Aaron Korsh was an entry-level TV writer with a couple of credits when he created Suits. The legal drama went on to become a flagship series for USA Network and spawned a spinoff, the upcoming Pearson starring Gina Torres. Now the veteran drama, which returns for the back 6 episodes of its eighth season tonight, has been renewed for a 10-episode ninth and final season.
In an interview with Deadline, Korsh explains how the decision to end Suits was made and gives a glimpse at the plans for the final 10 episodes: would original stars Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle return, who else may come back, will there be a time jump, would the final season set up another Suits spinoff, will Harvey and Donna end up together, could Suits cast members migrate to Pearson, does Korsh have an ending in mind for the series and will it be a happy one. Korsh also reveals that a different spinoff, a prequel centered on young Robert Zane, had been discussed and reminisces on Suits’ run, including his favorite scenes.
DEADLINE: When was the decision made to end Suits?
KORSH: Right after we finished shooting season 6, I went to USA. At that time we only had the cast under contract until the end of season 7. We had to figure out what to do, and we weren’t 100 percent sure what the cast wanted to do.
We’d lost Gina and we came up with a plan to extend the cast for two more years beyond season 7 to seasons 8 and 9. The goal was to have a 16-episode season 8 and a 10-episode season 9.
During the course of season 7, as they were negotiating the cast’s contracts for two years, an unforeseen thing happened. You can never know that one of your stars is going to marry the Prince of England, and Patrick decided not to return, so we had a choice whether to keep going after season 7. We decided that the original plan was a 16-episode season 8 and a 10-episode season 9, let’s see if we can do that. And dovetailing with that, Katherine Heigl called and she wanted to be involved in the show, and we thought it was a perfect way to help extend the franchise and make it to that end of season 9.
DEADLINE: Why a 10-episode final season?
KORSH: Our winter runs consist of 6 episodes, so we all felt like it would be very difficult to just have a truncated finale to a season. We always wanted to have the big 10 in the summer, to go out on a high note so to speak.
DEADLINE: Being the final chapter, how will the last 10 balance the Suits reboot, launched with Season 8, and reminiscing of the original series, bringing old favorites back?
KORSH: I wish I could answer that more fully but the writers room just started about a week ago. Obviously, it is going to be a balance. I don’t want to spend the entire season on reminiscing but also I don’t want to spend none of the season bringing back old favorites so we’re trying to formulate what the balance is going to be.
Even in this back six (of Season 8) we have a balance of new and old, with Scottie returning and Hardman returning and Cahill makes an appearance. It’s always been in the lexicon of Suits to bring people back and that’s because I think that’s how life works. People come in and out of your life so we’ve always had a mix of new and old and I think we will continue with that hopefully in a satisfying way.
DEADLINE: And the question many Suits fans would be asking. Would two original cast members, Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle who left after Season 7, return? There have been stories in the British tabloids about active attempts to get Meghan, who is married to Prince Harry, to do a cameo, allegedly for millions of dollars to be donated to charity.
KORSH: As of this minute I don’t know which of our old original cast will be back and which won’t because we’re so early in the season. I can tell you that those things in the papers, I have no idea what they’re talking about.
I have not arranged for millions of dollars to be donated to anything on behalf of anyone so that I can tell you, but as far as the original people coming back including Jessica, we’re so early in the season that we haven’t formulated what we want to do, so we can’t reach out to people before we know what we want to do.
DEADLINE: Would Patrick come back? You had left the door open for him to return. Is he in the back 9 of Season 8?
KORSH: He is not. When Patrick left, we talked about the notion of him coming back. It had to be right story-wise, and he had to be in a place where he wants to do it, depending on what’s going on with him. In the back six, it didn’t feel right for that. The final 10, you can’t contemplate it without contemplating bringing Mike back. We’re contemplating it and we’ll see where we land, and how Patrick feels.
DEADLINE: Any other characters you are considering for the final season? Forstman?
KORSH: Forstman is one of my old favorites and always is. We have a list of all the old characters on the board. There’s Travis Tanner, there’s even people from early days like Trevor and Jenny. We’ve been on so long, there’s so many of them. If all you do is bring back old favorites you’ll never push the story forward so you really have to pick and choose and we certainly will be doing that.
DEADLINE: You already have one spinoff with Pearson starring Gina Torres. As you are planning the final 10, are you thinking about setting up a potential new spinoff with other Suits characters?
KORSH: We’re not setting up a spinoff, that has not been discussed. If at some point in the future we wanted to just do one, we’d probably end up just doing one.
It was USA and UCP’s idea to do a spinoff in the first place; It just didn’t occur to me, I guess I don’t think like that. The two spinoffs that we contemplated were this Jessica Pearson spinoff that we’re incredibly excited about and another one, which was more like a prequel idea. It was going to be something that takes place in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s that is Robert Zane graduating from Harvard Law and moving back to his rough-and-tumble town of Harlem and having to make it in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s as a lawyer of color in a white shoe law firm world and had to straddle his two worlds, that he came from and the world that he wanted to enter. It was going to be a prequel and it would have had Robert Zane, Daniel Hardman and Laura Zane in it.
We just never pursued that idea anymore once we did the Pearson spinoff. But as I contemplate what I’m going to do after Suits, you never know.
DEADLINE: We mentioned Pearson. Any plans to transfer more characters of the original series to join Jessica in Chicago after the mothership ends?
KORSH: Certainly not in its first season. The spinoff is its own. It is both connected to and different from Suits, and I feel like it needs to establish its world and its tone and its characters firmly before even contemplating one of the Suits series regulars becoming any kind of part of that show.
Now, might there be a surprise or two during the course of the Pearson first season and have a little interaction? That’s always a possibility.
DEADLINE: You said interaction. Does it mean crossovers? Is there a crossover in the upcoming episodes of Suits and the first season of Pearson? What about the final 10?
KORSH: There is not. We did contemplate having a phone call in the back six of Suits where one of our characters calls Jessica or something like that and then when the spinoff is on, you continue her side of that phone call. But we weren’t 100 percent sure when these things were going to be airing so it was like, you’d be hearing Jessica’s side of that phone call possibly months after you’d be seeing our side and would it be weird, so we ended up not doing it.
It’s not that we can’t have even a larger crossover coming in these next 10 but we’ve already had Jessica return to our world; we had a little bit of a crossover in the season 7 finale.
DEADLINE: Speaking of the final 10, will that be a serialized arc, a standalone chapter or will it feel like a regular Suits season? Any more clues you can give us?
KORSH: We have a vague arc. It doesn’t mean we have all the specifics but we have an arc for the 10.
What we usually do is we end the season with a finale and 99 percent of the time we pick it right back up the next day, and that is what we’re doing with this back 10 and we’re going to take it to where we think it should go is what I would say.
One small thing I will tell you about the ending of episode 816. The writers were finished, and me, Genevieve Sparling, and Ethan Drogin went up to Toronto. We usually write the finale up in Toronto (where Suits films).
We had broken the story and we had an ending to that finale, and when we got up there, we got into a big discussion about some topic that had nothing to do with anything and it ended up completely changing the ending of the finale of 816 from what we thought it was going to be heading up there, a complete radical change.
That’s always happened but having said that, there’s an arc of the (final) season, we think it’s satisfying. We think we’re trying to honor both the past of the show and the present of the show, but it’s not going to be some all of a sudden they’re in China or something like that. It’s continuing the characters in the past that they’re on and their journey.
DEADLINE: Suits underwent major casting changes that no one could’ve foreseen at the time of the pilot, with three key original series regulars departing in Seasons 6-7, Patrick, Meghan and Gina. Still, did you have an idea how you would end the series from the get-go, and will the show’s real ending be at least somewhat close to what you had in mind?
KORSH: Like I said, 816 is ending incredibly differently than I would’ve told you a week before we shot it, so that can always happen. I can’t tell you for 100 percent certain what the finale of the show is going to be until after we’ve written it.
Having said that, I think what happens is you have an idea and you don’t even necessarily know you have the idea. I remember the current trajectory for the last 10 episodes is something that occurred to me probably a year or two ago but I had forgotten about it.
DEADLINE: Anything you can tease about the current plan for ending the show, will it be a happy ending?
KORSH: We have over the course of the years a lot of characters that we care about and love. And yet rarely if ever have we done a full-on happy ending for all of them or a full-on sad ending for all of them, it’s just not common to do in the lexicon of Suits. Oftentimes we give with one hand, take away with another or have a bittersweet ending. That’s just often how it goes.
Let’s say that season 7 had been the finale of the show. There’s Mike and Rachel getting married, it’s a very happy time. But Mike tells Harvey he’s leaving so that’s a bittersweet ending to that season. Season 5 could’ve been the series finale of the show. Mike goes to prison, and also with the music that we chose to use there. Obviously he’s going to prison, but on the other hand, at least in that moment he’s finally getting a chance to redeem himself for what he did and stop living a lie, and he can come out clean on the other side.
So I feel like that is the history of the endings we’ve done and even when I say I have an idea of how the show’s going to end, there’s seven regular characters plus a number of others people care about. I haven’t figured out how every one of them is going to end up but what I can say is, there’s no chance the series is going to be ending on a horrible ending, with tremendous sadness. It will probably end with some happiness and some sadness. That’s my guess.
DEADLINE: Are you planning any time jumps In the final season?
KORSH: No. Again, that could change but no.
DEADLINE: What is the possibility that we’ll see Donna and Harvey end up together at the end of Suits?
KORSH: I’m not going to answer that question. Let me say this. Obviously there’s a possibility they’re going to end up together and obviously there’s a possibility that they’re not going to end up together.
It’s a tough one. Most decisions that I make seem to frustrate some fans and please other ones, but I think the one thing that consistently frustrates fans the most is my answer to the question, are Harvey and Donna going to be together? So I’m just going to choose to not answer that question right now, how’s that?
DEADLINE: With the end of Suits now set, can you look back at the run of the series which marked your big break. What has it meant to you, would you remember the most, including your favorite scenes, and what would miss the most?
KORSH: Man, I’m going to start crying. When we started this show, I had been staffed as what they would call a baby writer, a staff write. I had struggled for eight years as a writer’s assistant. I finally got a job for a couple of years and the writers’ strike came and my show got canceled, and I was a struggling writer and worried that I was never going to have another job again.
So I wrote this script. I had never written an hour-long script before, I was in half-hour. I wrote this script intending for it to be a half-hour and it came out as an hour. I wrote it just to try to get a job, at that time you would write scripts to get a job. I never wanted to create my own show; I just wanted to land on someone else’s show. I put pen to paper to write the pilot 11 years ago, in January of 2008, based on my life as an investment banker in New York.
There was only network at that time that would buy a script from a baby writer and let them run that show, and it was USA Network.
What has happened is so beyond my wildest dreams or conceptions. Just to think about It — now I’m in a house that I never would’ve been able to afford if Suits didn’t exist. At the time I started writing it, I wasn’t even married. Now I’m married. I have two children. It’s mind-blowing how unforeseen the success of Suits has been and it’s all because the people at UCP and USA took a chance on somebody that was not a proven writer.
When we were shooting 816, we went up to Toronto, and I remembered we were shooting in the same location the very first day of Suits after the pilot. I’m sure as the season goes by I’m going to be very emotional.
And then thinking of just the scenes, the scene where Harvey and Mike meet for the first time. People always ask me what my favorite scenes are, and I don’t even know if that’s my favorite scene but it’s probably the definitive scene of Suits.
There are so many other things, Mike and Rachel’s first kiss, all of the Harvey/Donna thing, so many Louis things, the notion that we decided to start telling flashbacks that the writers came up with. It’s crazy that I am as fortunate as I have been to be able to be on a show this long.
You can’t control whether your show going to resonate with people. All you can do is put your nose to the grindstone, write the best script you can and hope that someday one of your stars grows up to marry the prince of England. Last year when we all went to that wedding, here we are, a family that’s been working together for 10 years. Even just to have that reunion, even if it hadn’t been for a royal wedding, it would’ve been amazing, let alone the fact that it was for that. The amount of incredible things that have happened over the run of the show fills a lifetime, it really does. And I’m so proud that I’ve worked with and known all the people involved in it.