Sarah Rafferty on ‘Suits’ and Darker, More Daring Writing in Season 5

     January 27, 2016

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The USA Network drama series Suits is back, picking right back up with the aftermath of Mike Ross’ (Patrick J. Adams) arrest for committing fraud as he had practiced law without credentials in the field. As a result, Harvey Specter’s (Gabriel Macht) career also hangs in the balance, leaving Donna (Sarah Rafferty), Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) to determine just where their loyalties lie.

While at the TCA Press Tour, actress Sarah Rafferty spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how brave the writers are to tackle this story, just how dark things are going to get, how far Donna will go for family, learning more about Donna’s background, the big shift in Donna and Harvey’s relationship, the special dynamic between Donna and Louis, and how much tension all of this might create for Donna and Rachel’s friendship. Be aware that there are some spoilers.


Collider: I think that viewers have been waiting for the moment when Mike Ross would finally have to face what he’s done. What did you think when you found out that you were finally going to be addressing that on the show?

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Image via USA

SARAH RAFFERTY: I think it’s great. No one can ask the question anymore, “How long is he going to get away with it?” Those naysayers can’t ask that same question, over and over again. I just think it’s incredibly brave of the writers to take it on, and to just go head-on with it. We’re not coming back with a big time jump, or anything like that. We’re picking up right there and dealing with it.

How nasty will things ultimately get?

RAFFERTY: It’s going to get dark. It’s going to get really dark. It pulls everybody apart ‘cause everybody is at risk. It implicates everybody. Louis comes into Donna’s apartment in the middle of the night and she thinks Harvey has been in a car accident. That’s what the look on Louis’ face looked like to her. She thought of the worst thing she could think of. And yet, this news hits and the first thing she says is, “I’ve gotta get there.” It’s Harvey and Mike they’re talking about. It’s family. And then, Louis, the wise and experienced lawyer says, “You have to take a breath. It’s not about being loyal to them. You have to protect yourself.” So, she races to Rachel’s house.

Just how much is Donna willing to sacrifice herself?

RAFFERTY: That’s a good question. For Donna, it’s not a sacrifice for Mike and it’s not a sacrifice for Harvey. She was a part of this. They were all a part of it, in a way. It’s different for Jessica. But from Donna’s point of view, they’re family and they’re all in this together. She says to Louis, “If they’re going to come after me, they’re going to come after me.”

Does she grasp the full extent of what that means?

RAFFERTY: I think that’s what Louis is concerned about. He’s like, “You don’t get it. You could be put away.” I think Louis is afraid that she’s not thinking that way. But Donna is thinking, “I can’t live with myself, if I don’t.” Donna’s mom would probably be like, “Don’t do this!” But, Donna knows that Harvey has a superpower. She believes in him. She believes that he’s going to make it right. She doesn’t feel like she’s looking down the barrel of jail time. She knows it’s going to be rough, but I think she knows that Harvey is going to make it okay. And she’s doubted him before, and paid for doubting him.


Could this be the first time that Donna realizes that Harvey’s superpower doesn’t work in every situation?

RAFFERTY: Once they drag her family into it, that’s an Achilles heel for her. That makes her question things. That goes to a deeper level. The fact that Anita Gibbs goes there, what a bitch!

Will we get to learn more about Donna through all of this?

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Image via USA

RAFFERTY: Yes, because there are some flashbacks, which I love. My favorite part of Suits is when we go back in time, and we do learn more. I hope we do more of that in Season 6. So, you will learn more about her. And you’ll meet her dad, which is amazing.

What do you still want to learn about Donna?

RAFFERTY: I want to know more about her boyfriends. I want to know more about her past romances. I want to know if there was a particular inciting incident that created that loyalty with Harvey. If it was something that built over time, which is what we think it is, did something happen that we don’t know about? I do ask myself that. Was there some big thing that happened in the past that we haven’t seen? We know that they slept together. We know that he said, “I don’t want to find out what kind of lawyer I would be without you.” We know that happened in the past. We know that when he was at the D.A.’s office, she held his feet to the fire and made him not become a really shitty lawyer, and he recognizes that. We know that he got her out of going to jail. He went to the mat for her. But, what else is in there? There’s some stuff in there. I want to visit that. I would also like to meet more of her family. I imagine that she has brothers. I have three sisters, and I just feel like Donna has a bunch of brothers.

Because of this, will we see Donna’s claws come out in ways that we haven’t seen them before?

RAFFERTY: Yeah, we’ll see things come out of her that we haven’t seen before. And that was fun. That’s what I love about her. She’s got everybody’s back. I think that’s why she resonates with people. She lives by that code, find a tribe and love them hard. She does that.


Even though she wants to help, Donna can’t really provide the kind of help that Mike and Harvey need. Does that make her feel more hopeless than usual?

RAFFERTY: She can try, but there are definitely moments of darkness, for sure. I love playing that because that makes her human. That makes her like a human mammal who is imperfect and pays for her mistakes and doesn’t always get what she wants, just like the rest of us. That makes us identify with her more. When she’s on our screen, that makes us feel like we’re friends with her because we recognize her as ourselves or as our friend.

Now that he’s gone through therapy, where is the dynamic with Harvey and Donna at, at this point? Will going through something like this put them in a different place?

RAFFERTY: That remains to be seen. We’ll probably see about that in Season 6. These next six episodes really are about the investigation. But I think there was a dynamic shift the moment that he walked over to her desk and said, “Thank you for 12 years.” And then, of course, they played that Coldplay song. That was a big shift in their relationship. We’ll see how that moment informs them, going forward.

The moments between Donna and Louis are so great because she really gets him in a way that other people don’t and she talks to him in a way that he doesn’t really let anybody else. Is it difficult for her to leave that behind while she focuses on Mike and Harvey?

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Image via USA

RAFFERTY: I don’t think she leaves that. What’s been so fun about playing her is that, through the whole series, she’s always been in everybody’s business. She manages to find time for every single one of those relationships. The one that has not been explored is her relationship with Jessica. I would love to dig deeper into that. But, she’s still the one who gets Louis. She’s still the one that has that special place in her heart for him. I wonder if Donna sees Louis the way we, as the viewers, see Louis with that, “Oh, dude, why do you have to be that way! But, you’re so awesome and lovable!” He’s just so lovable. I love Rick Hoffman, who plays that character, so much. As viewers, that’s the experience that we have of him, and in a way, Donna is having that experience of Louis. Sometimes I think of some of the things she does and I’m like, “She’s a good person. I could learn a little from her. I could take a page from that Donna book.” She’s very kind, patient and tough.


If Donna is going to be right in the middle of what’s going on with Harvey and Mike, will that create tension between her and Rachel?

RAFFERTY: That’s a really good question. Mike is under investigation. Will that pit Harvey and Mike against each other? If it does, does that pit Rachel and Donna against each other? That’s a good question. Obviously, that hangs in the balance a little bit. It’s very complicated. It’s definitely complicated. And they dig into that. It’s good. We had some good scenes around that.

Suits airs on Wednesday nights on USA.

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Image via USA

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Image via USA


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