Suits Q&A: Sarah Rafferty on the Second Half of Season 2 and Channeling Her Inner Donna

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 17, 2013

Suits comes back this week and we’re all very excited. No really, the show didn’t make our Great Midseason TV Cram for nothing! So I hope you’re all appropriately caught up and ready for the mid-season premiere on Thursday. In anticipation of the show's return, Sarah Rafferty, who plays Harvey’s right-hand woman, Donna, took the time to answer some of my questions about the state of the office when we return to Pearson Hardman. Would you say that everything concerning the memo and Donna’s firing is “water under the bridge,” or are there still repercussions to deal with, either personally or professionally?

Sarah Rafferty: I think Donna thinks that she’s put it behind her. I think she thinks she’s closed that chapter and is being a big person, but I can say that Donna needs more closure with Daniel Hardman in order to close that chapter and move on. He wasn’t very nice. And you know, in the next six episodes [which will finish out the season], we'll get more involved with lots of the characters’ personal lives, so when we get a chance to dig into Harvey’s personal life, that is, of course, interesting for Donna.

We got a peek into Donna and Harvey’s relationship, particularly their complicated personal feelings in "Sucker Punch"—is that something that we’ll see more of when the show returns, or are Harvey and Donna going to fall back on their professionalism?

I think Donna and Harvey are very professional and I think they have a lot to deal with at the firm professionally. There was the power struggle in the first ten episodes, and although now Hardman is out, they’re still a really vulnerable firm. Louis has sort of betrayed them, you know, there’s a lot going on. They’re going to be busy at work. That said, the closeness of their personal relationship is always present for them in their professional lives and I think Donna really understands Harvey and fills a role as his confidant. They have a close relationship.

Donna telling Harvey off in S02E09, "Asterisk."

As far as Donna’s other relationships, what about Louis? Their relationship was fun, but do they have a lot of building up to do after what he did to Donna during the first half of the season?

Yeah, I think they do. I think Louis is going to have to go through a process, I think, with everybody. But I think Donna is still going to enjoy it in her own way. It will still be fun for her.

Will there be any Donna-Specter-and-Rachel-Ross sightings in the future?

Yeah, I’m excited about this, although, no, we won’t necessarily see them going out again. They definitely have a great relationship and are good friends. In terms of Rachel’s character, the most exciting thing thing that’s happening in the back six... let’s say one of the exciting things that’s happening for her character ... is that we get to meet her dad, who is played by Wendell Pierce, who is from The Wire and he was in Treme. He comes and he plays Rachel’s father who gets involved with Rachel’s personal life and— you know.

And it’s outside of the whole Mike-and-Rachel thing?

Yeah, he’s involved with a case that involves Pearson Hardman and it involves Rachel and it makes for some interesting family dynamics.

Donna is one of the more memorable characters on the show and, well, she’s awesome. How much of the Donna we know is written that way, and how much of it do you think is you taking the material and adding your own personal take to it?

You know, I’ve been asked that a lot and I recently said to another interviewer— I wonder if it’s a better question for somebody other than me, in a way? I wonder if Gabriel [Macht] could answer that or [series producer and writer] Aaron [Korsh] could answer that. My personal feeling is that I’m very different from Donna, that Donna is written in this witty, sharp, fascinating, confident, real way. So, it’s funny that I find that a hard question to answer.

And you do Donna so well!

I can say that it's so fun to play Donna and a friend of mine said the other day, it must be so fun to walk around in her shoes and just be this confident person and this sassy person, this quick-witted gal. But I think a sensible gal, you know? And it really is such a joy to play her. It's really fun to put on the costume and the high heels and all that stuff. It’s really fun to act with Gabriel and the rest of the cast and everybody. I’m sure that sometimes the lines blur and sometimes we get the chance to improv a little bit, so you know, I can say that the dynamic between Donna and Harvey— Gabriel and I have been friends for a really long time and sometimes, if the editor wasn’t so great, you might catch us giggling because it’s just funny to us. And we sort of naturally have that kind of relationship where we make each other laugh.

Note: Shortly after our telephone conversation, Sarah emailed me through her publicist to expand on her answer (because she’s awesome and thoughtful and awesome):

In all honesty and perhaps too obviously I feel so different from Donna because of course I don't work at big ol' fancy Pearson Hardman, but mostly because I don't have the team of wordsmiths whippin' up witty banter and saucy repartee for me. And of course I rarely swan about in the latest runway creations when playing with my kids. However, the writers have zeroed in on some fun points from our real lives. I am a huge theatre geek. I love to see and do theatre and they have written Donna as an obsessive theatre-goer and amateur Shakespearean actress. :) They have made Rachel a foodie, just like Meghan [Markle].

Also, like D and H, Gabriel and I are close friends, we have known each other for almost 20 years and our families are close. When we play scenes together, we often get the giggles, simply because Donna and Harvey are so different from who we are. In my real life when I somehow come up with a saucy one-line zinger that makes my husband crack up, I momentarily feel like I've channeled a piece of Donna Paulsen, and I break my arm patting myself on the back. :)

Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty at a Suits event last summer in New York City.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tune in! It’s fun. Things are complicated and we have amazing guest stars coming on. It’s really great. The writers do not disappoint!

You heard the woman! Do it! Suits returns on Thursday, January 17 at 10pm on USA.

  • Comments (14)
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  • bennieschultz Mar 28, 2013

    Without doubt, the best performer and sexiest lady on the show! South Africans love you!

  • Volvi_01 Jan 18, 2013

    Good on you Sarah, I reckon the Donna character really puts the show together. I just love her sass.

  • DavidJackson8 Jan 18, 2013

    First read through, I thought you said "ass" rather than "sass". I wouldn't have disagreed with you either way.

  • bleumystique Jan 17, 2013

    Great interview! I love Suits and Donna is one of my favorite characters in a show where almost all the characters are my favorite. LOL! SR seems pretty darn cool.

  • radiumgirl Staff Jan 17, 2013

    Thanks! <3 Suits. <3 Donna. SR was super-cool!

  • natesjokes Jan 17, 2013

    This week is just full of awesome shows coming back from hiatus. I just hope the word gets out about this great show so that it doesn't get canceled.

  • DavidJackson8 Jan 17, 2013

    I'll continue to watch Suits. Donna's lovely.

  • ZeroCals Jan 17, 2013

    I am jealousy incarnate right now. I wish I could talk to Sarah Rafferty...

    She sounds like a pretty cool person. It's always interesting to get a glimpse of the real person behind one of your favorite characters.

    Side-note: Does anyone else think that Gabriel Macht looks even more handsome in that last photo than he does on the show? That's just ridiculous...

  • radiumgirl Staff Jan 17, 2013

    She was so much fun! Very cool.

    I feel like Gabriel Macht puts so much EVERYTHING into Harvey that when he's not in Harvey mode, it's really apparent, even in pictures. It's not just the hair and the suits. There's a lot of body language too.

  • moonight36 Jan 17, 2013

    awesome show

  • bristow18 Jan 17, 2013

    Thank you for this MaryAnn!! Lovelovelove Donna and I'm so looking forward to the return of of the show :))

  • JT_Kirk Jan 17, 2013

    But what are her 5 favorite shows? Ha, ok, kidding, I know you guys gave up on that feature a while back, but I'm hoping that answer about Louis was short because there's so much juicy dirt that she's not allowed to talk about, that was such an oddly nuanced relationship that the aftermath needs watching.

    "Theatre", hoo boy.

    There was zero chance I wasn't going to be watching more Suits, and that is of course in part thanks to Ms. Rafferty and her character.

  • Doctor10 Jan 17, 2013

    I'm a big fan of Suits, and Sarah Rafferty does a great job of playing Donna. I love her sassiness!
    Great interview - I'm looking forward to Thursday!

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