By Samantha Simon
Jan 25, 2017 @ 5:15 pm
Ben Mark Holzberg/USA Network

It’s been a long four months since the midseason finale of Suits, and tonight, we’re finally getting a fresh dose of USA’s hit legal drama. Last we saw the Pearson Specter Litt team, they were dealt the shocker that head honcho Jessica Pearson (played by Gina Torres) was leaving the firm for good. It was a plot twist that threw the show’s characters into a tailspin—and even the show’s stars were surprised by the move. “None of us saw that coming or thought that Jessica would ever leave,” Sarah Rafferty, who plays legal secretary Donna Paulsen, recently told InStyle. “But from my character’s point of view, it was a total ‘You go, girl!’ moment because Jessica made the scary and difficult decision to choose her personal life over her career.” 

When the second half of season six kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. ET, we’ll see Rafferty’s character begin to take a similarly empowering look at her own life. “Donna has a really fun arc at the end of this season that leads her to question what she wants out of life in a deeper way,” she said. “She’s thinking about how she's going to look towards her future, and that will open up a lot of doors for Donna to move forward with her story into season seven and explore more of what she needs. We've seen a lot of her being there for everybody else, whether it's Harvey or Rachel or Mike or Louis. But now she's starting to think about what she wants and needs going forward—and I think it's time.” 

Ian Watson/USA Network

While Donna has certainly been there for the key players in her life, they’ve also been by her side in times of need. And her friendship with Rachel Zane—played by Prince Harry’s real-life girlfriend Meghan Markle—in the series is especially adored by viewers. “I love that Donna and Rachel are very honest with each other,” said Rafferty. “They’re really there for each other and respect each other. It’s a great friendship, and I think all of the characters really know and care about what the other person’s dreams are. They try to help that person achieve those dreams, and they want to be happy for their friend—so when their friend is down, they’re down. And when their friend is up, they’re up.”

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One relationship that will be particularly exciting to watch unfold this season is Donna’s growing bond with Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). “She's incredibly loyal to him,” said Rafferty. “After Jessica left in the mid-season finale, the last image we saw was Donna and Harvey holding hands as they stared out the window, into their future, almost. That moment speaks to how they reach for each other when times get hard, and they'll definitely continue to do that as they move ahead. They're partners in a unique way—and it still remains to be seen exactly what way that is.”

Donna’s relationship with Harvey may still be undefined, but you can count on the characters to fall back into past patterns as the season progresses. “We've been hanging out with these people for six years, and we know them by now,” Rafferty pointed out. “So we know that Rachel's going to be supporting Mike as he explores his next chapter, Donna will be caring but dish out the tough love to Harvey, and she's always going to be there for Louis when he needs her.” 

Ian Watson/USA Network

Despite some old habits dying hard, there’s plenty of fresh drama to come. “Jessica’s exit has created a bit of a power vacuum, and when we come back, the partners have to figure out how to move forward,” said Rafferty. “It's a big personal loss for Harvey, and it hits him hard, emotionally. He's not very good at navigating his personal life, so Donna has to help him figure that out. But because Jessica's not there to whip him into shape as the boss man, Donna has to step up and help him navigate his professional life, too.” 

The characters will certainly be looking out for each other onscreen in the coming episodes—and, according to Rafferty, the moral support doesn’t end when the cameras stop rolling. “We're all really close in real life, which is lucky,” she said. “We've been doing this show for a long time, and supporting everybody is a very important part of having a great working environment.” Her favorite thing about her co-stars? “Every single person on our show is an incredibly generous actor, and that’s just really beautiful.”

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