USA drama Royal Pains premiered for its eighth and final season earlier this summer. The show follows concierge doctor Hank Lawson and his HankMed colleagues on their adventures through The Hamptons. We had the pleasure of talking to actors Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma Shetty, Brooke D’Orsay and Ben Shenkman, along with writer/producer Andrew Lenchewski and executive producer Michael Rauch at the recent ATX Festival and discussed the charm of their show, the upcoming musical episode and what television shows they are currently nerding out about. Check out our chat with the cast below, and tune into Royal Pains every Wednesday night at 10/9c on USA!
Mark and Reshma, I know you have been to Austin before, but what about everybody else?
Ben Shenkman: “I haven’t.”
Michael Rauch: “Love it, but it’s too hot. (laughs)”
Henry Winkler: “Love it. Hot. Delicious.”
Mark Feuerstein: “Everywhere you’re indoors is fantastic! (laughs)”
It’s the last season. What are you going to miss the most about the show?
Henry: “I’m going to miss being with the cast. I’m going to really miss being with everybody. When you walk on that set, no matter what year, what day or what episode, you were encircled with warmth and the will to do good.”
Paulo Costanzo: “Obviously, I’m going to miss Evan because he’s so multi-faceted and funny, but Mark will be my friend for life, God willing. I’m going to miss all the other characters. I’m going to know everyone in real life, but I’m never going to look into Hank’s eyes and talk to him. I’m never going to look into Paige, my wife’s, eyes again. That’s the sad part for me.”
Mark: “On the heels of that, there was a moment when we shot our last shot for the series ever. Apparently, outside the set, Michael and Andrew were sitting by the monitor and inside was Paulo and I giving a hug as brothers. They yelled cut, and then we hugged- he and I- and Andrew and Michael. It was like this suspended moment where both pairs were hugging, and then I think we kept going for another seven hours (laughs). But it was a very sweet moment, and there’s actually a picture of it that Joe Collins, our DP, took.”
One of my favorite things about USA shows is that the premises are always really unique, but just unique enough to the point that they work. There’s always that magic quality of the show that keeps it going. What was the magic quality for Royal Pains that helped it go for eight seasons?
Henry: “The reality of family.”
Brooke D’Orsay: “I think it just brings out the best in humanity and human spirit. I think people would tune in and say, ‘oh! That’s how good people behave! That’s how to be an awesome person!’ And it happened episode after episode. Anytime someone stepped out of line, they were always redeemed. I think it’s sort of refreshing and nice to know that everyone was awesome and kind.”
Michael: “I would add to that that there was an optimism and a hope to the show. Even when things were dark and there was conflict, there was always a sense that things were going to be okay. It gave a buoyancy to the tone of the show. In a time in the world where things are not always okay and very scary and dark, to be able to turn on the TV and see a world where the skies are blue and people are happy, and even when they’re not happy, you know that they’re going to be okay is a really nice escape.”
Paulo: “Very similar to Game of Thrones! (laughs)”
Why was season eight the right time to go?
Andrew Lenchewski: “The network asked us to go (laughs). But they did it in the most respectful, loving and supporting way, which was to let us know at the end of season six. They wanted to give us two final seasons to very organically wrap up the stories that we’d been building for six years. As writers, the biggest gift you can be given is the chance to map out how to close out your stories so that you can do it with thoughtfulness, and in a way that feels like it builds as opposed to a way that’s crammed into the final two episodes before you’re yanked off the air. We’re so grateful for that, and we had stories to wrap up with all of these characters. The show has always been about family. It’s also always been about second chances. We felt like the audience really wanted to see each of these characters fulfill their second chances in life, and we felt like we were able to do that. Hopefully, the audience agrees.”
One of my favorite things about the show has always been the season raps. Mark, why didn’t we get a season eight rap?
Mark: “There was a season eight rap! There was a final season rap.”
Michael: “Mark, do it right now!”
Mark: “Okay! No, I don’t know it. We did a series rap recap in which TVGuide.com put it on the air. It was online embedded in some article that was promoting our show for season eight.”
Michael: “Mark directed it, and it’s amazing.”
Henry: “You have to understand this. Mark writes and directs. In between scenes, he gets it done. It’s not like ‘oh there’s time now.’”
Paulo: “In between scenes in the actual show, he will finish a scene, run and do it.”
Henry: “Here’s your line, this is what we’re gonna do, he sets up the camera, and then we do it.”
Mark: “It’s mildly effective for the show, but all of these people have to put up with it when I ask them to do ridiculous things and interrupt shooting. I had a great time doing it, and it was a lot of work, but without them being such good sports, four or five different times it would never have happened.”
Paulo: “What about the helicopter shot?”
Mark: “Yes! We were shooting in Monaco, and we had a helicopter filming me driving this powder blue Bentley. All I’m thinking about when we’re shooting the proper show is ‘I gotta get that rap!’ We did, we made this French guy with a beret drive while I’m sitting in the back of the Bentley rapping to a helicopter.”
Paulo: “Who else does that? Nobody in television does that.”
Let’s talk about the upcoming musical episode. Whose idea was that, and what was your reaction when you found out?
Mark (points to Michael Rauch): “That guy!”
Paulo: “From very early in the show, Michael said he wanted to do a musical episode. I always thought he was kidding. I love musicals. We share a love of Les Mis, specifically, and we sing the Confrontation Song between Javert and Valjean to each other on set. I always thought he was crazy for it, but then I did a little webisode which was a taste of what it might be like. It started to materialize, and I think everyone probably thought he was crazy for a long time.
But out of nowhere, he wrote this amazing thing. Tom Kitt, who won the Pulitzer for Next To Normal- he’s one of the best, most amazing composers on Broadway- he came and wrote six songs in two weeks. This genius came and wrote these six big musical numbers. We had about one-eighth of the amount of time we needed to shoot this amount of stuff, and we did it in about eight days.”
Henry: “All of a sudden in the musical, this world famous violinist shows up-”
Michael: “Joshua Bell!”
Henry: “- I mean, the greatest touring violinist in any concert hall. He opens the musical.”
Paulo: “With his five million dollar violin! (laughs)”
Michael: “I think the biggest thing that I can say is that for Andrew and for me, there was never a doubt that these guys could pull it off. We knew we were going to do it, we knew it was going to be a big, giant thing, but we also knew we were in the safest hands, feet and voices. It wouldn’t suck because they all would rise to the occasion, which they did. As hard as every day was, they’d show up on set prepared and choreographed, and they knew their lines. We’d do take after take after take, and they nailed it every single time. It was an incredible security blanket to know that we’d be okay.”
Andrew: “The other thing you’ll see and appreciate is that Michael also directed the episode. What was amazing about it is that we had the best crew in television. Everyone says that, but in our case, it’s actually true. They were all so unbelievably excited to be there.”
Paulo: “These are burly men who were like, ‘this is great!’”
Andrew: “Also, our hair and makeup women. One day, Michael designed a 1920’s RKO-style theater in the round, and that set was built on one of our soundstages. People who had been working in the business for decades said they’d never seen or been part of something like this. People who had already been bringing their A-game for eight years stepped it up one notch higher, and it was the ultimate emblem of our show firing on all cylinders.
Henry: “I felt like Beyoncé! (laughs)”
We’re at a television festival, so the best question to wrap with is to ask what you are binge-watching right now?
Henry: “Peaky Blinders.”
Mark: “The Path. Loving it!”
Paulo: “Bob Ross from the 80’s. It’s a painting show that just showed up on Netflix. I watched a twenty-seven-minute episode of him painting a seascape last night before I went to bed. It was magical. It was hypnotic.”
Mark: “From the old days, or now?”
Michael: “No, he’s not alive anymore! (laughs)”
Paulo: “It is amazing how he will just put you to sleep.”
Andrew: “That’s the guy with the beard, right?”
Mark (imitating Bob Ross): “And now just a little titanium white- you’re gonna put it right under the little bird.”
Paulo: “He did use titanium white! He did paint a little bird! (laughs)”
Brooke: “My Dad said I have to watch Breaking Bad. It’s intense, but it’s good.”
Reshma Shetty: “I’m starting season two of Bloodline.”
Ben: “It’s gone now, but Togetherness.”
Mark: “I love that show! I don’t know how it was canceled by HBO. That will be the ATX holy grail when they have a reunion of that show!”
Ben: “It was the Duplass brothers on HBO with Amanda Peete and Melanie Lynskey.”
Paulo: “For you nerds out there, it’s like the Firefly of independent tone cinema. Just canceled way too soon.”
Henry: “I always see television as- I put myself in the slot, I reach over, pull the thing and it’s like Las Vegas. You have no idea.”