With season two of Royal Pains [USA, Thursdays, 9/8C] underway, things are getting more complicated for Hank, Evan, Eddie, Divya, Jill and Boris. Recently, I took part in a conference call with Dr. Hank Lawson, himself, Mark Feuerstein. He talked about the second season in, perhaps a bit more detail than the USA Network might have liked, but in such a way as to mollify even the most cautious publicists.
If you want the scoop on the complexities of the Lawsons’ familial relationships, or the ongoing chemistry between Hank and Jill, or what Divya’s situation is vis-à-vis Raj and Adam – or if you’re just looking for spoilerish teasers in general, read on.
M. Feuerstein: Hey, it’s great to talk to all of you. I didn’t find my moment to chime in in the middle of my fabulous introduction, but I am always thrilled to talk to anybody about this show and it’s so exciting to be a part of a successful show and have people who actually care about it enough to ask questions. So, take it away!
Well, can you talk about what you liked about how Hank is at odds with his father and how it helps the relationship between father and both sons?
Feuerstein: Great question; we’re starting off with a bang. We’re such a family at Royal Pains. The writing staff, the executive branches of the show all the way down the line through the crew and the entire cast, and there was a moment where I was hanging out with the writers and our executive producer Michael Rauch was kind enough to ask me, “Is there anything you’d like to see in season two?” I said, “Well, Hank is this pretty perfect guy. If there was a way to give him some dirt under his fingernails, to edge him up a little bit, I would be thrilled.”
In response to that, in addition to their own sensibility that that would be good for the show, they introduced a character, Eddie R. Lawson, our father, our estranged father, our deadbeat dad who abandoned us. I think as a result of Henry Winkler’s character—and he is so brilliant to have cast and so brilliant in playing the role—you see another color in my character, which is rage; adolescent anger that has not been able to evolve itself into adulthood because the guy left us.
I think Royal Pains is a show about second chances, about getting another chance to do it right. I get another chance when I come out there to be a doctor to the rich and the not so rich in the Hamptons. Now my dad is out there supposedly trying to repair the damage he did when we were kids.
Unfortunately, as you saw in the finale of the past season he wasn’t just there to repair our family. He was also there to inform on our landlord, Boris, to the FBI and give them any pertinent information that might help them take Boris down, which means he was also using us. So, the big question in the coming season is will my dad live or die after having a heart attack and then if he lives will we kill him?
Well, as a follow-up, how did working with Henry bring out the best in you as an actor, in terms of something unexpected?
Feuerstein: Henry is always present; he’s always listening as an actor. He only wants for you to do the best work you can do, meaning he’s concerned not only for himself, and he’s always great, but also for his scene partner, so there’s this moment that I love from season two in one of his first episodes; I think it was like the first episode he shot. We’re standing on the deck of Ms. Newport’s house at a party she’s throwing for her daughter. It’s like the second or third time I’ve seen our dad out there and he just shows up at this party and I’m very resentful and I’m very dismissive of him.
The line in the script was, “I hope that soon you’ll be able to trust me.” My reaction was something like, yeah, whatever, goodbye. But when the camera was on me and not on him, he changed the line and he said, “Hank, I love you.” Instead of being able to just dismiss it, it got this reaction out of me that was vulnerable, unexpected and much more interesting than what had been evoked just by the words on the page, because he just gave a much higher stakes feed into my line and that’s the kind of actor he is.
So, let me ask you, you and Paulo have this great on screen chemistry and I was wondering how well do you get along when the cameras aren’t rolling?
Feuerstein: I love Paulo, I truly love him. Our relationship in life is not dissimilar to our relationship on screen. There is a lot of love there. He is as impetuous, impulsive, brilliant, spontaneous and creative as the character of Evan, if not more so and we joke around all the time. If you came into the make-up trailer on any given day while we’re getting ready for the day of work, you would see Paulo imitating 17 different characters from the crew or people who have been visiting our set and you would see me laughing hysterically and then jumping in and joining him.
I can’t say enough about the guy and he’s grown up so much over the course of our shooting the show. I’ve been around a little longer, so to watch him step into manhood as an actor and as Evan, they kind of go hand-in-hand, really. It’s such a pleasure for me; I’m almost proud of him as an older brother would be because he’s become such a; he’s such a mensch to everybody on the set. Everybody loves him. He’s the class clown who also has true heart and love for everyone around him.
Great. And then, as a follow-up let me ask you, you had some really great people work with you on the show so far, is there anybody in particular you’d like to see either come on as a guest star or in a recurring role?
Feuerstein: There’s an actress who’s in the finale, or maybe it’s the penultimate episode this coming season, it’s number 217 and she plays a woman—the actress’ name is Julianne Nicholson. You would know her from one of the Law & Order shows, I can’t remember which one exactly—but she plays a very Type A New Yorker who left the rat race and started flying planes out in Long Island. She’s now having the symptoms of caffeine addiction and uppers, but she’s actually cleaned herself up.
And it turns out that there’s a sort of … episode happening for her and she’s so good, I mean she’s so amazingly vulnerable and able to cover that as well as an actress. And the dynamic between us, I just thought there was great chemistry because the characters bond over the fact that we were both flying too high in the New York rat race and had to come down. She’s just a great actress and I feel that she upped my game in that episode.
So, that would be the person I would say I’d love to see come back. But also, Tom Cavanaugh, who you remember from Ed, is in our premiere episode on Thursday night, “Mulligan,” and he is so charming. He plays this ex-golfer who can’t really get back in the game because of this Dupuytren syndrome that he has in his hands. He has this claw, they call him Captain Hook because of his fingers locking and he does it in a look, in a face, in a wince instead of hitting you over the head with it and that’s why he’s so good and has been so successful. We were so lucky to get him to play that part, Jack O’Malley and the chemistry between and Jill Flint is phenomenal.
So, those are two people I would love to see back, but I’m so happy we’re definitely going to see Henry Winkler back and Campbell Scott and Christine Ebersole and all these other great characters that have been so fabulous to paint this crazy eclectic world that we live in in the Hamptons.
I was wondering, how did you prepare for your role as a doctor on the show?
M. Feuerstein: I followed doctors around, whoever would allow me to. I met with concierge doctors. I sat in on a brain surgery approaching the time of shooting, staring through a hole in somebody’s head and looking into the center of who they are.
I talked to concierge doctors about who their clients are. I think they’re generally slightly older and slightly less attractive than the ones you see on Royal Pains, but I got a sense for what niche this concierge medicine thing has filled in our marketplace. And in the current state of healthcare as it is with needs that aren’t being met and we have on staff on the show a doctor named Irving Danish. He’s an emergency surgeon in Marblehead, Massachusetts. And not only is he the onset doctor who is helping to make sure that everything we’re performing is accurate, he’s also the doctor who is giving the writers their ideas for the emergency situations that come up on the show, so there’s a great synergy that happens because he’s the one who thought of these, who researched them and who offered them up to be written.
So, right there on set we have the best source ever. He’s also the best guy ever because if you’re suffering from something actual on set, whether it’s me getting vertigo from diving into a pool ten times in a row or Paulo having a headache, he’s right there. So, there are actual medical episodes that he’s taking care of while also giving us the brilliant fake ones.
And what would you say you and your character Hank have in common?
Feuerstein: That’s a great question. I think wish more than is actually true. But I would say the aspiration of Hank, the hope that he is living the best life he can for who he is; I share that with Hank. Hank is trying to do the most good for the most people where he can and given what happened to him back in Brooklyn, he has to make do with a new situation out in Long Island and as an actor, you’re always trying to find the best opportunities.
I certainly have, just like Hank, my own skeletons in the closet, as my manager would say, everything from a bad TV show here and there to a bad audition here and there. So the name of the show this Thursday night is “Mulligan,” which means, in golf terms, a do-over. And just like my character gets a do-over in Long Island, just like Henry Winkler’s character gets a do-over I feel that as an actor I’ve been given a do-over with Royal Pains to do it right.
And every aspect of the show feels like it was meant to be from guys I’m working with who I’ve know from high school or who were friends of mine that I met after college in L.A. It’s like a family of people that are interconnected from years and years before coming to set and now on set together we all seem to appreciate that we have something very rare and we don’t take it for granted. We pinch ourselves every day on that set that we get to do what we do and do it in the way that we get to do it.
My first question is, one of the great things about Royal Pains is the great cliffhangers that there have been after season one and then in the mid-season one. Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming cliffhanger at the end of season two?
Feuerstein: Laura, I can tell you so much about the cliffhanger. I could tell you everything, but I won’t because my executive producer would not be happy with me. But I can tell you that every single one of the dangling threads that was left open-ended at the end of this past season will be brought to fruition, will be carried out, will be answered in some way and then new fabulous, great, climactic questions will emerge.
First of all, we have the issue of whether our father, Eddie R. Lawson, will survive his heart attack. And then if he does survive his heart attack, what will happen given the fact that Boris has outed him as being an informant to the FBI. And, if he is an informant to the FBI, to save his own ass, vis-à-vis the law, what will happen with his legal troubles? Will he be going to jail? And, if he’s going to jail, will that be with us in his corner, Evan and me, or not?
Will we write him off as just a user and the deadbeat that we always knew he was? Then, on another front you have Evan R. Lawson, CFO, HankMed, and Evan is in a relationship with a rich Hamptonite named Paige, played Brooke D’Orsay. And I have to tell you the romance budding between the two of them carried all the way through to the end of this coming season, is one of the most delicious, adorable, poignant relationships I have seen on television and that’s not only because of the writing of it, but the playing of it. They have such special chemistry and you won’t be able to stop watching. You will want to know what happens next with the two of them.
Then, of course, there’s something all of our viewers are dying to know, will Divya and Raj tie the knot? Divya is in an arranged marriage. She’s of Indian descent, as you know, and she has been set up in what seems and feels like a merger with Raj. And they clearly are not, it’s not an in love relationship, though they may truly enjoy each other and respect each other, and we can see it throughout this coming half a season that’s about to start Thursday night that Divya’s heart is not necessarily in it, but maybe it will be and maybe there’s no hope for them. That’s another thread that we will answer.
And then, lastly, I, Hank Lawson, am a part of a love triangle between Jill Casey, played by Jill Flint and Emily Peck, played by Anastasia Griffith and there’s a moment—I think I’m giving away a little too much, but I love the moment so much I can’t help myself—where I walk in on Jill Casey and Emily Peck in bed together. That’s all I’ll say, but suffice to say it was a wonderful moment for not just an actor like me, but a guy like me.
Well, that was quite a teaser for the season finale.
Feuerstein: Thank you. I want everyone to print that exactly as it was, even if it’s 500 Web page.
Okay. Well, that touches my next question and actually, we’ve been bouncing around about it all day so far on this one, but when it comes to the relationships on a show I think that’s subtly what the show is really about. It’s not really about HankMed, it’s not really about the medical, what story lines, whatever. I think it’s always about the relationships. And there’s been a lot that the show has done so far to explore those, especially with the addition of Henry Winkler. Now, what relationships would you like to see explored next, perhaps in season three?
Feuerstein: I love every relationship in the show that has already been explored so much, it almost feels greedy to want more. But if I had to say from what I’m working with currently, it would be more and deeper of the same. So, I’d love to see me and my brother going at it in some conflictual way where perhaps one of us does something against the code of brothers, which I don’t know that that could ever happen on Royal Pains because there’s something about that bond we never want to question. But, if it did, what would happen between the two of us?
If there was a betrayal or an action taken that was questionable and, that did sort of happen with our dad. How could Evan let him back into our lives when I was very clear I wanted nothing to do with him, but then it turns out to be a great thing because we have our dad back and he really was trying, or was he, which is what we’ll get into this coming season?
But I love the relationship with our dad. I hope that just continues to have more colors. What will happen, if he does have to get in trouble with the law and go to jail down the road? Who knows? But, if he has to go away from us or take some trip that is an escape; whatever happens with him I’m fascinated to see how that will affect the dynamic between us.
What will happen with Divya? If she has to go away with Raj or go away to Europe without Raj, will she stay with HankMed? I don’t know, but I’d love to see that connection questioned and threatened, but then answered.
I’d love to see my dynamic with Boris sort of taken to the next level, whether it’s about his medical condition and how we treat it to some emergency situation where he and I have to actually go past the landlord/tenant bond, which we have already because one thread I forgot to mention is the one between Boris and Marissa, Dr. Caseras from Cuba, and that relationship has taken a nice turn, but in coming closer together a new wrinkle has emerged between them and that’s one that really brings on a lot of drama and depth for that relationship.
So, I mean my longwinded way of saying more of the same, deeper of the same and then I’m fascinated to see who the brilliant writers, led by Andrew Lenchewski and Michael Rauch, who they will come up with this coming season that will just add more wrinkles and more dimension to the show.
So, I was wondering what are the challenges you face in portraying Hank?
Feuerstein: The challenges I face in portraying Hank?
Yep. If there are any challenges.
Feuerstein: Nah, it’s nothin’, I phone it in. No, it’s a great role that there are many challenges. There are challenges in terms of the high stakes emotion that is called upon Hank every week, whether it’s for a patient or his brother or his father or Divya or Jill. I love the role because I get to be romantic, dramatic, comedic and this medical MacGyver. So, it’s thrilling for all those reasons.
But there are moments, in addition to just the acting of it and the emotional challenges of just acting really beautifully written scenes, the medical terminology; I’m thinking of things like glossopharyngeal nerve, I’m thinking of familial vasovagal syncope, all the various conditions and ailments that I have to pronounce correctly and have to do it under duress and the pressure of an emergency medical situation. That’s challenging in and of itself.
But all the challenges that come with this role are never challenges like taking a history test in high school. They’re the challenges you dream of having. When I’m walking Carl Schurz park, where I walk on the upper East Side learning my lines for hours on end, just trying to by osmosis shove them into my brain for the time they need to be there, I’m never not aware how lucky I am that I get this challenge every week to learn these beautiful lines, to tell these beautiful stories, as I play this dream role for an actor.
Oh, that’s wonderful. So, as a follow-up question, what has been your personal favorite episode or scene?
Feuerstein: I think my favorite scene, and I mean it’s just a moment in acting, but it was something in me that it evoked that I think was very personal was when I was sitting there with Henry Winkler, our father, talking about whether or not I could let him back into my life and he tries to explain to me that it was these hands that washed you, that took care of you, that played with you as a child. It was these feet that walked around carrying you and I sit there and I remember the moment because I was conjuring the same feelings of adolescent rage that I had as a kid and I say to him, “Was it those feet, are those the same feet that walked out on us?”
And I just love that I get to do that on a show that has so many other facets to it, light and comedic and romantic and that I get to do it on a network that touts itself as a Blue Sky Network where everyone is looking pretty darned good in clean and beautiful spaces and every episode is going to finish with a resolution that is incredibly satisfying to our viewership, but even in that context you get to go to a dark place and that was one of my favorite moments.
My favorite episodes, one of them was “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” from season one, the episode in which we were at a Hampton Classic type of horse show. I just thought it was beautifully shot and I loved every story in that one and I have to say this coming season, this premiere episode is definitely one of my favorites.
I’m really pleased with the premiere. I thought it was quite wonderful.
Feuerstein: Thank you.
There’s a lot of stuff set up here that tails in from last season, not the least of which is the situation with Eddie. And you’ve talked about it a bit, but I’m just wondering with Eddie recovering from surgery, or possibly recovering from surgery and with the potential of jail time, how does that affect the relationships between all three?
Feuerstein: Well, it affects the relationship between the three of us a lot because the one thing you didn’t mention in that complicated scenario that you drew is that we also know he was informing on Boris to the FBI, so first question is how much of it was just desperate saving his own ass, while really genuinely trying to repair the damage he did to us as kids and how much of it was the whole reason he came out there?
We don’t know and that’s why I think it’s so brilliant they cast Henry Winkler because he’s so sweet and so kind and loving as a person it just makes it that much more complicated and difficult to believe he ever has any sinister motives, though the facts may support the contrary.
But there’s also this ongoing issue throughout this coming season, who was right? Evan, who thought he had the best intentions or me, who thought he’s full of shit and he’s coming here to manipulate and find a way to make money and that question remains to some extent throughout and even through the end of this coming season, but I think the endearing part is that the writers found a way, despite the complications to bring us closer together so that you question his motives a little less and you believe more in the bond between brothers and father.
And it’s one thing I love about being on the show is being on the subway in Manhattan or being at an airport and fathers coming up to me saying, “I watch your show with my daughter, Dude, it’s awesome.” And mothers and daughters coming up to me and saying, “We watch every Thursday night. We love it and we watch it together as a family.” There’s nothing that warms my heart more because I used to love watching TV with my family and we have a nice message to give, which is people deserve a second chance, that there’s no stronger bond than family and I think we stay true to that.
Cool. On a lighter note, HankMed franchising, what’s the story there?
Feuerstein: HankMed, well, I’m going to offer my medical services as Mark Feuerstein in the coming months and just see how I do. I want to merchandise and get this brand out there on a real; no, I’m kidding. I’m kidding, sorry, everyone. Just joshing.
I think the first bit of merchandising was the HankMed bobble heads, which we threw out on the show and which they are selling. I can’t speak to whether or not they’re going like hot cakes, but I also think it was a brilliant kind of concept, not in terms of marketing for USA; I don’t know how they’re doing for the company as a whole, any of these novelty items that they sell.
But it’s a part the flash and the spin of my brother, Evan R. Lawson, CFO of HankMed, that he designs all this wacky merchandise and tries to get the name of HankMed out there and somehow, as you’re watching him print out water bottles and T-shirts and a lollipop that says HankMed on it you’re never forgetting the name HankMed and the brand HankMed and it indents that, it prints that on your mind as like this is our company, this is what we’re here to do in the Hamptons. And so, I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m answering your question.
I think that’s pretty good/
Feuerstein: Thank you.
My first question is when you first started the show up to now, how does your character still surprise you.
Feuerstein: That is a great question and I would expect nothing less from the Daily Actor. That’s actually, Lance, the challenge of what we do as a whole, is to surprise yourself and to allow a character who’s already had stories told about him and similar words put in his mouth over the course of 30 episodes to remain fresh and new.
The writers do most of that work. They are so good at changing the game and keeping it fresh, keeping it interesting. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have a writing staff that doesn’t phone it in, that hasn’t gotten bored with it. I can only expect in season three they’re going to up the stakes and up the game even more for our characters.
But, as the actor playing that character, you just try to find substitutions in your own life and the truth is your own life is never empty of high stake situations from me, being the father of three children and having a wife who I love very much and parents who I love to imagine scenarios where you might, in the case of our father, Eddie R. Lawson, might lose your father. Or, in the case of your brother might do damage that will be irreparable.
So, it’s all about getting creative in your own mind with the work of imagining scenarios that evoke emotions that help tell the story because often enough if we rely just on the words we’re okay because the words do it so often. But in situations where you’re just not feeling it, you have to find a way to, as you said, surprise yourself.
Yeah, perfect answer, wow. And then my second question is just in general, what’s your advice to actors?
Feuerstein: This is a line that I sometimes feel weird because it sounds so crass to say it, but it was something so bold of this producer who really didn’t want to help me said to me when I met with her to see about anything that she could do, and it was that there’s no one in the Mark Feuerstein business more than Mark Feuerstein.
And that is sort of a, I mean, I guess there’s something about that because you have to believe that if you have a manager and an agent and people who write for you and are rooting for you in your corner, they’re going to help you along the way, but I think the line is more about taking responsibility because if you do leave it to other people to make those phone calls on your behalf, if you don’t take the risk of reaching out.
I mean, when I got Royal Pains, I don’t want to bore you with a long story, but I’ll—
Feuerstein: I’ll keep it short. Basically it was a moment in my career where I was doing a show called Masters of Horror, which wasn’t my best work, let’s put it that way and I can’t say I loved that. It was fine, but I didn’t love the episode I did. And it was just a moment in time where my wife was about to have a baby, I wanted to work, earn a little money.
And the producer of that was a guy named Adam Goldworm who went to USC with a guy named Andrew Lenchewski, who I had met years earlier because his dad took out my wisdom teeth and told me I should meet with him. So, a year after shooting Masters of Horror I’m having lunch with Adam Goldworm, this producer who I just kind of became friends with, whether you call it networking or not, he was a new friend and he told me, by the way, Andrew is shooting this new pilot for USA. Isn’t that great?
And I said, yeah, that’s great. Give me your cell phone, I want to congratulate him. And I called Andrew right up and I said, “Andrew, first of all, I want to congratulate you on the fact that you’re making a pilot for USA and I heard it’s about a doctor to the rich and the not so rich in the Hamptons, so second, I want to congratulate you on the fact that I’m going to be starring in it.”
And it was pretty bold, but a month later, after jumping through a lot of hoops for Bonnie Hammer, the head of many networks now at NBC Universal, I was. And it’s the greatest story of my career to date.
Okay, my question is one of the things that’s being hinted at from the mid-season premiere is that Hank and Evan may be switching their stance when it comes to their father. How do you think this will continue to affect their relationship with their father and each other?
Feuerstein: I think… I have an older brother. He’s two and a half years older and he took a different path in life than I did. He went the route of my father and my uncles. He is a very successful lawyer at a big firm in Manhattan. He’s the head of the real estate department at Gibson Dunn, Eric Feuerstein. And I became an actor.
I’m the wacky younger brother who went out to Los Angeles to seek fame and fortune and I’m lucky enough to get to work and do what I love to do. But our take on our parents is always skewed differently and our relationship, a huge part of how we connect, is either making fun of our parents or the way in which we choose to honor our parents and, similarly, the way we in which we choose to love, make fun of and honor each other.
If you heard the toast I gave my brother at his wedding, at his 30th, his 40th birthday parties you would know that I am not afraid to cut to the core. I am not afraid to make fun of his very Evan-like shenanigans in life. But the fact that to me, Evan Lawson is more like my brother, my older brother, Eric and Hank, who is the older brother, is more like me the younger brother – and they’re characters, granted – but I believe there’s a fluidity to the dynamic between older and younger and sometimes you’re the younger one and in the case of Evan and Hank, that’s exactly right.
I may have been more the younger brother when I was so angry that I couldn’t forgive my dad for things he did 25 years ago and Evan was the more mature one in that particular case. In every other aspect of life, he’s the more immature one and so that balance, that dynamic, is, as I said, fluid and ever-changing on the show and I think that’s what keeps our audience guessing and keeps it real because that’s what happens between brothers and in a family.
So, can you tell us something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?
Feuerstein: I have an enormous tongue. There are times where I think I could have been a body builder if there was a class just for the tongue muscle, but that’s a story for a later day. What is something about me? I’m not that fascinating, to be honest, but I love meditating. There’s something that I can give you right off the top of my head.
I love… there’s a book by a guy named Jon Kabat-Zinn called Wherever You Go There You Are and it’s one of the most profound books I’ve ever read. It’s sort of like my new age meditative bible and though with three kids and a TV show to shoot, I don’t find the time to sit contemplatively for 20 minutes a day as often as I’d like, but I feel that if I could I might someday be remotely relaxed.
I just have a couple of quick questions, I guess. What is it that made you decide to be an actor? You said your family were lawyers and did that business. What was it about acting that made you decide to go your own way?
Feuerstein: My story is kind of unique, like everyone I guess thinks their own story is, and in high school if you had asked me what I was going to be I was going to be a lawyer like my dad and my other uncles, some of whom went to Harvard Law School and made a great living as lawyers in Manhattan.
I had been very involved in all the extracurricular activities that would get you into a good college; student politics, I was captain of [the] football and wrestling teams. I did well enough in school to get into a good school, Princeton. And then I got there and I was doing all these extracurricular activities again, thinking that when you’re apply to Harvard Law School they care if you were able to organize a dance for the class of ’93, which, of course, they don’t give a shit about.
So, at one point in my freshman year at Princeton I scrapped everything. I said, what am I doing? I don’t genuinely care about a lot of this and I had fun in modern drama class in 11th grade reading scenes from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Chekov plays, so I auditioned for this play on a whim.
I was on my way to football practice on the lightweight football team and I didn’t get the first part I auditioned for, but I did get the next part, a play by Lyle Kessler, a Philadelphia playwright, called “Orphans” and it was actually, I mean the crazy synergy of life, the luck, that I was acting with a guy names Josh Klausner, who ended up writing the story for the movie Date Night and is a very talented writer and director now.
And my next director was Eugene Jarecki, brother of Andrew Jarecki, who did Capturing the Freidmans and Eugene, who he himself directed Why We Fight and a bunch of fascinating documentaries himself, and I just happened into the group of people who I thought were maybe the coolest on the planet and wanted to be a little more like them and the rush of being on stage and making people laugh and making people cry and something about my psychosis as a second child, younger sibling, wanting attention combined and, bam, an actor is born.
I got on the call late, so I hoped this wasn’t asked already, but basically, obviously, there are a few different dimensions to the Hank character. Certainly it’s good-hearted, very straight ahead thinking, but there’s a little bit of sarcasm in there as well and so it comes to mind when I was thinking about your appearance on WB Raw, actually where there’s certainly that expectation that you’re not just going to be Mark Feuerstein the actor, but also kind of epitomizing the character that people expect from you.
What do you look to as the most defining character trait? What is the most important characteristic that you really strive to hit when you are kind of conveying Hank, not just on the show, but also yourself and different media appearances, different movies or TV that you do?
Feuerstein: That’s a really interesting question, Brian, really interesting. And I have to say, I was on the plane flying back to New York with some of the actors who were at the Golden Globe Awards and one thing they shared they didn’t know how to react to Ricky Gervais because if they laughed it might make them look like they thought it was funny and they wouldn’t know how to control the media frenzy if they thought something truly offensive that he said was funny, but they didn’t want to take too stern a position because a) it wasn’t how they felt, they probably thought it was pretty funny and b) they’re not on the right wing of political correctness themselves.
So, how do we represent ourselves is a very interesting question and I’ve never taken a class on that; I don’t know how media experts would ask you to be or tell you to be. There are two aspects; one is how you present yourself, me, Mark Feuerstein when I’m doing an interview like this or an interview like the Today Show this morning or some other talk show or some nighttime talk show like the Tonight Show; each one is its own beast, each one has its own demographic and its own audience and you try to think of how to present yourself according to that audience, but you’re also trying to always be you and I mean Anthony Hopkins said on the Tonight Show once that the greatest challenge in acting – and I believe the greatest challenge in life – is to just be relaxed, in addition to doing the right thing and all the challenges that life can present, to be relaxed, to be calm.
And for me it’s an ongoing battle, just to stay in my own skin with my head on my shoulders and take a breath and not only appreciate where I am, but just literally to be where I am, going back to that book, Wherever You Go There You Are; you want to be present for your life.
So, when I was on Raw hosting I mean I really was having the time of my life. If I looked like a dandy from some musical film from the 50s, some Fred Astaire movie, like Donald O’Connor or something, that was just a fact of my being truly happy dancing down the red carpet into the ring with the big show, having been a wrestler in high school, it was a dream come to true to host Raw.
Could I have done it a little more cool and kept it a little more close to the vest? Sure, but that’s just not how I do it. I just go with whatever the emotion is of the moment and it’s gotten me to where I am and I don’t hope to change that. I am who I am and to the extent that it doesn’t offend anyone, I hope to remain that.
You also worked with WB on Knucklehead, so what’s it been like working with that organization just in general?
Feuerstein: That organization is like the Pentagon of corporate entertainment endeavors. They are so organized. Vince McMahon runs a tight ship. They know their business. Big Show was the first one on the set of Knucklehead to admit he doesn’t know about acting, he wants to learn from me. I gave him as much advice as I could.
He called me one day, having been broken down by a scene where he breaks down and cries. He couldn’t stop the emotions from flowing and I was there to advise him and help him and he was like an innocent child. But you step into the ring with that man and it’s like step aside, take a seat, take a knee, I’m going to tell you how it’s going to go. And he knows his business and it goes that way up the food chain to Vince McMahon, who is sitting like the Wizard of Oz in the back of the booth behind the stage calling every shot that goes on.
In that Raw show that I did, in every Raw and Slamfest or whatever the names are for all the different shows, the Wrestlemanias, he is the man. And it was fascinating to watch it and I think the business model they set up for making movies is fascinating. They’re sort of running like a TV show operation.
They have the same crew, same soundstages in New Orleans, where they get a big tax break, and they’re hoping to finish, and I believe they will, with the help of their leading man Mike Pavone out there, eight movies over the course of maybe three or four years for some number of like $60 million, $70 million, who knows, and I think they’re probably doing okay with DVD sales and stuff that it continues to be profitable, but I really have no idea how it’s doing.
I just think it’s interesting that wherever he goes he writes his own book on how to do it, that’s Vince McMahon. He’s a pioneer. He took over the entire wrestling business and has a monopoly on it, pretty much, and it’s just sort of a fascinating business example of how to run the show.
What have you learned, like from the medical aspect of the show?
Feuerstein: I have learned so much that I will never do; how to perform an impromptu tracheotomy, how to perform surgeries on the beach, things I will never attempt in my own life, but every condition, whether it involves a particular organ or a particular muscle disease presents its own challenges in terms of how to treat them and there’s one thing I said to a patient, it was about a character played by Will Chase and it may have been the finale episode where we also had John Legend as an amazing guest star who is singing a great beautiful song called “Shine” at this huge dinner party.
But in that episode I’m talking to Jill, who is taken with this character played by Will Chase, a character named Ben, and I say, “The guy’s a huge advocate for multiple sclerosis and he takes responsibility for his own healthcare, yeah, not a lot bad can be said about the guy,” and I think that’s the most significant message that Hank brings to the table in the show, Royal Pains, as a whole.
It’s about taking responsibility for your own healthcare. You can complain about the healthcare system. You can hire a concierge doctor, but as my advice would be to an actor, similarly with your own health, there’s no one in the taking care of your own health business who is going to do as good a job as you. So, take responsibility, get those check-ups from your doctor. I recently went and got all the blood work done and went to see my physician.
You can live in ignominy, if that’s a word, in ignorance about your own health and hope that you’re doing good because you just feel okay, or you can even not feel okay and not get it checked out, but I think Hank Lawson stands for getting it checked out, taking responsibility and not leaving it to the last minute when everything goes awry.