In this homage to Film Noir she shoots first and asks questions later! Thankfully for us, Sarah Rafferty isn’t always a tough femme fatale, we had a chance after the dust settled to talk with her and find out more about how she got her start and what drove her to get where she is today. Here is what she shared with us.
SR: I am from Greenwich, CT and I am the youngest of four girls. That kind of dynamic home life, encourages you to develop your own voice and make yourself heard. I grew up listening to my big sisters music, going to their school plays and at least once a year my parents would take us all to NYC to see a Broadway play. I remember sitting next to my sister Connie at Les Mis, and being spellbound. At the curtain call we leapt to our feet and found ourselves shamelessly and inexplicably crying. Of course we bought the cast album, on cassette and listened to it constantly. When she got her drivers license, we used to climb in the car, and belt out the tunes as she drove us around town for hours. I definitely fantasized about playing Jean val Jean, or Javert on Broadway one day. I think my deeply earnest high school yearbook senior quote came from Les Mis. Must have.
In college, when everyone was making appointments at the career-counseling center, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I procrastinated and all the appointments filled up. I couldn’t come up with a list of interesting jobs to explore and potentially pursue. I was solely interested in acting and theatre. I found myself applying to drama school and eagerly and very, very indulgently preparing dramatic monologues that were hilariously outside of my type.
Drama was my thing in school, though I also valiantly attempted to roll with the jocks. I’m proud to say I made the ski and the lacrosse teams by the skin of my teeth. My first school play was in 6th grade, I played Really Rosie, and yes, I especially enjoyed the “I can tap across the Tapanzee” line. After that I was in a school play or 2 or 6 every year. Junior Year in college I went to London and Oxford to study theatre. After college I went to Yale Drama School, where I think I was in about 30 student productions in 3 years.
My first big break was a Clairol herbal essence commercial made it possible for me to stop waiting tables in NYC. It was my first time on a set in front of the camera, and I was having fake orgasms in a grocery store shampoo aisle with Dr. Ruth Westhiemer. Right then, sudsy in aisle 6, I knew I’d made it.
Later as I started to work more there was a point where I seemed to have had a little run of playing the guest villain on a bunch of crime procedurals. On one of them, my character killed a man by putting liquid nicotine inside a condom, and then you know, um, having relations. This wasn’t the first time I appeared on TV. But it was the first time my mother suggested that my 90 year old grandfather tune in. That was the last time he agreed to watch me on TV.
Currently I am playing Donna on Suits on the USA network. My friend of almost 20 years, Gabriel Macht, sent me the pilot script and asked me if I would try to get an audition for Donna. The producers were in NY, only considering local New York actors, so I put myself on tape in LA and asked to be considered a local actor. I love playing Donna and being a part of a show with such great writing, and such loyal and enthusiastic fans. It certainly doesn’t suck to step into Donna’s shoes. She’s strong, intelligent, perhaps loyal to a fault, quick on her feet and absurdly confident. She also has an outrageous clothes budget. One of the most gratifying things I heard recently from a viewer was that she watches with a group of parents and their teen kids every week and that the show brings their families together. They connect with each other while rooting for these characters. She was emphatic that I understand how important that was to her. That kind of feedback brings meaning to my day job.
Sarah Rafferty can be seen on the USA Network show “Suits” returning in January.