Perfectly Suited

Sarah Rafferty is having fun as a wise-cracking sidekick on the USA hit Suits



Sarah Rafferty wouldn’t mind putting her little touch of stardom aside this minute for just another taste of her Connecticut home.

“This weekend I was so terribly homesick,” she sighed, calling last July from Toronto where her TV series, Suits, is filmed.  “I’m usually always in Connecticut for a big home visit this time of year.  But work is keeping me away.”

It’s not bad work at all. Suits, a hit drama about high-powered New York lawyers, is entering its second season on USA Network. In her role as Donna, the all-knowing executive assistant, she gets to knock out a lot of zingers.

Actors often reveal a lot about themselves when they talk about the characters they play, and Sarah is no different as she recounts her favorite moment in the show. “It might have been the first Donna Moment when you realize that she could put on any kind of mask to get what she wants, and have fun doing it.” That would be when the obnoxious, paranoid lawyer Louis asked Donna’s boss if he could borrow her. “And Donna cries and says, ‘My soul hurts now.’ She absolutely freaks and runs away in tears. I could see that Donna is not above a few histrionics to get what she wants, and that’s really fun for me.”

She was brought into acting by a simple twist of fate in the tenth grade. The youngest of four girls in the Rafferty house, she was brought up in Riverside by parents who combined artistic leanings with the well-ordered life. Mimi Rafferty was the co-chair of the English department at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and father Michael was a venture capitalist with a strong urge to paint (see golflinksportraiture.com for his golf landscapes).

“I have three sisters, so the dinner table was packed and I don’t know how my Mom did it. She cooked every meal after working full-time. Everybody had crazy schedules. In Riverside, you could just jump on your bicycles and go over to friends’ houses or Binney Park. It was safe and easy. It was a different time than now, of course.”

Sarah went to Andover and one day when late to field-hockey practice she ran across the yard of a faculty member’s house. It was a drama teacher who walked out and stopped her and said, “Hey, Rafferty, why are you doing sports? Why don’t you come do a play with me?”

Just like that she was working on Richard III. “He shifted my gears and changed my life. I was suddenly with the drama crowd.”

Her theater work continued at Hamilton College and then at Yale Rep. While at Yale she had a date arranged with a calm, relaxed Finnish fellow named Santtu Seppala. He was business major from Wharton. They clicked, and her folks fell in love with him right away.

When her father took her aside and said, “Most of all, he can handle you,” Sarah was naturally indignant, but she knew what it was. He was just referring to her “redheaded personality.” She sighs: “And now my daughter is redheaded, and I’m parenting the same kind of child. The strong will and the big personality. Feeling things intensely, the ups and downs, the positives and the negatives.”

With the birth of her first child Oona five years ago, Sarah and Santtu gave up their West Village apartment for a house in West Hollywood. Santtu is now a portfolio manager for a Beverly Hills hedge fund. Five months ago they had a second daughter, Iris.

But Sarah misses the huge gatherings that now take place at her parents’ New Canaan home. “We try, at the very least, to get there at Christmas time and the Fourth of July.

“Just being near the Long Island Sound feels like home, so we spend a lot of time at the beach, playing tennis and having barbecues. My mom always makes a big lobster dinner and all the kids get together and play and jump in my sister’s pool.”

The bright-eyed redhead shouldn’t be hard to spot around town. And yes, she will be back.

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