Harvey feels for Mike. Harvey loves Mike. Harvey has a brotherly thing with Mike. And Donna knows that it’s a big step for Harvey to trust somebody like that. So no, she doesn’t wish that she didn’t know about Mike. There’s no way that she could be Donna to Harvey and not know that. There’s nothing that she doesn’t know about Harvey, really. Presumably, they talk on the phone every night because, the next morning, she knows what happened after work. It’s funny, that way.
Is there anything that you’d personally love to see happen with Donna?
RAFFERTY: I don’t have a lot of input to give. I learned very quickly, in Season 2, that when they fired Donna, I had nothing to worry about, in terms of pitching stuff to the writers because they were on a path beyond my wildest dreams with this character. They’ve got this. But, I have said that it would be interesting to see Donna be a really integral part of a case. I’d like to see her have a skill set that’s needed to win a case. If there was some circumstance where Louis got the stomach flu and she needed to step in and be in court, she would love that. She has a flare for the dramatic.
Suits airs on Thursday nights on the USA Network.