The two original cast members, who played Rachel Zane and Mike Ross, left the series following their much-anticipated wedding at the conclusion of season 7, but when the rest of the stars of the long-running USA series arrived on set for season 8, their presence was certainly felt.
“Everyone says, ‘Do you miss Mike and Rachel?'” Gabriel Macht, 46, tells PEOPLE while on set in Toronto. “You look around and there’s pictures of them all throughout the offices and they’re everywhere! I do miss them and I feel they’re such a part of the fabric of this set.”
Indeed, a photo of Markle and Adams together can be spotted in the background of a recent promo for the season, and frames with pictures of Markle and her TV father, played by Wendell Pierce, line the shelves of Robert Zane’s office.
“They feel very present,” Sarah Rafferty, 45, says. “You don’t have Suits without them, so we still have them, they’re still here.”
Rafferty also explains that the characters will still be mentioned by name, and she imagines updates on how they’re doing in Seattle will be offered through exposition.
“The characters still evoke them,” she says. “I have conversations with Harvey about talking to Mike, ‘Let’s talk to Mike, Mike’s the best person to talk to about this.’ Donna’s first scene with Robert Zane in the premiere is looking into Rachel’s office. Meghan was visiting us that day — her energy was, you know?”
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For Macht, Adams’ departure was the hardest to swallow, especially because, as he describes it, “We started this thing as a two-hander.”
“It’s really difficult,” he says. “Patrick and I really leaned on each other to make sure that our vision was presented on the show…. So it was a real big void for me coming back here when he was not coming. That was tough for me. It was shocking how overwhelming it was for me personally not to have him here.”
Macht continues: “I wrote him a letter and I talked to him on the phone, and I said, ‘Hey man, I really do not feel — it’s big.’ So he said, ‘Anytime you want to pick up the phone, I’m here for you.’ He’s a friend of mine and he will forever be a friend because we went on this journey together.”
“You’re always going to feel their presence,” Dulé Hill, 43, says of Markle and Adams. “They live in our world, the idea of them lives in our world, and the effects of them not being here will be felt in our world. The audience will be going through that the same way the characters are going through it.”
Suits airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on USA.