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This article, the second part of my account of my visit to the Royal Pains set, is going to end with an interview with one of the show's stars, Paulo Costanzo. The interview that I and a group of journalists did with him was so loud, stream-of-consciousness weird and hilarious, that I really pity the poor person who transcribed it for me. I'm really not sure you'll be able to understand it. But it had to be included.
So to ease you into things a little, I figured I'd start with a description of the scene I saw them filming when visiting the set in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (For the first part of my set visit story, go here). Though the show is set in the beachside Hamptons, the set is based in industrial Greenpoint, where they've successfully recreated both a beachfront home and the hospital that employs Jill (Jill Flint), the doctor and love interest of the main character, concierge doctor Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein).
That day they were working on the hospital set, with experienced TV director Don Scardino (pictured at left; he's worked on 30 Rock and Law & Order) handling things behind the camera. I was really too busy trying not to geek out and ask Scardino what it was like directing the 'Kidney Now!" benefit song scene on the season finale of 30 Rock, but I managed to pay attention to the action too, which found Hank visiting an old man patient in the hospital and Evan (Paulo Costanzo), Hank's brother, goofing around with the man's grandfather.
In the pilot of Royal Pains we see Hank starting his career as a concierge doctor to the rich and famous denizens of the Hamptons, but we know all along that his heart lies in helping the less-fortunate, such as the patients at the Hamptons hospital. Seeing the scene that was being filmed that day, it seems that Hank is spending more time in the hospital than the pilot would have suggested. And in interviews with the show's producers and actors, we were told that each episode will find Hank tending to a snobby rich person as well as someone less well-off.
But other than the setting, the tone was pretty much exactly what we had been led to expect after watching the pilot-- funny and warm, but not afraid to delve into drama when needed. I won't tell you what happened in the scene-- what fun would that be?-- but I promise it suggests a lot of different directions that My Life in Ruins can go between its entertaining pilot and the episode five, which we saw them film.
So now, on to the interviews! First up is Paolo Costanzo, who was the first and by far the most energetic interview of the day. You need to know before you read it-- and you'll probably get this from the pictures-- that he and star Mark Feuerstein, who plays his brother, look a lot alike. Trust me, this knowledge will come in handy later. After Paolo's interview I've also included our chat with Reshma Shetty, who plays Divya, Hank's physician's assistant and also, as you'll learn, a potential love interest for Evan. We'll have more of the Royal Pains interviews tomorrow as we wrap up our set visit coverage. The show debuts on USA tomorrow night at 10.
Can you start by telling us about your character?
I play Evan Lawson, who is an accountant, who’s a very colorful, kind of a charming, charismatic, adventurous, slightly over the top brother to Hank Lawson, who kind of likes to take life by the horns. And he’s very opportunistic, but with a good heart. And manages to stick his foot in his mouth most of his life, but somehow also manages to stumble upon success throughout the course of the show.
Since the character is so over the top, do you have to consciously tone it down so the character isn't too obnoxious or unreal?
I mean, the beauty of this show [is that] we don’t really get too serious a lot of the time. Especially in a medical show, you have to be really be afraid that someone’s going to die and whatnot. But specifically my character gets more of the physical comedy and more of, like, the comic relief. But yeah, I try not to actually, like, scream my lines and do somersaults and cartwheels in the middle of things.
Is there resentment between the two brothers, since Hank has obviously always been the golden son? Or is it more of a rivalry?
I don’t think it’s resentment. I mean, we have a pretty healthy brotherly relationship. There’s definitely competition. I don’t know about necessarily “resentment.” But yeah, there’s, like, that healthy sense of “he is the golden boy and I’m always the accountant,” which is also why this opportunity to take him to the Hamptons and, you know, push him to do this concierge doctor thing is Evan’s chance to shine and actually be important on an equal level as Hank, or so he’d like to think.
So it’s as much a fish out of water story for Evan as it is for Hank?
Yes, though Evan just tries to cover it all the time and fails miserably, as you will see.
How has it been filming in the Hamptons?
You know, I grew up as a fairly poor kid in Toronto, Canada. I don’t think I owned any new clothes until I was, like, 15 or something. They were all second-hand and forged from paper.
But, you know, I’ve watched MTV Cribs a couple times, like, it’s pretty crazy. Like things are made of marble and waterfalls in their living rooms. But the other day, we [were filming, and] in the script it said, like, you know, “they show up at a mansion and there’s, like, a hot tub in the basement.” And I’m like, okay, a hot tub in the basement, that’s not so crazy.
But we get there and Andrew Lenchewski, the writer and creator of the show is like, “Hey Paulo, have you seen the [set] in the basement yet?” I was like, “No, why, is it— ?” “Trust me, come here. He’ll be back.” And I was like, “All right.” We go downstairs. We walk into a bar that looks as if I’m walking down, like, 6th Street and I walk into a bar. I’m like, “Whoa, this is kind of weird, crazy.” And he’s like, “Yeah, look to your right.” And I look to my right, and there are 10-foot in diameter giant, like, pillars, like this big, made of plexiglass from floor to ceiling, with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tropical fish with, like, coral in the middle of it. And there’s fish— and there’s four of them. And they’re interconnected by these— this is in his house.
There were 60-inch plasmas on every single wall. There’s like a tanning lamp with two, like, really expensive looking, like, leather chairs, you know, for tanning. And this guy shows up out of nowhere and he’s like, “Hey man, how ya doin’ man?” I’m like, “I’m not bad, what’s going on?” He said, “Yeah, I take care of the house.” I’m like, “Really? Well this is crazy.” “Yeah man, I just got out of my scuba gear, man. I had to clean the tanks.” It was big enough to fit a scuba diver in there.
So we walk in, there’s a full pool inside. The hot tub’s there. There’s another 60-inch in the pool area. So I’m like all— my mind is blown. I’m like, “This is insane.” Like, I’ve never seen anything like this on TV or anywhere, like, this is insane. And then I ask someone, I was like, “So this guy lives here?” He’s like, “No, no, this is, like, he uses it about three times a year. This is, like, his tertiary house.” And I’m like, “I don’t even know anybody who uses the word “tertiary” let alone, like, has a “tertiary house.”
Do you see anything happening between Evan and the physician's assistant, Divya?
Well the way that I sum Evan and Divya’s relationship up is that we’re kind of like Han Solo and Princess Leia, in that she’s kind of like royalty, and I’m kind of the scoundrel. And though we hate each other and constantly are at odds, you know what happened with them.
How is it different filming in the Hamptons as opposed to L.A?
I don’t want to diss [L.A.], it’s my home. I have to go back there. I love L.A. I’m an east coaster, you know, I’m brought up in Toronto where it’s very much like, kind of a miniature New York in that there’s a subway and you’re surrounded by people a lot and, you know, you bump into people and you have interactions and you communicate and la la la.
Whereas in L.A., you wake up going, “Ahhhh.” In your car, in your car, in your car, in your car. At your friend’s house. “Hey, I see— that’s one person.” And I’m at the, you know, the gas station. It’s like, “Oh there’s a guy, he’s about 10 feet away.” And back in your car, in your car. And you get home, it’s like, “Oh, there’s my girl.” And you’re asleep. And literally, that’s three people that you’ve been in contact with in an entire day.
We heard your character was originally supposed to be Hank's friend, not his brother.
So yes, okay. So I went in originally for the show, and I just walked in, and I did it, walked out. They’re like, “Great, we want to bring you back for a chemistry read with the guy who got the lead part.” I’m like, “Okay, cool. All right, great.”
I walk in, and I look at Mark. And, as a man who doesn’t really hold my subtext in very much, I was just like, “So, you’re me, and I’m you?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s kind of weird.” I’m like, “I feel that if you and I got too close together, our Jew-fros would actually magnetize and go shooooomp, and like, that would be a problem in filming. And he goes, “I know. Let’s try it.” And Mark and I went— after a second of meeting, and we literally went shooooomp, “Yeah, this is going to be a problem, guys.” And then thus began, like, Mark and I’s relationship as people. But when it came to the screen test, walking in was certain. I’m like, “I better really kill this, because if I don’t, like, I know they’re going to have to rewrite it.”
So, like, not only did I have to be really good, but I had to know that I was, like, so good that they’d have to rewrite the entire show. When I walked out, I was like, “All right, well that’s that. I’m not going to— ” you know. And then I got the call. They’re like, “Guess what?” I’m like, “You’re going to rewrite the show, he’s my brother?” And he’s like, “Yeah, how did you know that?” I’m like, “I don’t know, wild guess.” Which, incidentally, or which ultimately, has actually changed the entire course of the show.
And now the entire show’s crux, really, is our relationship as brothers. And it’s added an entirely— I mean, to me, it’s such a blessing for me, obviously. But I think it’s really been a blessing to the whole show, because now you’ve got all this backstory that’s unearthing itself slowly. And we don’t know what happened with their parents, and we don’t know what happened with their childhoods.
So you and Mark had a really tough time tapping into that brotherly chemistry, huh?
No, we instantly, we inst— we have a very brotherly relationship. It’s really hilarious. We bicker like brothers, we have, like, moments of love and then moments of, like, “Well you do whatever you want.” “Well I’ll do whatever—p” “Well, fine.” “Okay, fine.” “Well, fine.” “Okay.” “I love you.” “Well I hate you, but I also love you too.” “Okay, fine, then let’s just do this.”
What's your favorite scene that you've shot?
Yesterday I got to fly in a helicopter, that was pretty cool. I actually get to be in a helicopter. I didn’t have to be, like, it was a scene where we all fly in a helicopter. But this was a wider shot where the thing actually takes off. And Don Scardino, who directs, like, the bulk of 30 Rock episodes is, like, “Hey Paulo, you wanna go in the helicopter?” I’m like, “Do I wanna go in the heli— yes!” He’s like, “Go on.” I’m like— I ran in there, and they got the engine started up. And Carol Flint, who’s the writer of this episode, she worked on China Beach years ago, so she’s like, “I’ve been in tons of choppers. It’ll just be fun, a real bonding experience.” I’m like, “Okay, cool.” My first time in a chopper. I am horrified of heights, by the way. So I’m, like, looking out the window and it’s cool. And then they start to lift up, I’m like “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Okay, oh, God, oh.” And she— I don’t remember it, but she says I turned into, like, a little girl.
And all he did was take off. And then he had to turn. So I think this guy knew it was my first time and he was like, “Yeah, I’m going to impress the actor.” Schwoooo! And it was literally like— it was, like, 90 degrees. We were, like, ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga, and I was just— it was too much for me. I was, like, shaking. It was like, “Ahh, no, no!” When we got to the ground I was like, “Okay, great.” And I had post-traumatic stress for about five hours.
But I’m glad I did it, and it’s another one of those things that I can call my mom and say, “Hey, guess what mom? Remember the aquarium tanks? Yeah, and today I flew in a helicopter.” Which is also a highlight of my day, is calling my mom and telling her the escapades that [related] to that day.
Why don't you just start off telling us about your character?
I play Divya Katdare. I am Hank's physician assistant. I'm a Hamptonite, so I've lived in the Hamptons I think most—you know, I go out there for most of my life. I have an idea for a business, and I hear about him. I hear his endeavors, his two saves, and I basically go to a motel room and I'm basically like, "Let's go. I'm here. I have all the stuff. Let's make this happen." And I'm kind of the instigator of getting him going on it. And then basically we have wonderful adventures following.
So was your character always inclined towards the medical field?
Story-wise, I think that she has a business degree. She's an awfully smart, put-together lady, and I think that she saw a little—an area, a niche that needed to be filled, so she basically said, "All right, you know what? I'll get a two-years Master's degree as a physician's assistant because I can." And I went and I did that, and then found him. She's an over-achiever, and that's hard to play sometimes, but she's an over-achiever and she basically needed to find someone to help her, and Hank's the one.
In the pilot we see Divya have a flustered conversation with her parents on the phone. Are we going to learn more about that relationship?
It was funny because they asked me to come up with something, and I'm Indian, obviously, but I don't speak Hindi. And so I called my mom, and I was like, "Okay, Mom, they want me to come up with something. Can you tell me what the something is?" And in [the episode], my parents don't know what I do, so they're telling me to come home. And I'm supposed to go to a polo match, and I'm just saying, "Look, you told me this 60 times. I heard you. I heard you. Bye." And, you know, she doesn't know what I'm doing, and it's kind of her cover-up story that we'll delve into later on.
In your bio on the website, it says Divya's parents don't think a woman of her status should be working.
Yeah, I think there's a lot there. I think that there's so many levels of what is appropriate for an Indian woman to do. What is appropriate for someone who's wealthy who just needs to have a husband. Does she really need to work? Lots of us have stories like that, you know, that we have something else on the side, but this is what we really want. And she pushes for it, and she's in a position that she can. But yet she can't share it with her parents.
I mean, my parents are amazing, but when I was like, "Well, I'm going to be an actress," and they're all doctors, that wasn't the best and easiest thing to do. I'm sure that I probably went through a year period when I wasn't telling them exactly what I was doing. But that's going to evolve.
So do you get in on the show's medical action?
Oh, absolutely. And I do a lot of stuff to show Hank that I know, you know. And I think it's funny because I think the first episode after they gave me all this medical stuff, I did it I think pretty well. And then so the next episode they came up and they were like, "Hey, can you say this?" And in the first script, there was only two lines, and the next script there was, like, six, and all these horrific words in them. And I was like, "Do you understand that I'm not a doctor?" But they're like, "No, no, you can do it." So yes, I do a lot of them.
And it's really fun. We get to work with Dr. Irv, and he, like, shows us the procedures and stuff that—I went for undergrad for pre-med, and so I did, I did go to cadavers and I did follow doctors and stuff, so I'd seen that stuff before.
So you tricked your parents into thinking you were going to become a doctor. You were pre-med.
I was totally set. Like, I really was set. Everybody in my family are doctors. There was not a woman doctor yet, and I had the grades and all that kind of stuff, but yeah, it's very funny. Other stuff happened, and here we are. Here we are playing kind of a doctor.
Paulo was telling us that he thinks that Divya and Evan have great chemistry. They're sort of fighting like dogs, but there are sparks. Do you see something developing with the character possibly?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it’s easy, he's so funny and he's very easy to improv off. But I think I could hold my own a little bit with him. We get along obviously as people, so it's very easy to work with someone who you already feel that you could, you know, you have chemistry with. The characters are very feisty together, as you'll see. She's a straight talker. She's the one, "Let's get this done, A, B, C, D." And he's just like, "Well, I think the Z is cool, and T could be really cool here, too." And I'm like, "No. Like, we just need to get this done." But I think that plays off really well.
How's the rapport between you and Paulo and Mark?
All three of us, which was amazingly surprising to me and makes it so much easier, complement each other. Because he's crazy. Evan's insane. If you didn't know who I was talking about. And Mark is just, you know, he's really funny but, like, he's, like, very good at just keeping calm and straight, you know, down to earth. And I kind of am the dah-dah-dah, let's get this together. And, "God, you're so annoying," and, "What do you need me to do?" And it just—it fits. It makes sense.
Hank might actually even make sense, as cheesy as that sounds. We actually make sense. And that's cool. It's not work. Which is nice. Which is really nice. You're not, "I do like you. I do like you. They're paying me to like you. They're paying me to like you." No, it's very easy.
You've said that you wanted to play Divya because she wasn't really an Indian stereotype. Do you see that growing as you continue to play her?
Absolutely. You know, we went through a period of time when if you were of Asian descent, you would play a terrorist or you would play, you know, like, the 7-Eleven guy or you would play that. And then really watch television now. You know, like, you have Sendhil who's on Heroes. Then you have—I can't believe I forgot her name, but the girl on ER, you know, who's smart and quirky and fun. And, you know, on The L Word, the lady who plays the Latino girl is Indian, too, you know.
And it's starting that it doesn't matter. It's just that our culture's part of who we are, so we can show people a little bit of that. But we're also just us, and I think that's the cool part. Basically [Divya] is interesting because she is a really strong woman, and I do not necessarily have to be Indian to play her, you know. The Indian part is there, but I don't have to be Indian to be the PA to Hank. She happens to be, so it adds, like, a little bit of spice. It's something different. But that's cool. It's not that, you know, I am, you know, the 7-Eleven girl. I've never played a 7-Eleven person—so yeah, I think that's cool.