Shane Mahood/USA Network
May 25, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT

A version of this story appears in the Summer Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday. Buy it or subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Katherine Heigl is trying to keep her cool on the set of Suits. The Emmy-winning actress fell in love with the fashionable legal drama a year ago when she binged the entire thing in about two months. Fast-forward a year, she’s now several episodes into her new series-regular gig in the show’s eighth season — Suits’ first without original cast members Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle, who left at the end of last season.

“It’s just pretty thrilling to be here. It’s the first experience I’ve ever had walking onto a show that I’m a fan of,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum, 39, tells EW. “I’m trying to not just geek out at every turn. I’m doing my best.”

Heigl is playing Samantha Wheeler, a fierce and enigmatic lawyer who, as the actress puts it, “muscles her way” into Suits’ central law firm, Specter Litt, in the wake of Mike Ross (Adams) and Rachel Zane’s (Markle) departure. Needless to say, her new co-workers don’t respond too kindly to her at first. “She’s kind of having fun messing with everybody. They’re just not having as much fun — yet,” says Heigl, adding that her relationship with the firm’s managing partner, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), is a little antagonistic at first. Samantha also has an uneasy dynamic with Donna (Sarah Rafferty), who has always prided herself on her ability to read people.

“The fact that Donna can’t quite put her finger on Samantha is really fun to play,” Heigl says. “Our first scene together was just like that — she’s trying to figure out Samantha, and Samantha’s not really giving much of anything away.”

While Heigl admits to knowing nothing about being a lawyer (even after starring on CBS’ Doubt alongside her Suits costar Dulé Hill), she does say Samantha feels closer to her than some of her recent TV roles. “She feels like a woman who has sort of reached that point in her life where she knows who she is, what she wants, and how to go about getting it,” says Heigl. “And she’s not apologetic at all, which I kind of love.” She’s hoping fans will love it too.

Check out more exclusive images of Heigl below.

Ian Watson/USA Network
Shane Mahood/USA Network

Suits returns July 18 at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.

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