SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details about Wednesday night’s Season 6 summer finale of USA Network’s drama.

In the Season 6 summer finale tonight, USA Network’s drama Suits wrapped the two main storylines of Season 6A – Mike Ross’ stint in prison and Rachel and Jessica’s Innocence Project death row case. It also bid farewell to popular original cast member, Gina Torres, who played Pearson Specter Litt’s smart and poised managing partner Jessica Pearson. We revealed when Torres was cast as the lead in an ABC pilot last spring that she would remain a regular on Suits through Season 6 before departing the series. In an interview with Deadline, Suits creator/executive producer Aaron Korsh discusses the reasons for moving up the timeline of Torres’ exit and the possibility for her to come back as a guest star. He also reveals that there was a plan for a not-so-happy ending for her character (RIP Jessica?!) that was nixed by the network. Additionally, Korsh addresses what’s next for the law firm with the combustible combo of Harvey and Louis at the helm, will Mike accept the job offer to come back, will Robert Zane’s merger offer be accepted, and will there be weddings in Season 6B and beyond. (Suits has been renewed for Season 7.) Also, Korsh talks about how that A Few Good Men-inspired scene in the finale came about, and what we should make of Harvey and Donna’s holding hands in the episode’s final seconds.

DEADLINE: Let’s start with Gina Torres. How was the timing of her exit decided?

Suits Season 6 Gina Torres Gabriel Macht
Courtesy of USA Network

KORSH: Gina came to me — I think it was at the beginning of season five. She had some things going on in her life, and she wanted to discuss a graceful exit from the show for her to be able to live primarily in Los Angeles versus Toronto (where Suits is filmed). She said to me that if the show shot in LA, she would stay on it for the rest of her life; I think she loved being on the show, and we’d loved having her. She wanted to do it to some degree sooner rather than later, so we tried to figure out a way to make it work for both of us so that she could enjoy her life a little bit more, and we could still have Jessica as long as possible.

The initial plan was to let her do a reduced amount in season six but keep it through (all) 16 episodes, and then, she got a pilot last year, and they really needed us to guarantee that she would be in first position if it got picked up for the shooting of the series, which would’ve been when we were shooting our back six. So we decided okay, let’s let her out. Instead of doing maybe 8 of the first 10 and then three of the back six, we said, let’s just do the first 10 and then let her go. And then if we need to bring her back for some part of the back six we will, which we may still do. We may still see Jessica again.

DEADLINE: How did the exit arc of her character, taking an Innocent Project case, come about?

KORSH: Jessica has been so defined over the years, she’s chosen her firm over everything. We’ve seen her relationship with Jeff Malone become shattered because of her devotion to her firm, and just at countless steps along the way she chooses her firm over herself. So the idea was all right, if she’s going to choose to leave her firm, how are we going to make that happen. Out of that, the notion of having her get involved in an Innocence Project case developed. We’d implanted in the show this notion that Jessica and Rachel had started a little bit of a mentorship. It’s been peppered in for the last few years, and then in episode 6.01, they have a very interesting scene where Jessica lets her guard down with Rachel, and somehow the idea developed that Rachel could start this Innocence Project case to take her mind off Mike being in prison a little bit. Jessica would get involved with it, and we weaved that into it. Initially, the idea was for her to rehabilitate her firm’s image once again, and then we thought okay, she can get more and more emotionally attached to this case, and then she can have this realization, “I don’t want to fight for my firm anymore. I want to do more things. I’ve been to the top of the mountain, and I don’t want to fight and struggle to get back up there anymore.”

I have not said this before, but my initial idea was to have this all happen and have her make her decision to go, and I knew that fans out there knew that Gina might be leaving. We tried to keep it quiet, but you can’t keep that kind of thing quiet. Once she got her pilot, it certainly seemed people understood if that thing went, she would go. So my idea was to twist it and have her decide to leave and go to Jeff exactly as we did it in the finale, and have the father of the victim come back with a gun and kill her. I didn’t think we were going to see it, but my initial inspiration was sort of taken from M*A*S*H*. The beloved character Henry Blake left, and they had an emotional goodbye and then you find out that his plane had been shot down over the Sea of Japan, and it was very moving. That was my initial idea, to put the twist on it.

The network didn’t want to go that way, and I didn’t really have it in me to come up with two plans and sort of struggle to make my case on the one, so we ended up going this way. I think it gives her a little bit of a happy ending and certainly leaves more opportunity for her to come back from time to time in the future.

DEADLINE: So, is Jessica getting her happy ending? Will she stay with Jeff? Do we know what she will do in Chicago?

KORSH: Well, I don’t know. We haven’t really thought that much about it because we have so much to do because she’s going. Obviously, we’re not going to have that many episodes focused on it, so I don’t know what the future holds for her and Jeff. Because she can’t come back as a series regular on the show — or she could if she wanted to — but since that’s not currently in the works, I haven’t spent too much time thinking about what’s going to happen between her and Jeff, but I think we will probably see her again on our show. By the way, even if she had died, the notion was to bring her back in flashback episodes, sort of like we do with Mike’s grandmother, but this gives us more of an opportunity to bring her back from time to time if we need her, and I would suspect that we will see her again. Maybe not in the back six, but at least from time to time moving forward.

DEADLINE: So there are no current plans for her to be in the back six?

KORSH: Well, we’re just right now sort of formulating the back six. I’m not being cagey. I really don’t know yet.

DEADLINE: What is next for Pearson Specter Litt? Will it become Specter Litt? Will it merge and become Zane Spector Litt?

Suits - Season 6
Courtesy of USA Network

KORSH: You’re asking all the right questions. Obviously, we don’t drop Robert Zane’s offer to merge. We do tackle that, and it’s contemplated in the back six. The truth of the matter is that Wendell Pierce, who is an amazing actor, is a series regular on another show (The Odd Couple), and though they’re very generous with letting us have him within their schedule, we don’t have unfettered access to him, so it’s difficult to merge with Zane at the moment. But I’m not sure our characters would want to do that anyways, so I’ll say it’s unlikely that we end up merging with him in this back six, but you never know what the future holds.

And then Louis and Harvey are going to have a little bit of a struggle as to what they’re going to do moving forward without Jessica, as you would imagine the two of them. There’s going to be a little conflict over who’s running the show and what they’re going to do and what direction they’re going to take, and we are right now formulating what they’re going to do about the name of the firm moving forward.

DEADLINE: Will you be adding a new regular cast member to fill the void left by Gina’s departure?

KORSH: As of right now, no. I think that would evolve over time, and we would see how it goes. We’ve been pretty successful over the years, not necessarily adding series regulars, but just bringing long-term recurring characters. In my opinion, it’s sort of like as life goes, you have people that come in and out of your life.

So, I think as of right now, we’re not hiring an individual to be a series regular and be in every episode to replace her. We’re dealing with what we have, and some of it has to do with, as shows get older — I’m learning this as a new to a long lasting series — you start to have maybe some budgetary pressures over time, as people’s salaries go up. So sometimes losing a series regular, if you’re going to replace them with another series regular, that will put added pressure on your budget. Whereas, if you just say all right, let’s try to bring in some recurring people, maybe that will alleviate some of the burdens on the budget moving forward.

DEADLINE: Speaking for the other regulars, will they all return for season seven?

KORSH: They’re all renewed through seven.

DEADLINE: It seems with Harvey and Louis, either Donna has to be in every scene or there will be blood in every scene.

KORSH: You’re really putting your finger on the pulse of where we’re going. I think the first episode back is a little surprising. Let me rephrase that. It’s both what you would expect and also, a little surprising. They both behave as you would expect them to behave, but they both also have little dashes of things that I think are surprising that you wouldn’t expect. At the end of that episode, Donna, as you would expect, a little bit steps in and basically lays out a plan of what needs to be done for these two to get along, and hopefully, that plan will work. But we’re going to have, I hope, some growth in Harvey and his ability to handle things moving forward. But absolutely, there’s going to be conflict, and Donna’s going to have to step in and help, and another surprise character is going to help Donna do that in 6.11.

DEADLINE: Will we see Harvey and Louis mudding or doing couples therapy together?

KORSH: That’s a great pitch. We don’t have that, but boy, it would be great. You know now that you mention it, seeing Harvey and Louis in the mud would be great.

DEADLINE: What about Mike, will he return to the firm as a consultant?

KORSH: That’s sort of a little bit the true line that we’re working on in the back six. He’s not going to come back right away. Going back to when Mike was on trial,  he was giving his speech to the jury, and he said, “I was given a gift, and I threw it away, and I’m ashamed of myself.” He was so passionate and powerful, he meant all that stuff. That was all real emotion, he wasn’t just trying to bullshit the jury for lack of a better word, so when he gets out, he feels a responsibility to try to do some good. I think he probably still has a little bit of residual…guilt is a strong word, but he knows that he messed up, and he knows he had an opportunity to help people and he didn’t take advantage of it. He wants to do that now, and coming back to Pearson Specter Litt and being a consultant is not going to fulfill that yearning or that need inside of him. So  his journey for the back six is to try to do some good in the world as best he can, but his obstacle of that is he’s a felon, and he’s got a felony record, and it makes it hard to get people to trust you and allow you to do good.

DEADLINE: What about weddings, will we have nuptials in the back six, either for Louis or for Mike, whose wedding to Rachel was put on hold?

KORSH: Excellent question, just haven’t gotten there yet. I’d like to try, but I just don’t know.

DEADLINE: What was that handholding between Harvey and Donna at the end, is their office romance back on?

Suits - Season 6
Courtesy of USA Network

KORSH: People respond differently to the same image and put on what they want or hope or feel onto that image. I think it was definitely a development in their intimacy. Whether it’s going to mean a development in their romantic life moving forward remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that Harvey lost what you could say was sort of his mentor, his mother figure to some degree, and Donna’s always been there for him, and I thought they both played the scene excellently. I thought it was shot excellently. It’s going to have an effect to some degree. It remains to be seen on our side what that effect is, but I think it’s a small step forward in the evolution of their relationship. I would say that.

DEADLINE: What about the two A Few Good Men references in the finale, including recreating the famous Jack Nicholson scene? Why did you decide to do it?

KORSH: I think going back to the early days of the show, even back to the pilot, we’ve always used movie references. It’s always just been intertwined in the life of the show, and that is born out of my — everything to me reminds me of a movie that I’ve seen, so I’m constantly in my life referencing those things. If you go back, I think it was episode 1.12, they got an idea for how to solve a case from the movie Mississippi Burning, and they refer to it. Somewhere in the writing of (the Season 6 finale), I think it was one of the writers who came up with the idea of using the trick that they used in A Few Good Men. I’m like, look, if you’re going to use the trick from that movie, I think our characters should have the idea to use the trick from that movie. I don’t think we as writers should steal from that movie, it’s a subtle difference to me, but if the character says, “I’ve seen that movie and I’m going to use this thing that they did in that movie”, that to me is pretty cool. But if we, as writers, just use it and don’t acknowledge it, I think it’s not.

Later in the episode, Harvey just happens to make the same reference, which obviously, is a little bit of a poetic license on our behalf, it’s a heightened coincidence just to show that our two guys are sort of in the same mindset.

DEADLINE: Two of the storylines that ended in the finale were Mike in prison and the stockbroker tenants. Both had standout characters. Will any of those come back?

Suits - Season 6
Courtesy of USA Network

KORSH: Well, first of all, let me say, Erik Palladino, Paul Schulze, Ian Reed Kesler, even Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Carly Pope, we just had an outstanding cast of a guest cast this year. And I’ll also say, I don’t know if it’s rare, but from my experience, I think Suits does a lot more casting off of auditions than other shows. I think a lot of other shows cast off of people’s reels, and I think every one of those people came in, auditioned for those parts, and knocked it out of the park, and I thought they did an outstanding job in the course of the season.

The way it works for us is, when I watch a character and I connect to a character, I’d love to bring them back and see them again. So all five of those people, I think I’d love to see again, and there may be more that I’m forgetting, but as of right now, I’m not sure if we’re going to or not because what happens is I’d always love to see certain characters back, there’s so many. Some of it has to do with, if we want them back, are they available and the other aspect is do they fit with the storyline we’re telling. I would love to see any one of those people again, and I definitely suspect we will see at least one or more of them again, but other than, obviously, Carly Pope, Tara, because we leave off anticipating seeing her again, of the other ones, we have to figure out a way to make them come back and we haven’t yet.

DEADLINE: If you have to describe the next story arc in Suits in a few words, what would that be?

KORSH:  I think this back six, it’s almost like a transitional phase in the show, and it’s a transitional phase in the characters’ lives, like in the aftermath of Mike getting out and Jessica and Rachel winning the Leonard Bailey case. All of our characters are going through a lot of changes in their lives, and they have to figure out what they’re going to do next, and I think by the end of these next six episodes, they should land on what they’re really going to do, it will leave them to a little bit more stability next season. For our show, it’s a transitional phase that will lead to a new paradigm for the show next year moving forward. So I think for Mike, it’s about figuring out what’s he going to do with his life. I think for Harvey, Louis and the firm, how is the firm going to move on in Jessica’s absence, and within that, you know Louis has a personal situation. Mike and Rachel have a relationship. Harvey and Donna have the aftermath of their handholding and stuff like that, so that’s sort of what this last six is about, just trying to reach some sort of homeostasis for the character’s lives in the aftermath of all the changes that they’ve all gone through.