Sarah Rafferty plays the all-knowing Donna Paulsen on USA Network’s hit show Suits, a legal drama set in a fictional law firm. Although Donna could be considered an assistant, fans of the show will tell you she is so much more. In this exclusive Sarah Rafferty Suits interview, the actress talks about her characters relationship to Harvey (Gabriel Macht), and the mystery behind the can opener.
Q: How do you feel about how important Donna has become and why she is so critical to Harvey Specter’s life?
Rafferty: I think what’s really interesting about Harvey and Donna is that they have known each other for a really long time. They have worked together almost 12 years; they were really starting out together. We get hints each season about their past and we get a bit more of a hint this season when we have another flashback episode. We find out more about why they have such a symbiotic relationship. I mean, I think they are amazing friends and they’ve really got each other’s back. They develop their morality together.
Q: Were you surprised to hear that a lot of fans wanted to see Harvey and Donna together romantically?
Rafferty: Yes, totally surprised. As time goes by, there is even more enthusiasm for it. It wasn’t something that we were playing towards at all. These two characters have a really rich history and that drives them to make whatever choices they are making from moment to moment. I think that the audience can put whatever they want on it [laughs]. But I was really surprised because after the season one finale there was a moment when Rachel (Meghan Markle) asks Donna about her relationship with Harvey and if they have ever been together and she asks her why they haven’t been. I think there is just one moment, one line, “Because you can never go back,” and I was really surprised at how much speculation went into that line.
Q: It didn’t help though in season two when Donna gets fired and there is a mock trial where she is put on the spot about her relationship with Harvey.
Rafferty: Right, and then having Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) say, “Do you love Harvey Specter?” Donna and Harvey were really thrown by that.
Q: Do you think Donna is in love with Harvey?
Rafferty: I know that Donna thinks that she isn’t in love with Harvey. She is 100 percent clear that she is not in love with Harvey. That’s Donna’s point of view. But I think people are really complicated.
Q: Are ever going to find out more details about the can opener?
Rafferty: [Laughs] I do wonder if one day we will actually see them with the can opener doing whatever the goofy thing is, that remains to be seen. The can opener will definitely be making an appearance this season, and it still remains a bit of a mystery. I think the mystery is going to be drawn out and I think that is part of the fun.
Q: Were you surprised to see more of Donna being written into the show?
Rafferty: I am surprised by that and I am thrilled by it. I am not surprised that Aaron [Korsh, series creator] and the writers developed her the way that they have. I think I had a sense just from reading the pilot that all of these characters were going to be developed in a really dynamic way; there was no doubt about that. But, I will say it has been beyond my wildest dreams in terms of how rich the stories are in terms of playing them and just how fun the character is. She is so multidimensional and they have kind of given her this super power where she knows everything. She brings out a side of Harvey that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Q: Season one and two were introductions to these characters and now season three is going to be more of a character development study…
Rafferty: What is really interesting about season three is, right when we come back, we are reeling from the merger with the British company. So that opens so many doors for these really interesting characters to come in, like Darby (Conleth Hill). They sort of put the characters into new and dynamic situations. It’s really cool what’s happening in season three.
Q: How is the relationship between Donna and Mike going to change this season?
Rafferty: When we come back this season, Mike (Patrick J. Adams) has betrayed Harvey, which is a problem. Donna’s great friends with Rachel and knows that Rachel and Mike are together. She is going to try to be a good friend to Rachel and possibly cut off Mike and be on Harvey’s side. But it’s all super complicated and becomes a crazy, messy soup at some point.
Q: Anything you want to say to the fans?
Rafferty: I am so excited to hear the fans reactions about this season. I don’t think I will ever be able to express to the fans how grateful I am. I just hope they stick with us on this ride because we are doing it for them and it’s fun for us.
Watch Sarah Rafferty on Suits every Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST on USA.
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