If you’ve caught an episode of USA’s addictive legal drama “Suits,” chances are you’ve already taken a liking to Rachel Zane, the perfectly polished paralegal portrayed by Meghan Markle. On screen, Markle, 31, plays a brilliant mind, expert foodie and overachiever — in a form-fitting pencil skirt. Off screen, the Northwestern grad bears a striking similarity to her fictitious counterpart. She’s an avid epicure and a whip-smart scholar who double-majored in international relations and theater and once worked at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. Markle even shares the same first name as her character (though nobody ever calls her Rachel) and admits to raiding Zane’s wardrobe from time to time.
For those unfamiliar with the show, “Suits,” which airs its third season premiere July 16, follows a wunderkind lawyer who lands a job at New York’s top law firm by hiding the fact that he never went to law school, and immediately falls into a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship with Markle’s character.
“We ended last season with so much going on at the firm: the merger, Rachel not getting into Harvard Law and the Mike and Rachel cat-and-mouse game,” says Markle. “I’ll say, and I don’t know how much I’m giving away, that they’re going to give it a shot [this season]. They have this secret office relationship — and she’s in on his [other] big secret.”
When she’s not filming, Markle is enjoying married life in LA — she wed longtime love Trevor Engelson in 2011 — and indulging in her dual passions: food and travel. “It’s really close to my heart to try to see this world,” she explains. Fortunately, Engelston is just as eager to travel, consistently visiting Markle on set in Toronto.
For Markle, whose rise to stardom has included a stint on “Fringe” and a slew of failed pilots, it’s thrilling to have finally found happiness both at home and on screen. “I remember going to class at Northwestern, sitting there and wondering if I could make it. I had a commercial agent in Chicago and I would drive into the city and try to build this career,” she says. “To be able to have a show that’s so successful, and to be with people that I respect and care for — I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”
Watch “Suits” on USA July 16 at 9 p.m.
Her season two finale love scene: “I think any sort of scene like that is uncomfortable from start to finish … no pun intended. We broke it down into two parts: the argument and the sex scene. It took seven hours, but that’s a testament to the fact that as a cast we’re so close.”
Her childhood dreams: “My dad was Director of Photography on the show ‘Married … with Children,’ so I grew up on set everyday after school. I would help with craft services, which is apropos because I love food so much. The comfort level I felt on a TV show is something I knew would be part of my career choice. At the end of the day, I always assumed I would be in entertainment, and I guess you could say I was hedging my bet working at the embassy [in Buenos Aires].”
Travel: “I love it so much. Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ has been a big catalyst for my travel to Vietnam and Croatia and New Zealand. New Zealand was the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to. The landscape was stunning, the people were so kind and the food was amazing.”
Chicago sports: “I really love watching a baseball game and — I don’t know if I’m going to make friends with this, but I’m a Cubs fan. It’s great being at a friend’s house with a rooftop view and seeing a game.”
Meghan also teamed up with online beauty retailer Birchbox to take viewers on set at “Suits.” Watch the video here.
Markle starts her day with light yoga in her room at the James Hotel (55 E. Ontario).
She meets up with her friend and former sorority sister Genevieve Hillis at Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie) for brunch.
To keep her face camera-ready, Markle heads to the Spa at the Trump (401 N. Wabash) for a facial from her go-to aesthetician, Regina.
Markle swings by Grahamwich (615 N. State) for a short rib sandwich before heading up to Northwestern for a campus visit.
Time for cocktails with girlfriends at RL (115 E. Chicago). “I love a good drink, I love a great french fry, and they have both there. It’s my kind of place,” she says.
Markle takes some time to unwind with a massage at the Peninsula Chicago (108 E. Superior) with her favorite masseuse, Gregory.
For dinner Markle hits up the much-lauded Girl & the Goat (left, 809 W. Randolph) or Xoco (449 N. Clark). “It’s so hard to chose!” she laments.