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Sarah Rafferty: From Yale School of Drama to 'Suits' Stardom
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Sarah Rafferty is an accomplished American actress best known for her role as Donna Paulsen on the USA Network legal drama "Suits." With a rich educational background in English and Theatre from Hamilton College and the Yale School of Drama, Rafferty has built a diverse career in television, film, and stage, while also dedicating time to philanthropic efforts.

 

Rafferty's Early Life and Education

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Sarah Rafferty was born on December 6, 1972, in New Canaan, Connecticut, and grew up as the youngest of four daughters in the Riverside neighborhood of Greenwich. Her father, Michael Griffin Rafferty Jr., was a successful oil painter, and her mother, Mary Lee Rafferty, served as the chairwoman of the high-school English department at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private school in Greenwich. Rafferty's educational journey began at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where she graduated in 1989. She then pursued a double major in English and Theatre at Hamilton College, spending her junior year abroad at the University of Oxford. Graduating magna cum laude from Hamilton in 1993, Rafferty went on to study at the Yale School of Drama, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in acting.
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Sarah Rafferty's Breakthrough Role in Suits

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Sarah Rafferty's breakthrough role came as Donna Roberta Paulsen on the USA Network legal drama "Suits," which aired for nine seasons from 2011 to 2019. Donna Paulsen is a character renowned for her sharp wit, formidable presence, and deep knowledge of the inner workings of the law firm Pearson Hardman, later known as Pearson Specter Litt. Donna's role in the series evolved significantly over time. Initially introduced as Harvey Specter's highly competent and trusted legal secretary, she quickly became an indispensable part of the firm's operations. Her character is known for her uncanny ability to anticipate Harvey's needs and provide critical insights that often help resolve complex legal issues. Throughout the series, Donna's character development included several key storylines. She transitioned from being Harvey's secretary to working for Louis Litt, and eventually, she was promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the firm. Her professional journey was marked by her unwavering loyalty, strategic acumen, and occasional involvement in legal troubles, which added depth to her character. Donna's personal relationships also played a significant role in the series. Her close friendship with Harvey Specter, portrayed by Gabriel Macht, was a central element of the show. This on-screen chemistry was bolstered by Rafferty and Macht's real-life friendship, which dates back to 1993. Additionally, Donna's interactions with other characters, such as Rachel Zane (played by Meghan Markle), further enriched the narrative, showcasing her as a multifaceted character who balanced professional prowess with personal connections. Rafferty's portrayal of Donna Paulsen earned her critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. The character's blend of intelligence, humor, and emotional depth made her one of the most beloved figures on "Suits," contributing significantly to the show's success and enduring popularity.
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Sarah Rafferty Interview

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Sarah Rafferty's Filmography

Sarah Rafferty has had an extensive career in television, film, and theater. Here is a table summarizing some of her most notable roles:
ProjectRoleYear
SuitsDonna Paulsen2011-2019
Chicago MedDr. Pamela Blake2021-2022
Grey's AnatomySuzanne Britland2020
All Things ValentineAvery Parker2016
Brothers & SistersGloria Pierson-Davenport2010
Samantha Who?Kayla Kaminski2008
The Devil Wears PradaLiz2006
Six Feet UnderRachel Mortimer2003
Law & OrderJennifer Shaliga1999
In addition to her television and film work, Rafferty has also appeared in numerous stage productions, including "Gemini," "The Beaux' Stratagem," and "As You Like It" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her diverse body of work showcases her range as an actress and her ability to bring depth and nuance to a variety of roles across different mediums.
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Rafferty's Awards and Nominations

Sarah Rafferty has received recognition for her acting talent through various award nominations:
  • She has been nominated multiple times for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for her work on "Suits".
  • Rafferty was nominated for the People's Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Actress in 2016 and 2017 for her portrayal of Donna Paulsen on "Suits".
  • She received a nomination for the Imagen Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2013 for her role in "Suits".
While she has not yet won a major acting award, Sarah Rafferty's numerous nominations are a testament to her talent and the impact of her performances, particularly as the iconic Donna Paulsen on "Suits".
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Sarah Rafferty (Photos)

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Personal Life and Friendships

Sarah Rafferty married Aleksanteri Olli-Pekka Seppälä, an American of Finnish descent who serves as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at the Angeleno Group, on June 23, 2001, at the Roman Catholic church of St. Mary in Greenwich, Connecticut. The couple has two daughters together. During the filming of "Suits," Rafferty and her family split their time between Los Angeles and Toronto. Rafferty has maintained a close friendship with her "Suits" co-star Gabriel Macht for over 30 years, having first met in the summer of 1993 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Their strong bond was evident on-screen, with Rafferty noting, "We had a comfort level with each other. You were able to sense that Donna and Harvey had a history together because we did." The two have supported each other throughout their careers and personal lives, attending each other's weddings and celebrating their children's friendships.
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Rafferty's Philanthropic Endeavors

Sarah Rafferty is deeply committed to philanthropy, supporting numerous charitable organizations and causes. She actively advocates for women's rights and education, raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease, which personally affected her family. Rafferty has supported the Malala Fund, the Trevor Project, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Covenant House, which aids homeless youth. Additionally, she has hosted events like "A Night at Sardi's" to benefit Alzheimer's research and serves as an ambassador for The Brain Project, promoting brain health and aging research. Her dedication to these causes highlights her commitment to using her platform for social good.
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Closing Thoughts

Sarah Rafferty's career resurgence post-"Suits" has been marked by her continued success in both television and feature films. Her education at Yale University, where she earned an MFA from the School of Drama, laid a strong foundation for her acting career. Rafferty's experience working with fellow "Suits" stars, such as Gabriel Macht, with whom she shares a long-standing friendship, has been a significant aspect of her professional journey. The beloved series not only showcased her talent but also solidified her status as a versatile and respected actress in the industry.
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