The women of “Suits” talk about the return of the hit USA drama

Jeff Pfeiffer
"The women are never in an oppositional relationship,” says Gina Torres, on the refreshing appeal of the female characters on "Suits"

USA Network’s hit drama Suits airs the back six episodes of Season 3 starting March 6, and things are heating up. Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Mike (Patrick J. Adams) are moving in together, but the bliss may be short-lived as the dogged Louis (Rick Hoffman) comes ever closer to finding out, and revealing, Mike’s secret. Meanwhile, Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Jessica (Gina Torres) find their friendship further evolving as they address the firm’s future.

"The women are never in an oppositional relationship,” says Gina Torres, on the refreshing appeal of the female characters on "Suits"
“The women are never in an oppositional relationship,” says Gina Torres, on what she finds to be a refreshing appeal of the female characters of “Suits”

The drama of Suits is interesting because, while it is set at a corporate law firm, a world some would associate with primarily male egos, those egos are often tempered — and the professional and interpersonal relationships kept going — by the strong women characters of the firm. We recently sat down with the actresses who play the three main female characters of Suits — Torres, Markle and Sarah Rafferty, who plays Donna — to talk about their roles and the relationships on the show.

In person, the actresses were all fun and engaging, displaying the same chemistry that they clearly have onscreen. As the conversation proceeded, one point that they all agreed on is their love of how the show treats its female characters.

“Our writers have really done a great job making strong female characters,” Markle told us. “The three of us are so multilayered, and then even the female guest stars they bring in really have so much strength and bring this dynamic to the series. We’re not the women behind the men, but the women right next to them.”

“And sometimes in front of them!” Torres laughingly interjected.

“Beyond just the female dynamic with the other male characters, I love how they’ve written our interaction as women together,” Markle continued. “It really honors the friendship that women have, but you also get to see this power play, which is really pretty exciting.”

“As the women on this show, we have our own little special club,” says Meghan Markle of the bond between the actresses on "Suits"
“As the women on this show, we have our own little special club,” says Meghan Markle of the bond between the actresses on “Suits”

Honoring that female friendship, and not having the women characters resort to the TV cliché of acting catty and backstabbing, appeals to Rafferty.

“I do appreciate that everybody is very professional and very supportive as women on the show,” Rafferty said. “There’s never been a moment of [cattiness], and I don’t believe there ever will be. And that’s — thank God. I was never interested in my kids one day watching the show and seeing us fight.”

“Everyone’s given equal weight,” Torres added. “That’s what’s the most attractive element for me. Everybody is an equal. … We stand very firmly in our own egos. We have our own ambitions, and we’re very secure in what we can do. … The women are never in an oppositional relationship.”

That is also evident in how close the actresses are offscreen, supporting each other even more now that the show has relocated its filming to Toronto, finding the cast away from their real families for long stretches.

“As the women on this show, we have our own little special club,” Markle said. “We have our own lunches and glasses of wine and heart-to-hearts. … We can relate to something that’s just between the three of us. Our shared experience is so specific, and we’re lucky to have each other with it.”

It is these sorts of positive relationships and shared experiences, translated onto the screen, that Markle feels make female viewers a large part of Suits’ sizable audience.

“I think that we really do have a huge female audience,” Markle said, “because, beyond the fashion of it all, women like to see these strong female characters. And each of us plays a voice of reason for these men, which I think is such a relatable thing for women. We all sort of hold court in that way in our own real lives. Jessica, be it for Harvey or Louis, being able to ground them. For Donna, [it’s] Harvey and Louis. For Rachel with Mike. It’s like [the men] need this female energy and this voice to look at [things] in a different way. So I think women, as viewers, really respond to that, layered with all the other things — the sex appeal, the clothing, the power and the relationships.”

Speaking of clothing, the women had some thoughts on the stylish suits they get to wear in character. At an earlier press conference featuring the entire cast, star Patrick J. Adams had commented on how uncomfortable his suit got after wearing it hours on end. When we talked with the ladies, they were amused by his concerns and offered tongue-in-cheek sympathy, given their costuming.

“That made me laugh,” joked Torres. “They tailor all my dresses on the inhale. … They’re tailoring you within an inch of your life … and then you have to apply it practically, and move around in it, and sit down in it. That’s a skill in and of itself.”

“Very true,” added Markle. “Sometimes I feel like the walk-and-talks are the most fun to play and really sort of exemplify our show, because there you are in those clothes, and you’re moving in them and you’re going somewhere and you’re talking, and the dialogue is snapping. … When I do a walk-and-talk with Gina, we have to do it several times because my legs are not as long. [Laughs] So I feel a little bit like a puppy. … You put on [an outfit] — and for Rachel it’s always a pencil skirt, right? — and you don’t walk, you sort of wiggle. Like everything feels so feminine, which makes the power play and all that strength that they have, [it] makes it feel sexier.”

Asked where their characters’ relationships are headed during the back six Season 3 episodes, the women gave us a little look ahead.

“Jessica had a very, very humbling season,” Torres explained. “Harvey betrayed her; it took our relationship to another level. Is this it? Is this finally the end? You don’t just throw people away; these are two people who have a very deep, very longstanding relationship. So you make a choice. That was lovely, to come full circle. … There are waves, just like [in] any relationship.”

Markle is happy with where Rachel is going.

“In the back six episodes,” she said, “what I’m so proud of is the person we met in the pilot episode — that version of Rachel, not the sappy, in-love one — the girl who meant business, comes back, in a nice way.”

There’s never been a moment of [cattiness among the women], and I don’t believe there ever will be," says Sarah Rafferty
“There’s never been a moment of [cattiness among the women], and I don’t believe there ever will be,” says Sarah Rafferty
For Rafferty’s part, she said, “I think Donna’s very busy trying to hold things together, hold everybody’s relationship at the firm together. You get to see the kind of lengths that she’ll go to, the kind of tactics she’ll employ and just how invested she is in everybody else’s storyline.”

New episodes of Suits begin March 6 at 9pm ET on USA Network. The series airs Thursdays.

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Gina Torres, Meghan Markle and Sarah Rafferty photos: Shane Mahood/USA Network

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