Sarah Rafferty says “a crazy cliffhanger” will end Suits Season 5

Jeff Pfeiffer

Recently, at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Sarah Rafferty, who plays Donna Paulsen on USA Network’s hit drama Suits, which returns for its Season 5 winter premiere tonight (Jan. 27).

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As the remaining six episodes of Suits Season 5 kick off with the episode called “Blowback,” Mike (Patrick J. Adams) — following his arrest for conspiracy to commit fraud — finds himself at the center of an investigation led by a ruthless government prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Gibbs (new recurring guest star Leslie Hope), that threatens to bring down the whole firm. Harvey (Gabriel Macht), having resigned from the firm in order to protect it, must tread lightly if he is going to help Mike, or incur the wrath of Charles Forstman (returning guest star Eric Roberts). Together with Jessica (Gina Torres) and Louis (Rick Hoffman), Harvey must figure out how to build a defense for Mike, knowing full well that he is guilty of the crime for which he stands accused. Meanwhile, Rachel (Meghan Markle) must come to terms with the fact that her fiancé, and everyone she is close to, could soon be in prison, as Donna (Sarah Rafferty) finds herself at a crossroads.

Sarah Rafferty had some thoughts to share on where Season 5 is headed, and how it could lead into Season 6.

What’s in store for Donna in these next episodes?
Sarah Rafferty: 
Well, it’s kind of exciting times. We come back and we’re deep into that situation where Mike is going to be investigated and it’s certainly a challenge for Donna because everybody at the firm is implicated in Mike’s secret. Everybody could possibly go to prison, and Leslie Hope’s character Anita Gibbs, the AUSA who’s leading the charge against Mike, is relentless and will basically stop at nothing to pull everybody apart and put Mike away. She digs into Donna’s private life and her personal history and digs into a situation with her dad, and really, really just steps over the line for Donna. Donna finds herself on the horns of a dilemma, kind of, with how to act and who to choose and who to trust. All those questions come up for her.

Are Donna and Harvey still on the outs?
That’s a good question. I think under the circumstances everybody is at risk and everybody’s got to come together and try to have everybody else’s back at the firm. More than ever Donna’s been the one who’s said we’re family, at the firm, and Louis really drove that point home when he lost Norma in Season 4, so that theme comes up very heavily. They treat each other as family in these next six episodes.

You and Gabriel Macht, who plays Harvey, go way back as friends in real life. Does that help inform how you two act off of each other?
Gabriel and I really have a long history, we’re close friends, we are nothing like our characters in any way. We don’t have interactions like Harvey and Donna in any way, shape, or form. The circumstances of our lives are so different from them, but that being said, I think initially just … I think they wrote toward the comfort level that Gabriel and I had with each other, and wrote toward the fact that he might be Donna’s boss, but that they’re equals. I think they wrote into that, and I appreciate that, and I think we just brought that kind of old-friend intimacy to it.

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Would you like to see some romantic intimacy between yours and Gabriel’s characters, as some fans would like?
I don’t know about that. I don’t want to upset anybody with my answer, because there are a lot of people who really do want to see Donna and Harvey together. But it’s my experience that I hear more about people wanting them together than I hear about people not wanting them together, but I think somebody once wrote that they are kind of the slowest of slow burns, and I do like that. I like that about them. I think, without adding any kind of sexual intimacy into the mix with them, I think that their relationship is complicated and deep enough as it is to be really fulfilling to play at this point. That’s my opinion, and then I would say I’m really glad that it’s not my job to decide where a storyline’s going to go. I’m very happy that that’s somebody else’s job and I leave that to the powers that be, and the experts who understand those kinds of things. So if anybody gets mad about it, they can blame [creator/writer] Aaron Korsh, not me. [laughs]

Suits has been picked up for Season 6. Do you think these remaining episodes of Season 5 lead into Season 6? Will there be any cliffhanger?
Oh, my God, there’s a crazy cliffhanger. It’s a mind-blowing cliffhanger; it’s good.

Do you ever hear from Suits fans who are actually in the legal profession?
Oh my gosh, yes. All the time, all the time. What I hear, a lot, which is so funny, is, “I’m inspired to go to law school now. I’m going to go to law school, I want to be a lawyer now.” I kind of want to say, “Okay, but we’re all actors.” I don’t know what it’s like at a real law firm, but you might want to have a summer internship or something, because I can tell you what it’s like on set, but we don’t actually have any of these problems or any of this skill set.

Suits returns Jan. 27 and airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET/PT on USA Network.

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Sarah Rafferty image; Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht image: Shane Mahood/USA Network