Credit: Nigel Parry/USA Network
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Warning: This post contains spoilers from Wednesday’s Suits midseason finale. Read at your own risk.

The time has come to say goodbye to one of the Pearson Specter Litt name partners.

Gina Torres, who has played the fierce Jessica Pearson since Suits premiered in 2011, left the USA Network legal drama in the midseason finale, which aired Wednesday evening. After successfully saving an innocent man from being executed, Jessica realized she no longer wanted to be a corporate lawyer, quit the firm, and joined her ex-boyfriend Jeff Malone (D.B. Woodside), who was moving to Chicago. Although Jessica’s goodbye was rather emotional, this might not be the last time we see her.

Before the episode aired, EW had a chance to speak to Torres about her decision to leave, what it was like on her final day on set, and whether she’s open to returning later down the road. (Read our full episode recap here.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn Jessica would be written out of the show midway through season 6?

GINA TORRES: This has been something that Aaron [Korsh] and I have kind of been talking about and banting about for awhile. It’s absolutely a mutual thing. Well, he wasn’t that happy about it [Laughs], ’cause we all love Jessica, but he’s been awesome, as has been USA, about letting me come home for awhile and tend to my life. So, it was really about what’s the best way to do this for the show. Certainly, it took a lot of different forms, but ultimately, I think we needed to keep it as open ended as possible because we love Jessica and we can’t stand the thought of never seeing her again. So, I think when viewers actually see this, they’ll feel sad — I hope — and maybe a little bit untethered, as will Harvey, but hopeful.

How did you decide this was the right time to leave the show? Did you feel Jessica’s story had run its course?

The show shoots in Toronto and I make my home in Los Angeles, and my family is in Los Angeles. So six seasons, it’s a huge blessing and it’s amazing and I don’t think anybody ever thought, “Wow, we’re going to get six seasons out of this big fat secret.” Without being too cryptic, I keep my private life private, but having said that, it’s a difficult thing to do to balance all of that and being so far away. So, it was with a heavy heart, which is why we talked about how we should do this for a good long time.

Also from the perspective of the show, I think, and I really truly believe [this], that the one thing that was, for me, missing in Jessica’s arc and her evolution on the show [was] really delving into what moves her, what drives her, why she is who she is, and how she got there. What’s really wonderful about how we’ve gotten to this place is that she came to the realization that it wasn’t enough and she’s gotta go find her bliss. She’s at the point in her life where she really has to go find her bliss, and as terrifying as that is and as incomprehensible as that might be to some people who see her being so good at this and having everything, it doesn’t matter if your heart is not happy and you’re not really fulfilling that thing that you set out to do. I think that’s such an important message to send out there, not just to women but to men and everyone who’s out there busting their butt day in and day out and ask themselves that question.

What was it like keeping your exit a secret for the past few months?

Not easy. I don’t know if it’s that I’m more aware of it now than I have been for the last however many seasons, but it’s really quite something when fans come up to you and tell you how much they love the show and me in it and how I’m their favorite character and “You keep doing what you’re doing,” and “I’m watching for you.” I’m like, “Oh god! Oh no…Yay, thank you…Keep watching!” There’s that part of me not wanting to betray our fanbase. I don’t want to sideswipe all of those wonderful people who are so invested in the show and in Jessica and in what she means to people, but, like I said before, I’m hoping that the greater message is just as important, that the takeaway is just as important and significant as the person that she’s been all these seasons.

Credit: Ian Watson/USA Network

What was it was like filming your last scene?

It was teary. Gosh, we shot [the scene] with Gabriel [Macht], Sarah [Rafferty], and Rick [Hoffman] where I say, “I gotta go,” and that was my last scene I shot with them. Then, my next scene was going away with D.B. Woodside, our coming-back-together scene. So, I got a great kiss-off, so that was nice. I really spent that entire last week just hugging everybody a lot. I didn’t want to leave any crew member behind — everyone that’s been so incredible to me all these seasons.

How did the cast react when they found out you were leaving?

I’m happy to say they weren’t happy about it, and I think just everyone wondered, “Well, how is this going to work? How are we going to do this? What’s this show going to look like without Jessica?” We’re all wondering. I’m wondering. I’m very curious myself.

Do you think you’ll watch to see what comes next?

Yeah, I’ll definitely watch.

What will you miss most about playing Jessica and being on the show?

Oh, what’s not to love about this part? She’s amazing. You can check off all of the boxes with Jessica. It’s such a privilege to embody so much elegance and grace and wit and intelligence, and great clothes to boot. I’ve said this in other interviews: Often when you see a woman of power portrayed on television, there’s a compromise given, and as tough as nails as Jessica is and has been, her soft side is always on display, her femininity is always on display. So, I’m going to miss that, and of course I’ll miss my cast mates and crew, but we’re in touch so there’s only so far I’ll get away from them.

As you said, Jessica’s exit was pretty open-ended. Would you be willing to return further down the road?

Don’t count Jessica out on Suits, ’cause those boys are going to mess up and they’re going to have to call me. I believe that. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but that story’s not done, ’cause everybody comes back.

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