'Suits' Boss Talks Lighter Tone, Firm Shake-Up and Surprise Romance

Showrunner Aaron Korsh breaks down the season seven premiere’s reunion and Harvey’s new relationship.
Courtesy of USA Network
Gabriel Macht (left) and Patrick J. Adams on 'Suits'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the seventh-season premiere of USA's Suits, “Skin in the Game.”]

Compared to the sixth-season start of USA’s Suits, Wednesday night’s season seven premiere marked a return to some of the lighter moments and banter-filled scenes formerly featured on the show.

With Mike (Patrick J. Adams) an official and legally recognized lawyer, Rachel (Meghan Markle) done with law school, Donna (Sarah Rafferty) looking for a seat at the table as partner and Louis (Rick Hoffman) back on his old warpaths following his break-up with Tara (Carly Pope), it was up to Harvey (Gabriel Macht) to step up as managing partner and put everyone back on track.

But first Harvey and Mike needed to reunite for one more corporate case involving a shady vodka dealer and some eager buyers, giving viewers one last nostalgic glimpse at the dynamic duo before their relationship changed again with Harvey’s new role at the firm.

Meanwhile, the episode also marked the return of Harvey’s former shrink Dr. Paula Agard (Christina Cole), as Harvey pursued her romantically and disappointed Harvey-Donna fans everywhere who were hoping that this season might mark a turn in the couple’s relationship.

To break down the premiere and look ahead at the rest of the seventh season, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Aaron Korsh. Here, he discusses the show’s developing tone, where Harvey goes from here and whether Harvey is in the market for a new secretary.

Does Harvey officially have his groove back?

To some degree you could make the case that Harvey never lost his groove. He probably did there for a little bit in one way or another, but he never completely lost it. So sure, he has his groove back, but this is Suits, so there’s always something lurking. He’s not going to be conflict-free for the rest of the season. He’s made some bold decisions, and when you make bold decisions, they often have consequences.

Can you expand on that? He got the girl, Donna is beside him, Louis is in agreement — how do you inject conflict at this point?

If you look to the relationships of the show, Donna is by his side, but given their history and the fact that he’s with a new woman, she doesn’t know if there’s potential there. Louis has agreed, but in the history of the show, has Louis stood by anything permanently? What we set up at the end of season six and in the beginning of this season is that Harvey has made some decisions that are bold and possibly good, but that could also have consequences. He made a one-for-one deal with Mike to come back to the firm; we do a pro-bono, we do a corporate case. That wasn’t the most prudent thing to do — it’s like if you were the head coach of a football team and promised a player they could play both football and baseball. It’s possible your player could get injured doing that other thing and it could ruin your whole season. You never know what the deal you make is going to do. There is an inherent conflict between representing the interests of the downtrodden and the powerless and corporate law, which represents the interests of the powerful and exploitative. That decision will probably come back to bite them both in the ass.

How will Donna’s promotion affect things?

He took someone that was his secretary and didn’t give her a promotion to, like, office manager or head of marketing or whatever, he made her a senior partner and jumped her, like, 15 levels up the rung. That can have consequences, too, because people work at the firm and they might not love that someone leapfrogged them. That could have consequences for Donna and Harvey.

Donna gave a quote in the episode about how many non-lawyers are actually partners at firms. Did you guys do research into that to back up the legitimacy of someone like her making partner?

Nope. I am not a big fan of research; I like making stuff up. I worked in the corporate world and I do know that it seemed legit to me that there are COOs that are not lawyers at law firms. We may have actually looked it up, but that stat is not true. Later, she refers to certain law firms in particular that have non-lawyer COOs and those firms are fictional. That’s easy to make up. But it’s something that is certainly legit because it could be true. There’s no law against it. We prefer to make it feel real rather than be real.

Does this open up the door for Harvey to get a new secretary?

We’re almost through the first 10 [episodes] and we don’t deal with it. You never saw Jessica’s secretary. It has more to do with taking up screen time than anything else. Had we hired a new secretary and devoted time to that, we’d have to give a story to that purpose. I don’t really care about watching somebody make appointments; it would have to be a story about what’s going on with the two of them. And we had so much else going on, we decided not to focus on that. Harvey is still able to go about his day as Jessica did. Donna’s role in the firm was much larger than secretary anyway; a large part of her role was keeping the peace between Harvey and Louis. Even though she’s not Harvey’s secretary anymore, if we gave him a new secretary that might steal Donna’s role functionally from a story point of view. We didn’t want anyone to steal her role away from the firm.

It seems like Rachel being put in charge of the associates is leapfrogging, too — will there be repercussions for that?

Louis felt like it was leapfrogging him, but he ends up realizing she’s better at it than he is right now because he’s not in the right headspace. But is it going to be tough for someone of Rachel’s status and stature in the firm to oversee the associates? Probably. She’s probably going to have some conflict coming her way.

Is it safe to assume she’s also a full-fledged lawyer now, too?

Yes, we are positing that she is now officially a lawyer and done law school. The thing is, she’s probably older than most first- and second-year associates would be because she was a paralegal for so long. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to feel good about being overseen by somebody who just became a lawyer.

Will she perform in any court cases this season?

We will see her performing as a lawyer, but I don’t think as of yet she’s in court. But we don’t spend that much time in court with any of our people.

Mike and Rachel are still planning this wedding. How does that factor into this season?

Part of the issue for them is they have to get back to planning this wedding. We tackle that early on. Planning a wedding takes a lot of time and energy. At the same time, she’s just starting out her career as a lawyer and Mike is starting his career as a legitimate lawyer and that takes a lot of time and energy. The sort of pull of those two different things, they’re going to talk about that and deal with that in the course of the first half of the season.

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Tonally, what was your goal for the season?

I always say I’m looking to tone it down, but when we get there I don’t want to be bored. We always try to put comedy in, but it’s more difficult to go back and change the tone of something and make it significantly lighter than it was or how light it was in the beginning. It feels like the natural progression is to get a tad heavier over time. This season isn’t as heavy as Mike being in prison with his life in jeopardy. We absolutely have some fun, lighter moments. The first episode has a lot of fun and lightness and banter in it. The rest of the season has comedy, too, but it’s not without its drama.

Is that drama internal drama or are there external factors weighing in?

A little bit of both. Our characters are in different places in their lives and there have been some change-ups with the dynamic of the firm. But we’re also bringing in some new characters and cases, and there’s drama with that.

Are there any returning characters this season you can highlight?

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Dule Hill to the cast, he’s a great addition. We are absolutely going to see more of Christina Cole. Her addition shakes things up and will affect fans who are hoping for another relationship to come to fruition. Obviously Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) is going to come back over the course of the season. We are going to meet a brand-new character that we heard about in the past but have never met. I’m not going to say who or who the actor is, but I love him. We have another recurring, old nemesis that the writers came up with bringing back based on a storyline that was already embedded in the season, and when they pitched him to me, both the way he comes back and what ultimately happens to him, I loved it. It’s such a great idea. Other than that, we’ve got some new, young associates. Katrina (Amanda Schull) will be around from time to time. Gretchen (Aloma Wright) is back. And aside from all these people, there is always room for old characters to pop up unexpectedly.

Suits airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on USA.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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