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'Suits': Sarah Rafferty on Donna's Return, Flashbacks and Harvey's Tough Call (Q&A)

The actress reveals to THR that Harvey and Donna's relationship "will get complicated" and "messy," and teases that a flashback episode will shed even more light on their mysterious past. (Plus, the can opener returns.)

Suits Sarah Rafferty Episodic - P 2012
USA
"Suits"

Talk to Suits fans and they'll say, one week without Donna is one week too many.

Well, Donna fans, rejoice! Manhattan's top assistant makes her return to Pearson Hardman, but not in the way you'd think. As series star Sarah Rafferty tells The Hollywood Reporter, when viewers are reunited with Harvey's (Gabriel Macht) confidante, she'll be attempting to move on with her life.

"We first see her out in her daily life. Mike (Patrick J. Adams) tracks her down in a yoga class and Harvey tracks her down outside on the sidewalk of her home and they need her to come back to do a mock trial on Harvey's behalf despite all the humiliation she's feeling. But willing to do, possibly, Harvey a big favor," Rafferty tells THR. "She's expecting a favor [from Harvey], we'll see if she gets it."

Rafferty spoke to THR about the aftermath of Donna's firing, entering choppy waters and hints at what upcoming flashbacks will bring to light for Harvey and Donna.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Donna's firing from Pearson Hardman was a key development that will play out in the course of the coming episodes. How did you feel about it?

Sarah Rafferty: After seeing at the end of episode four ("Discovery") what a big mistake Donna made, the only recourse is to fire her. She's much more worried about Harvey's future and him being disbarred and him never being able to practice law again even more than she is worried about her being fired. I was surprised when the producers told me they were going to fire my character. They told me before we started shooting; I started shaking and thinking, "Oh my god, I'm really nervous about this!" It was a funny response to the whole thing.

THR: Was it helpful to know beforehand that this development was going to take place?

Rafferty: I think you go scene-to-scene in terms of preparing, but it was helpful to know that Donna's facade was going to crack, that she was going to get something wrong, that she was not always going to be somebody that got everything right. She and Harvey get along so well because they're both arrogant. [Laughs] He's the best closer in town and she's the best assistant to the best closer in town. It's good to know that she was going to take a bit of a fall.

THR: Is Donna's firing part of some master plan that Harvey may have? Or is he really lost in his way at the moment?

Rafferty: I don't think Harvey has a master plan. I think he's lost and has no idea how everything is going to shake out or what he can do. She expected him to fight for her and she's pretty disappointed that he hasn't.

THR: Should we expect choppier waters between Harvey and Donna?

Rafferty: Absolutely, and that's what I was excited about when they told me that Donna was going to get fired. [Creator] Aaron Korsh said it's not going to be easily resolved. Their relationship will get complicated and things will get messy.

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THR: Have you been privy to Harvey and Donna's mysterious back story?

Rafferty: As the episodes progress, they allude more and more to their past so it's something the writers are discovering as they go along too. We don't get to flash back to when they met because I think they met 12 or 13 years ago when Harvey worked at the DA's office but we do get to flash back five years. It's a beautifully placed flashback episode in the season because it's when everything is getting complicated with the balance of power at Pearson Hardman. We get to revisit Harvey and Donna's dynamic before things got ugly.

THR: How much has changed in those five years?

Rafferty: What's exciting about looking at the five years is we get to see where Harvey was senior partner and we get to see Jessica when she was still working with Hardman and we get to understand why he had to leave the firm and actually see the events that led to him initially leave the firm. This season he's back so it fills in a lot of blanks in that way. It flashes back to, in terms of Harvey and Donna's relationship, a lighter time. You get to see them having their symbiotic relationship. Also you get a clue into why Donna is irreplaceable to Harvey and essential to the firm, what her special powers are.

THR: Can you offer intel as to whether Donna will make her way back into Pearson Hardman in the near future?

Rafferty: We haven't necessarily see her get her job back at Pearson Hardman so what I can say is that you geet to see Donna operating outside the firm and we flash back with her. In terms of getting her job back, that remains to be seen.

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THR: Harvey and Donna's relationship is a dynamic many Suits fans have speculated about during the life of the series, and a big question is whether the two had a romantic past. Have the producers clued you in on the real story?

Rafferty: Aaron and I have talked about that probably a long time ago there was an energy for Harvey and Donna and they decided that it'd be a disaster. I wonder if it would be interesting to watch. It's either something that'd be interesting to watch or a total "jump the shark" moment. [Laughs] Aaron always likes to say that it's more interesting to wonder than to actually know. I love it because [the can opener gag] because it's indicative of how much history they have together and this goofball ritual and they're not grown-up enough to let it go. I'm sure they'd be moritified if anyone witnessed it but they're still not going to drop it.

THR: What teasers can you share about what we can expect for Donna?

Rafferty: The question and issue of Harvey and Donna's past romantic life is addressed and the can opener comes up again in a future episode -- and not in a way that explains it but in a way that is enjoyed.

Suits airs 10 p.m. Thursdays on USA.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@thr.com