'Royal Pains' Star Mark Feuerstein Reflects on Fulfilling Eight-Season Journey: 'We Went the Distance'
By Philiana Ng
After eight seasons and more than 100 episodes, Royal Pains -- the last remaining cog from USA Network’s blue-skies machine -- closes its doors for good.
Debuting in the summer of 2009, the medical procedural followed a successful New York City ER doctor, Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), who moves to the Hamptons and reluctantly becomes a concierge doctor for the wealthy and famous. Along the way, Hank recruited the help of his younger brother Evan (Paolo Costanzo) and physician’s assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty), who became invaluable parts of HankMed.
“Like my favorite character in the movies, Rocky [Balboa], who only wanted to go the distance, we went the distance,” Feuerstein, 45, told ETonline during a recent interview about Royal Pains’ long run, “and I’m so proud that we got to do that and have that full experience.”
In ET’s exclusive first look at the final episode, Hank bares his soul to Divya, sharing that his current life as a concierge doctor isn’t fulfilling him anymore. “This isn’t just about finding a new title or a new way to practice medicine. I realized I need to find a new way to live,” Hank admits in the clip below.
Ahead of Wednesday’s swan song, Feuerstein -- who’s already busy filming Fox’s upcoming Prison Break revival -- jumped on the phone to reflect on Royal Pains’ seven years of success, the emotional final moments on set and what he’ll miss the most.
ET: Now that we’re heading into the series finale of Royal Pains. Has it sunk it for you yet?
Mark Feuerstein: If you asked me what was the one thing I would take away from the experience the most, my answer would be the people: the crew, the writers, the cast. The real moments of goodbye were the ones where we were wrapping every main cast member, from Henry Winkler to Campbell Scott to Reshma Shetty, Paulo Constanzo, Ben Shenkman to me. When we wrapped me and Paulo together, our executive producers Michael Rauch and Andrew Lenchewski made these beautiful speeches to us. It was in those toasts and final hugs with those people that it really ended for us. Then, we shot in Cape Town afterward. Then we got together at the ATX Festival [this year]. So there were all these little moments of goodbye that have stretched out our swan song together, but now it’s really happening.
ET: What was the last day like on set?
There was this moment with Paolo -- it was literally the last shot of the last episode -- and it was a scene in a dressing room. Henry Winkler, who plays our dad, had to leave for a talk show or an interview so we had a stand-in for him as there was a shot over his shoulder onto me and Paolo and we finished the scene. We knew this was our last shot ever on Royal Pains and Andrew and Michael were at the monitors outside of the set. When they yelled “cut,” Paolo and I had a hug that lasted an eternity and Andrew and Michael were also hugging. Afterward, Paolo had this great line to the stand-in, who was standing there: “Oh, hey Henry!” (Laughs.)
ET: Your friendship with Paolo really translated on screen as the show progressed and we saw Hank and Evan’s relationship evolve on Royal Pains. Was that important for you guys?
Watching the arc of my relationship with Paolo, which started by both of us wondering who the hell is this guy that I’m going to have to spend all this time with? We definitely were figuring each other out in that first season, but we grew together as people and as friends, and by the end, we were as thick as thieves. In the moments where we were connected as friends, you could see that on screen --using things from our own lives and jokes from our relationship -- and in moments when we were frustrated, where we had a lot of conflict, we would use that. We really lived the show and our relationship in one.
ET: What will you miss the most about playing Hank?
I never got into this business to play a character who might be a role model or anything -- that wasn’t the goal. Recently, I’ve been playing a character [on Prison Break] who’s less than moral, far less virtuous than Hank; it’s fun and there’s a kind of release to it. But what Andrew Lenchewski wrote in the pilot of Royal Pains -- that Hank Lawson will make an entire generation of kids want to go to medical school -- really got me excited and moved to play this character because it was ambitious or optimistic, which was the show as a whole.
ET: Have you had any lasting encounters with fans that really impacted you?
There was a day when a kid came up to me on the street and said “Hey, Dr. Hank! I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to Johns Hopkins medical school in the fall because of you and your character.” Knowing that I had some remote impact on a kid, even if it was one kid, it’s very satisfying. It’s rarer and rarer on TV now to find characters whose intentions are pure because there’s a darkness to the TV landscape as a whole right now. For this one blue-skies moment in the history of television to have gotten to play the ultimate blue-skies character who meant well and was only out for the greater good was a great opportunity and I’m so glad I got to play him. I will miss him a lot.
ET: What are your thoughts on how Hank’s story ended? Was it where you pictured Hank would be and who he would end up with?
My dream for Hank was somewhere between going on a Doctors Without Borders mission like Jill (Jill Flint) had done back in the day and being some sort of itinerant hero who managed to have the perfect wife and kids along the way. But there’s something very fitting about him ending up in the Hamptons, the place that was his second chance, his new lease on life where he found not only the connection between him and his patients, which was something he was lacking, but also his connection to all the special people he got to know, from Boris to Jeremiah to Paige to, of course, Divya and Evan. In my mind, the reason he stayed in the Hamptons -- as great as Boris’ house was, as great as the opportunity was to be a concierge doctor -- it was Jill Casey who kept him there. It was love in the beginning and it was love in the end that kept him there, and I think that’s very fitting.
Royal Pains airs its series finale on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network.