‘Suits’ Cast Talk Landing Roles In USA Network Legal Drama & More Revelations From ATX Panel

Who could imagine Suits without Donna?

Well, believe it or not, Sarah Rafferty’s character — who arguably completes the dynamic between Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Mike (Patrick J. Adams) and is a part of the fabric of the USA Network legal drama — was not expected to be a series regular when they shot the pilot episode.

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“Gabriel called and said, ‘Look, there’s this unbelievable actress that I know, and I know we’re casting Donna and she’s not a regular but it’s the person who’s going to be my assistant. I would love you to read her,” remembered Jeff Wachtel, the former President of USA Network who was largely responsible for developing Suits as well as much of the network’s “Blue Sky” programming.

Wachtel reminisced about the moment during ATX’s Suits retrospective on Sunday, saying that the moment in the pilot where Rafferty’s Donna was looking back and forth between Mike and Harvey while they had a conversation was the moment they knew she would be indispensable to the show.

“They’re talking and she just is looking from one to the other and you just feel the glue,” he said. “Like I just want to hang out with these people. So it’s just wonderful how things can come together in unexpected ways.”

Rafferty, who joined Wachtel and some of her fellow cast members on the panel, also remembered being cast in the pilot, telling the audience that she had recently received the news that another pilot she had been working on wasn’t going to be picked up when Macht, who was an old friend, insisted she audition for the role of Donna.

“I wanted to make Donna indispensable,” she said, adding that she paid her own way from Los Angeles to take the gig. “I said tell them I live in New York. I’m a local hire. So I flew myself, put myself up, and played Donna.”

Also on the panel were Amanda Schull, Dulé Hill, and Abigail Spencer, who all swapped behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Suits. Speaking of characters that weren’t intended to return, Spencer’s Scottie was another one.

“I was only supposed to be in one episode,” she said. “Aaron called me, and he was like, ‘I wrote this role with you in mind.’ It was this show called Suits that had not aired yet. So I actually got a DVD sent to me from [casting director] Bonnie Zane and she said, ‘Just watch it. I know it hasn’t aired yet, but I think it’s really special.’ And she was right. I watched it, and I had just done a stint on Mad Men. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Mad Men for lawyers. I hope I get to be a part of it just once.'”

As it turns out, getting cast in Suits was a fortuitous moment for each actor on the panel. Schull revealed that she originally auditioned for the role of Rachel Zane, which eventually went to Meghan Markle.

“Then I actually went in for every single female guest star. That’s not an exaggeration. I went in for every single female guest star the whole first season and then half of the second season,” she said. “And then I got a call that they had written a role with me in mind.”

She joked she “still had to audition for it,” and this time she got the part. That’s how Katrina Bennett was born.

Hill, who was already in the USA Network ecosystem with his series Psych, joined in Season 7 but says he had been a fan of Suits since the beginning. Even the leading man, Adams, admitted that the job came at a time where he was unsure about the future of his career in Hollywood.

“I had been fired from a pilot…and I was so sure that I was done in this business and that nobody wanted anything to do with me that my process of going into this, I read the script and I was like, ‘Well, I get this guy.’ All the sides were the sides from that famous scene with Harvey where this guy’s at rock bottom. He’s got no options left. And he says like, ‘You gotta give me this job, and I will work harder than any of those guys out there,’ essentially,” he said. “Well, that’s all I had to say in the audition. That’s how I felt. I had just been fired from a pilot. I had been a professional guest star for about 10 years. I had been on a bunch of pilots that had failed and then had this recent firing…I just went into that room and just said those words. If you give me this job, I will work literally harder than all those actors who are out in the hallway, waiting to come in here and do this. And it was like the most honest I’ve ever been able to be.”

According to Adams, he and Macht didn’t do any chemistry reads before they were each cast, which made the process a bit nerve wracking. The first time they met, they went to lunch together ahead of filming to get to know one another.

“It was not an exciting lunch. It was just two guys like praying the other one wasn’t a complete d*ck,” he joked.

Throughout the panel, the cast and audience watched several clips from the series, including the scene where Harvey visits Mike’s apartment and they smoke marijuana together.

Watching the scene back, Adams said he was reminded of “how fun it was to just be silly with Gabriel like that, because he’s such a goofball…he didn’t get to show that side of himself in that character a lot, and for us to have a scene like that where we could just be as ridiculous as we actually were off screen and just have fun and then after that we go stoned into Pearson Hardman. So got to be that, but on the work set, it was just like the most fun in the world.”

Macht and Adams recently reunited for a T-Mobile commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, thanks to the renewed buzz around the show after it landed on Netflix last year. Adams said it took “three seconds” for the pair to fall back into their Harvey and Mike dynamic.

“We couldn’t not do it if we tried. In fact, it’s hard for Gabriel and I to hang out, I would say as people, because we fall into that rhythm — which doesn’t actually make sense for who we are personally, but it’s so a part of who we are,” he said, adding that the TV spot was “very improvised” and calling it “such a gift to get back together and to be able to do that.”

While Macht wasn’t on the panel Sunday, Suits fans can still hold out hope of seeing that dynamic once again in a potential reunion project. In response to a fan question, Adams revealed that creator Aaron Korsh was “interested” in the possibility of a Suits reunion movie, which would potentially get much of the original cast back together.

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