With the fate of Pearson Hardman having been determined, things will pick back up on the hit USA Network drama series Suits on January 17, 2013 in a very different, weakened place, and the dynamic duo of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) may also be called into question, with Mike still reeling from the death of his beloved grandmother and questioning his place at the firm. The show also stars Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, Meghan Markle and Sarah Rafferty.
During this recent interview to promote the return of the final six episodes of Season 2, actress Sarah Rafferty talked about what’s in store for sassy legal secretary Donna Paulsen, what she enjoys most about working on Suits, what makes the show so popular among the fans, how exciting it is to play such a strong female character, what she enjoys about working in Toronto, her favorite episode for Harvey and Donna, where Donna might go in the future, and how playing this character really is a dream role. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
SARAH RAFFERTY: Well, the firm is going to be busy, picking up the pieces in the back six episodes, after the power struggle that we went through, in the beginning of the season. Donna is going to be busy helping out with Harvey, and having her usual fun.
What do you enjoy the most about working on Suits?
RAFFERTY: Oh, my gosh, that’s hard to nail down. Now that we’re not working on it and we’re on hiatus for a few months, I can tell you that I definitely miss my castmates. I miss seeing them, every day. The TV family that we have is really special, and I’m really grateful for that.
What do you think it is about Suits that continues to make it such a favorite among fans?
RAFFERTY: We are so lucky to have such great and devoted fans. Our writing is awesome. We really are so lucky that the stories are incredible, but the writers have also just done such an amazing job of creating these characters and the stories that enhance our connection to these people. I know that, when I read the pilot, I was really struck, in just that one script, by how much I got from each character. I knew who these people were and I was intrigued by them. Our creator (Aaron Korsh) and the writers have done an amazing job with that, and I would imagine that’s probably what hooked the fans in.
Even though Donna has returned to the firm, will she be more guarded than she was before?
RAFFERTY: Yes, and probably more protective of the firm, too. I think that’s a natural consequence of what she has been through.
With Donna having been absolved in the missing document fiasco, how is she going to relate with the other employees now?
RAFFERTY: I think Donna is ready to move on and put it behind her. That sounds short and sweet, but it’s true. That’s Donna’s style. She’s looking ahead.
Who do you think Donna needs to protect herself from the most now?
RAFFERTY: Well, I think everybody has got to be a little guarded about Louis (Rick Hoffman) because they feel really betrayed by him. Their relationship is going to be a process. Louis is going to have to work at that, going forward. That will lead to some interesting situations with Donna and Louis because Donna did have an affinity for him, in a unique way, and that was really challenged.
As an actress, how hard is it to have to take a break, especially at such an emotional point of the story, and then pick things up again later?
RAFFERTY: Well, there are a number of things that make it easy to return to it. I keep going back to the writing, but the writing just has such clarity for these characters and is so true to who these people are and has such a strong voice that you can get right back into it. It sounds superficial, but putting on those clothes really brings you back. When I put on those high heels and walk like Donna, you can get right back into it. I’m sure that, after some rest, we’ll all be very excited to go back to Season 3, which we’ve been so lucky to be picked up for which.
Is there anything that you personally brought to Donna?
RAFFERTY: All her brains. That’s all me. No. I do not share that quality with Donna. You know, I think we’re lucky on this show. We do have some fun ad-libbing, every now and again. We do what’s written on the page, and then sometimes we improv a little bit. In my real life, Gabriel [Macht] and I have been friends for almost 20 years now, so I think we naturally brought that kind of comfortable relationship to Harvey and Donna. That just naturally bled into it because of the circumstances of our own lives.
What do you like about working in Toronto?
RAFFERTY: I like Canadians. Who doesn’t like Canadians? It’s amazing! They’re the friendliest people on earth. It’s a great city. We really enjoy it. I have two kids, and it’s a great city for families. There’s so much to take advantage of, culturally, and it’s also just a really comfortable city to live in. You can also have a lot of fun when you go out, as grown-ups. It’s really nice. And we’re really lucky to have our Canadian crew. They’re awesome!
This show has so many strong female characters. How refreshing is that for you, as an actress?
RAFFERTY: I’m very excited about how these three women are all incredibly strong and incredibly good at what they do, and they’re not trying to be anybody that they’re not. Rachel has her aspiration, but she’s pretty comfortable in her own skin, and she’s a strong, smart woman, which is great. There is no room for cattiness at this firm. Donna is very strong, but she’s also very feminine. Pearson Hardman isn’t just a man’s world. Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) is a woman, doing a great job in her position. She’s an aspirational character.
Where will the relationship between Donna and Rachel (Meghan Markle) be at, in these last six episodes? Is Donna involved with Rachel’s father coming in, at all?
RAFFERTY: Donna is not actually that involved with Rachel’s father coming to town, but it’s a great episode because we really do get to learn so much more about Rachel. But, it’s funny that you bring that up because, on a side note, I am a huge fan of The Wire, so when I heard that Wendell Pierce was coming in to play Robert Zane, I wrote a note to our creator and said, “Can you write in a scene for Donna?” I just wanted to have an opportunity to meet him and work with him, but that will have to happen the next time. I did not get to work with Wendell Pierce this time, but I’m still holding out hope that maybe he’ll come back.
RAFFERTY: She is quick-witted. It may be because I have two kids that I feel like I’m not quick-witted, but she really can think on her feet. I could go on and on about characteristics of hers that I admire. She seems fearless and she’s loyal, to a fault. She’s really confident. She’s maybe a little too confident, like Harvey, but that makes them fun. And then, she has her Donna superpower, which is that she’s a people person. She’s a good complement to Harvey because she really understands relationships and she really cares about relationships. We get to see that continue as the season continues with the back six.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced on the show?
RAFFERTY: It sounds sort of lame, but sometimes it’s really late and we’re really tired and that can just be hard, but it’s the nature of shooting something. We can be there at four in the morning, trying to shoot, and it can be hard to remember what you were going to say. What’s fun about shooting exteriors on the street in Toronto is that there are cable cars. There are no cable cars in New York, so we’re constantly having to stop so that the cable cars aren’t in the shot. We have to try to hurry and get a shot in while they hold the traffic. It’s exciting and challenging, at the same time, to be dealing with those kinds of elements.
Is it more fun or more challenging to be a series regular, as opposed to being a guest star on a show?
RAFFERTY: I think it’s all great because it’s really fun to be able to play different characters and go visit other people’s shows and be a guest on them and work with different actors. That’s always a pleasure and a great opportunity. But, when you’re a regular on your own show, there’s a comfort level that you have with the crew and the other castmates, so going into work can feel like going to your second home. That’s one of the real pleasures of being a regular. Also, being a regular on our show, it’s been really fun for me to get the scripts each week, just seeing how Donna evolves. I’m excited to be on the journey with her, going forward. That’s the real pleasure about being a regular on a TV show.
Do you have a favorite episode for Harvey and Donna?
RAFFERTY: I loved the flashback episode that we had this year. Anybody, at any time, can go back and watch that episode, on demand. I don’t know if the writers have any more flashbacks planned, but I loved that one. And Donna is going to continue having her fun with Harvey, in terms of his personal life, which will come up a little bit more in the back six.
Do you think Donna has any aspirations to become a lawyer, herself?
RAFFERTY: That’s a great question. When she and Rachel went out for drinks, she said, “I’m a legal secretary, but that’s not who I am. I’m proud of that fact, but it’s not who I am.” One of the things that I really admire about Donna is that she’s really comfortable with who she is and she’s really proud of who she is. I think she recognizes that she’s indispensable, so I don’t believe that she aspires to be anybody other than herself, which is a great thing to play.
Have you had any conversations with the writers about where Donna might go, in the future?
RAFFERTY: Those conversations may come up more in the future, but up until now, my conversations have been more about the backstory that we see for the character. I have great conversations about what we think happened in the past for Donna. That might evolve into talking about things that will happen in the future, but it hasn’t yet. I’m just pleasantly surprised when I read the scripts and get to see where it’s going.
Have you enjoyed the intensity of this season versus the first season?
RAFFERTY: That’s a great question. Yes, it did get darker this season, and I have enjoyed it. I think we all have. Because the nature of it being the second season, there was the time and the luxury to really dig in with these people. As an actor, I was totally psyched that Donna got fired, and all the messy stuff that came out of that. What pops into my mind is one of the first big blow-out scenes for Donna, in Episode 205, when Harvey comes into the bathroom and they have it out and she admits that she destroyed the document, and then realizes what a mistake that was. He says, “I’m not going to fire you. I might kill you, but I’m not going to fire you.” It was exciting when the material took that kind of turn. I had fun with it, and hopefully the fans did, too.
Donna getting fired was one of the biggest, jaw-dropping moments, in Season 2. What was that like for you to play out with Gabriel Macht?
RAFFERTY: It was really exciting because taking that kind of turn in the relationship and having it get very messy was fun to play, as an actor. And just how much it complicated their relationship in the episodes that followed was great. What was also really fun was that the flashback episode came after that, so we got to flash back to a time when they were younger and more energized and more light-hearted. That was perfectly timed, considering all the heaviness that was going on in their situation. Gabriel and I are old friends, so sometimes when the scenes are very serious, we need to take a minute to pull it together because it can be funny to us as people.
Do you think there is anything else that could shake Donna and make her lose her cool?
RAFFERTY: I think she was so shocked that she could have possibly made a mistake. Even Harvey says that Donna never makes a mistake. She is cocky and confident, and she has earned that confidence, so that really sent her reeling. But, I don’t know what might lie ahead and if there’s anything else that could shake her.
What did you learn from your experience studying theater abroad in London and Oxford?
RAFFERTY: What you learn from studying acting is that you have to have the courage to just make strong choices. One thing that was really great about that year abroad is that I can’t tell you how much theater I went to see while I was in London and Oxford. I went to Stratford and witnessed people making bold, deep choices. Whether you’re working on the stage, or in film or on TV, that’s what is required to make things compelling. It’s risky, too, because you can get it wrong. It takes a certain amount of courage.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do?
RAFFERTY: Oh, god, that’s impossible! That’s such a good question, and so impossible. I’m going to say that there’s a chance that I might currently be playing her, and I’ll leave it at that.
Suits returns to the USA Network on January 17, 2013. In the meantime, you can catch up on all 22 episodes of the drama series On Demand and at www.usanetwork.com/videos/Suits/Full%20Episode.