“I DON’T PLAY ANYTHING. I EMBODY.”
Or so says character Donna Paulsen about her own talents and skills, ‘embodied’ by actress Sarah Rafferty in the hit TV show Suits. Created in 2011, the show is set in the heart of the judiciary system and follows the story of a successful New York City law firm. Rafferty’s character may not be a lawyer, but as executive assistant to senior partner Harvey Specter, as well as queen of sass, Donna is anything but small. In fact, her larger-than-life personality and quick wittedness often steal the show, as well as create interesting relationships and dynamics between herself and the other leading characters.
But who is Donna in real life? Or rather, who is the woman behind the mask? While Rafferty describes Donna as being “very brave in terms of how outspoken she is,” she doesn’t necessarily feel like this is something that they share. “I don’t know a lot of actors who have that much self-confidence. It’s a tough business, so if you’re an actor, you’ve experienced some disappointment and you needed to persevere.” In some ways, playing Donna has given her a snapshot into what it would be like to be so bold and direct, all within the safety of playing and being someone else. In what world aside from Donna’s could she get away with saying things like, “I’m not apologizing for who I am, I’m too busy being a badass”?
Though astrological signs are by no means scientific, Rafferty’s does a good job in describing her personality and interests: born on December 6th, Sarah Rafferty falls under the category of Sagittarius. A Sagittarius is usually characterized by their independence, their need to be free, their extroverted nature, and their straightforwardness. Self-defined as being gregarious, friendly, yet also blunt, the connections are undeniable. Unlike Donna’s bluntness, which involves perfectly timed and phrased remarks, Rafferty’s bluntness is more of an openness or inability to hold back her thoughts. She also tends to prefer comfortable chic fashion to constraining or tight-fitting clothing, a characteristic that can be linked to the Sagittarius need for freedom. Her personal style is different from what she wears in Suits, where Donna is usually seen wearing tight-fitting work dresses from the latest designers. “I choose dresses based on how they feel. I’m much happier in my boyfriend jeans and in Adidas. I have to be able to sit on a bike and move freely.”
Just as Donna’s spunk has served as an outlet for Rafferty to act in a way she normally wouldn’t, Suits has introduced her to the “wearable art that is fashion.” Wearing Victoria Beckham and Louis Vuitton by day, and flowing bohemian dresses by night, you might say that Rafferty gets the best of both worlds. Starting in New York and then moving to Toronto, the show has exposed her to a whole array of local and international designers that satisfy both her character-driven and her Sagittarius/personal style. The show now being filmed in Toronto, Rafferty has discovered incredible local fashion talents and brands like Pink Tartan and Natalie Martin.
Rafferty is not based solely in Toronto, but moves around a lot between New York, LA, and Toronto. Born in Connecticut just outside New York, New York City has special importance for her, calling it “her home in her heart.” Starting from when she was young, her parents would take her and her siblings into the city to see the latest Broadway shows and plays, a tradition that she continues with her own children (and even cast members!). From there she fell in love with the stage and the theater, pushing her to eventually attend drama school and become an actress. “Even if you moved away like I did for work, you’re still a New Yorker in your heart. Forever.”
Aside from Toronto, LA, and New York, Rafferty loves to travel around the world, another trait characteristic of a Sagittarius. As someone who always wants to try something new and outside her comfort zone, her choices of travel are different than most, whether it be Finland, Istanbul, or Bhutan. The one rule? The less the language is similar to English, the better. “You just sort of start to see things more clearly. You have to listen to the rhythm and to the music of what people are trying to say.”
While not traveling, Rafferty is hard at work on the continuously successful Suits, which is now in its sixth season. Things having gotten very serious over the last few seasons, she is excited that this season brings the return of some of the old humor from past seasons, especially between Louis and Donna. Rafferty especially loves how the writers work to incorporate certain references to the actors’ real personalities and traits, often ironically. “I think it’s kind of funny that they mention Donna having wanted to be an actress. A couple seasons ago, she was in a Shakespeare play, and I’m a total theater geek in real life.” They also poked fun at Rick Hoffman, who plays Louis in the show, turning the sports-loving actor into a ballet buff.
With every passing season, the quote “Donna: it’s like a name and a title, all in one” has remained true to the essence of Rafferty’s character. And, in some ways, it has remained true for Sarah Rafferty as well. Under the title of Donna, she found her breakout role, tapped into different parts of her own personality, and gained a second family, the cast of Suits. So while we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Donna this season and all those that fall, the real excitement is what it will mean for the heart and soul of the character: Sarah Rafferty.
Photography: Evan Guttman | EvanWasHerePhotography.com
Photography & Production Assistant: Kenza Salahdine
Photography Retoucher: Evan Guttman | EvanWasHerePhotography.com
& Enri John Angeles | behance.net/ejax
Produced by: Hillary Latos
Fashion Director/Stylist: Engie Hassan | engiestyle.com
Fashion Assistants: Gira Hernandez & Ornella Suad | engiestyle.com
Hair: Sam Leonardi
•Agent: David Kelleyfirstname.lastname@example.org
Makeup: Alex Byrne for Exclusive Artists Management using Sisley Paris
•Agent: Allie Griff-Allie@eamgmt.com
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