'Suits' Boss Teases an "Unraveled" Harvey, Rachel's Denial and the New Donna

Suits S05E01 Still - H 2015
Shane Mahood/USA Network

Suits S05E01 Still - H 2015

When viewers last left Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), his world was crumbling thanks to Donna's shocking decision to quit as his assistant and go work for Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) instead. Meanwhile, Mike (Patrick J. Adams) proposed to Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Jessica (Gina Torres) was left devastated after a breakup. 

On Wednesday's season five premiere, "Denial," the action picks back up right where it left off, with Harvey in denial about losing Donna (Sarah Rafferty) for good, Louis thinking things are too good to be true, and Mike and Rachel keeping their secret engagement a secret for just a while longer. 

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with creator and showrunner Aaron Korsh to find out what's in store this season, details on the new Big Bad, and how to incorporate a little therapy into the weekly viewings. 

Are we entering Harvey's seven stages of grief over losing Donna?

That’s on the money. We thought of that as a framing device where basically Harvey is in denial throughout the first episode. That’s what happens when you have a big change in your life that you didn’t want to happen; you go through your various stages of grief. That’s somewhat of what’s happening to Harvey throughout the season.

At what point did you decide therapy would be a useful story tool?

We were talking about the consequences of Donna leaving Harvey, and one of our longtime writers pitched Harvey in therapy. My initial reaction was no, because what gets a guy like that into therapy, and how do we make therapy interesting in a Suits way? We don’t tend to be a show that could spend half an hour in a therapist's office. But once we came to a good answer to both of those questions that’s what led to Harvey being unraveled. Everything just flows from there.

Do they lead to more Suits-like flashbacks or is it more of a Tony Soprano situation?

The Sopranos set the bar very high with therapy, as did In Treatment. Suits is not as slow a show as those two; we don’t have the time to spend on that and so the way we did it was challenging. We wanted to have therapy scenes without it taking over from the other characters in the show. So oftentimes it’ll be a framing device where he’s in a session and other things are happening, but definitely there will be flashbacks or else Harvey is telling a story.

Is it an accident that the therapist is another beautiful young woman in Harvey's life?

I don’t think it’s an accident, but we really looked at a long variety of ages for the role. Christina Cole had read for Rachel Zane years ago, for the pilot. She’s a great actress -- we saw a lot of great actresses -- but she was not the right Rachel for the role. I remembered her though, and that she had an English accent. I thought that would be interesting. But we did wrestle with whether she should be beautiful and young, and ended up thinking it just added a little something extra to the dynamic. Harvey tends to be drawn to beautiful women: Jessica, Donna, Rachel, Scotty. 

What about when it comes to Harvey's replacement?

We deal with it in episode two; he doesn’t know it at the time, but his approach to finding Donna’s replacement is that he doesn’t want to get into the same situation with Donna’s replacement that he had with Donna. So he comes to realize that when he hires the new Donna. 

What can you tease about the new adversary, Jack Soloff (John Pyper Ferguson)?

He’s a guy that's been at the firm a long time. We’ve not met him yet, but he’s just coming to some newfound position of power. He’s the new head of the compensation committee and he’s going to use that to try and make a power play within the firm. It’s not going to be fun for our main people.

Does working with Donna soften Louis up or make him an even better lawyer?

It should do all those things. But once Louis gets what he's always wanted, right away it brings up the fear of potentially losing what he just got. As a lawyer he’s always been excellent and having Donna on his side is going to help him. But her being there is also a conflict between Louis and Harvey, so it has cons as much as it has pros.

What does Mike and Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) working together took like now that Rachel and Mike are engaged?

Wendell Pierce is also on The Odd Couple, so we were limited in our ability to have him. They have an arc where they do a case together. It ultimately brings them closer, but there’s no doubt they have their ups and downs. Mike is going to be going through some growth in terms of working with not just Harvey and Robert, but within the firm he’s taking on a larger role too. 

Has Rachel realized that by marrying Mike she’s marrying his secret?

Speaking of those seven stages of grief, it often starts with denial. I think Rachel is in denial about Mike and his secret. Everybody in the firm is. Sometimes I stop and think, "What are these people thinking?" It can be a difficult thing because you say to yourself that no human being in the world would do these things -- pretend to be a fake lawyer or endorse someone pretending to be a fake lawyer. But during this past off season, there was a lawyer who made partner and it was discovered he never went to law school. He had been a lawyer for 10 years, maybe longer. So real people actually make decisions like these. It’s crazy. Mike is at fault, there’s no doubt about it. But once you get to know him you can forget that. Rachel has selectively forgotten that. But life is going to have ways of making her remember it.

What's in store for Jessica?

She had this loss of her relationship with Malone (D.B. Woodside), so she’s retreated into work a little bit. Having said that, there are selective moments in the first 10 [episodes] where you see she has changed a little bit. She makes certain decisions and gives certain advice and does certain things that are different from Jessica in the previous seasons. And then out of that, at work it’s like she’s looking for something more. She never says it or anything, but she ends up developing something of a mentor relationship with Rachel. It develops naturally, but in our minds, she has this thing in her life, it’s gone and you subconsciously fill it with other things. 

Any other familiar faces we might see this season?

Suits has built a world in which people can come and go. Travis Tanner, who we will see this year, is one of them. Jonathan Sidwell, who Mike went to work for, is also coming back. Katrina Bennett makes an appearance.We definitely bring back a lot of old friends and foes.

Think Donna will last working for Louis? Will Mike and Rachel actually make it to the alter? Sound off in the comments section below. 

Suits returns Wednesday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network. 

Twitter: @amber_dowling