After the departure of Patrick J Adams and his onscreen wife Meghan Markle, now HRH Duchess of Sussex following her May wedding to Prince Harry, US legal drama Suits is embarking on an explosive new chapter.
The finale to Suits’ seventh season saw Markle’s character, Rachel Zane, finally tie the knot with brilliant legal mind and fellow Pearson Specter Litt attorney Mike Ross (Adams) in an intimate ceremony before leaving for new jobs in Seattle.
The series is thrust in a new direction in the absence of the one-time faux lawyer Mike, who turned legit after colluding his way into the New York State Bar, with a spell in prison for his troubles.
But the reality of returning to the set without two of the shows’ most-loved characters proved to be more challenging for the remaining cast than they’d envisaged – and nobody more so than Mike’s partner in crime.
‘It was really overwhelming for me in the first couple of weeks,’ says Gabriel Macht, whose résumé includes roles in Love & Other Drugs, The Good Shepherd and even an early episode of Sex and the City. He plays hotshot lawyer and managing partner Harvey Specter. ‘Patrick and I had a real connection. Losing Patrick left a void and it’s almost like my right arm isn’t with us,’ he jokes, as he climbs into a studio-bound limo with co-star Sarah Rafferty.
Returning for the eighth season is Rick Hoffman as name partner Louis Litt and Dulé Hill as Alex Williams, Harvey’s former colleague who joined the firm last year.
To help fill that void, the show’s creators announced in January that Emmy-winning actress Katherine Heigl would join the cast as Samantha Wheeler. Pearson Specter Litt’s newest partner is eager to challenge the status quo, much to Harvey’s annoyance.
‘It’s great to have Katherine on the show. She’s a terrific actress, so spontaneous and grounded,’ says New York-born Macht.
‘But when it comes to Harvey and Samantha, that’s a different story. They’re like the male and female version of each other in many ways, so right off the bat they do not see eye to eye.’
Sarah Rafferty plays one of TV’s strongest female characters: Suits fan favourite and the firm’s newly crowned COO Donna Paulsen.
‘You learn a lot about somebody by the way they look,’ explains the actor, admitting she has fun in the show’s wardrobe crafting Donna’s sophisticated outfits. ‘She has a vision and the self-care to treat the world as a runway. She takes herself very seriously but always remains incredibly feminine.
‘Donna leads with her femininity and knows that it’s her strength. She is not trying to fit into a man’s world: the world is hers and I think her wardrobe says that.’
Rafferty and her co-star Macht, who have been friends for more than 20 years, remain coy about their onscreen bond.
Despite the complex relationship between Harvey and Donna – including that impromptu kiss in the mid-season finale – neither actor has ruled out the possibility of a romance.
‘It’s probably his turn to kiss her, right?’ jokes Rafferty, as the limo pulls up outside Suits’ Toronto studio. ‘They were sort of dancing into their future arm-in-arm at Mike and Rachel’s wedding at the end of last season, so there’s definitely more for them to explore.’
Gabriel Macht, 46, has been married to Australian actor Jacinda Barrett since 2004. They have two children
The show is about a law firm in New York, but is anything actually filmed there?
We shot the pilot in New York and a couple of days during season one and two, but we shoot everything in Toronto now. We’re running out of streets that look like New York. It would be nice to go back down and shoot there for a weekend.
Have you settled into life in Toronto?
Yes, we’ve been here for a while and the kids are in school. There’s a great theatre district so we see the shows that come into town. They’ve got every sports team imaginable here – including hockey, basketball, baseball – so we’ll also go to a game here and there. There are some beautiful parks and we like going for picnics or following the hiking trails.
You are originally from New York and your wife Jacinda is from Brisbane. Where do you call home?
New York is my favourite city in the world so we’re always popping down there, but we’re actually living in Miami now. We left Los Angeles and now we split our time between Toronto, our home in Miami and Australia. We love to travel.
Imagine you’re travelling as Harvey Specter. What would be his ideal holiday?
I would send him to a Caribbean island to completely tune out from law and lie on the beach for a week. Then for the next three weeks I think he would like to visit the low-income neighbourhoods to find local boxing gyms. He would donate US$3-5 million (HK$24-39 million) apiece to help the community, and encourage the kids to stick up for themselves, whether they’re boys or girls.
Sarah Rafferty, 45, has been married to asset manager Santtu Seppälä since 2001. They have two children
Does Toronto feel like home?
We live in Los Angeles and Toronto but we’re in Toronto a little bit longer each year. It’s been a real gift. My experience here is always kid-centric but there’s something for everyone in Toronto.
How do you like to spend your time off in the city?
One of my favourite places to go with my family is the Evergreen Brick Works. It’s a reclaimed abandoned brick factory that has been turned into a large green space for the community. There’s a great food scene there over the weekend when all of the food trucks pull up.
Do you get a sense of how popular Suits has become around the world when you travel?
It’s always a surprise. You get off a plane in Australia and people know that you’re Donna. I got off the plane in Ghana and the first thing I heard was, ‘Hello Donna, welcome to Ghana.’
Tell us about your love of Paris…
I’ve travelled a lot to Paris recently. It’s a healing city. I would honestly just put on a pair of trainers and just walk and take it all in. I would wander into the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. There’s so much pride there, just like Toronto, real hometown pride.
Suits (Season 8) airs in the US on Wednesdays at 9pm (8pm Central Time) on USA Network
Cathay Pacific flies to Toronto from Hong Kong 14 times a week