Hollywood has never seemed to figure out how to use
Different producers have seen potential stardom in the
handsome, funny and likeable actor, however the series they have hired
him for have not always been quite worthy of his talents.
He has had starring roles in the short-lived sitcoms
Good Morning Miami, Fired Up and Caroline in the City.
Feuerstein has also done fine dramatic work in recurring roles in the
critical favorites The West Wing and Once and Again Ė
however he was not the main focus of either show. He has played
supporting roles in a slew of movies, including In Her Shoes,
Abandon, Rules of Engagement and What Women Want.
It looks like the studios may have finally found the
perfect starring role for Feuerstein, as a Brooklyn trauma doctor who
becomes a fish out of water as a concierge doctor in the USA
Network series Royal Pains. He plays Dr. Hank Lawson, a surgeon
who finds himself blackballed from his hospital when he allows a major
benefactor to die while saving a street kid. His fast-talking brother
(played by Paulo Costanzo) talks him into a weekend vacation in the rich
beach vacation spot, the Hamptons, and finally pulls him out his
When Dr. Lawson saves a modelís life at a party, a
mysterious rich man (Campbell Scott) offers him a place to live and a
gig treating the rich and famous. At first, Lawson resists, but
eventually he realizes that he can use the money he makes to help the
less fortunate workers on the island.
A week before the showís debut, Feuerstein did a conference
call with us and several other websites to discuss the new series, life
in the Hamptons and his surprisingly strong fan base in both the gay and
the Jewish bubbe communities.
What made you want to be a part of the show?
Well, first of all, I grew up in New York City, going to
first a public school, then a private school. When I got to the private
school in Manhattan, I learned of what we called ďThe Promised Land,Ē
which are the Hamptons. Iíve always had an affinity for the Hamptons.
I think it is one of the most romantic, beautiful, pristine, exclusive,
in a private and kind of meditative way, places on earth. When I heard
about a show which was about a doctor set in the Hamptons, I jumped at
it. Then I found out it was my friend, Andrew Lenchewski, who had
written the script. Then I found out that the role of Hank Lawson was a
guy who was a dramatic, comedic, and romantic lead with all this
dimension and everything that a good cable show has to offer. And it
was on USA, the number one cable network Ė which supports its shows
rather than makes them crazy, as they do sometimes at the networks Ė and
I just decided that this was just my new vision quest and I had to have
it. A month later, after a relatively rigorous audition process, I got
it, and I was in heaven and I still am.
about the role do you find challenging?
Well, Hank is a complicated guy, because as a child his
father lost all the familyís money in the stock market, and then you
find him at the beginning of the pilot getting fired for not bending
over backwards and risking a neighborhood kidís life to save a rich
guy. He has a very tenuous and conflictual relationship to money, and
there he is being asked to take care of people with a lot of it. I love
the inner conflict just built into the situation, but I also think he is
just a good guy at heart, whose heart is in the right place, who wants
to do good and make good on his Hippocratic Oath to take care of
people. But also heís a good brother.
What have you liked about working with Paulo
Paulo Costanzo is insane, and I love every part of his
insanity. He is someone with no filter, whatever is appearing in his
brain will come out of his mouth. I love that about him and I love the
way that translates into his portrayal of Evan Lawson. Evan Lawson as a
character is someone who is sort of on some level the opposite of Hank.
He doesnít think about anything before he does it. He loves money. He
loves the good life. He is sort of living the Dionysian fantasy, and we
have put him the perfect place to live it out. Paulo Costanzo only is
perfect to play a part like that, because he is Dionysus himself.
How does Royal Pains fit into USA
Networkís hit lineup of character-driven dramedies, and what makes this
show and your character appropriate additions?
Well, it could not be a more perfect network to have
Royal Pains on it. Iíll begin by telling you that Iíve been on my
share of network dramas and comedies, and the problem sometimes in a
network is they have a single-minded focus on making the show true to
whatever genre it is. If youíre on a drama, it better be procedural.
It better fulfill all the demands of a procedural show, and you better
keep those episodes independent, so that if Iím watching the show in
seven years as itís syndicated on some other cable network, I donít have
to know what happened before or after the episode. Everything is meant
to support the procedure. If youíre on a comedy, everything has to be
funny and wacky and zany. Somehow USA has found the perfect marriage of
procedural drama and comedy, and they have it in Psych, they have
it in Burn Notice, they have it in Monk, they have it in
In Plain Sight. Every show manages to somehow blend comedy and
drama and tell a story that might be slightly serialized, so that you do
have to tune in every week to see, say in our case, the relationship
between me and my landlord, Boris, [the] relationship with me and Jill,
the romantic relationship that Iím involved in, where weíre at with
those. But at the same time every week if you tune in, youíll watch a
medical drama, a medical story told from beginning to middle to end, and
it will also satisfy all the demands of a procedure, while giving you
all this character, all this story, all this nuance and comedy along the
What do viewers need to know about your
character, Dr. Hank Lawson, that might not be so obvious from the
Youíre saying what characteristics are there in the
character of Hank that might not be so obvious?
Yes, in the premiere.
What you donít get to learn in the premiere, which frankly
Hank doesnít know, is what the heck heís doing there in the Hamptons.
You know he meets a girl he kind of likes, maybe loves, but beyond that,
he was meant to be an emergency surgeon in a hospital at a good job in
Brooklyn, and he lost it, but why wouldnít he just go to another big
city and find another job as an emergency room. Well, he has landed in
the Hamptons, and he is going to stay here to see what it holds for
him. He has taken a turn in his life, where heís decided heís going to
be more impetuous, less planned out, because the plan he had of the
perfect life didnít work out. So really every week weíre figuring along
with Hank what heís doing there. In episode three, it turns out that
there are all these people who are not rich who have been left behind by
the medical care system. He and his love interest, Jill, end up
becoming like a Bonnie and Clyde type of team, where thereís this pile
of papers of people who all have lost their medical coverage, their
COBRAís have run out, their Blue Cross/Blue Shield premium has gotten
too expensive. I steal some of those papers from Jill and decide to go
find these people. I find a guy who works on the docks in Montauk, and
he has hepatitis C, and I decide heís going to be my patient and Iím
going to take care of him, even though the system wonít. At the end of
the episode, Jill calls me the ďRobin Hood of medicine,Ē because I steal
from the rich and give to the poor. When that phrase came out, which
was actually the result of last-minute rewrites between Michael Rauch,
our executive producer, and Don Scardino, our director, but when that
phrase was born I said to myself, okay, now I have some sense of what
Hank is doing there. Heís going to help use the system out there, all
the money out there, to help all the people who donít have it.
Hank seems like a very cool, nice guy. I was
wondering, is there anything about him that you did not like or that you
would like to change?
Wow. First of all, in television oftentimes the character
that youíre seeing portrayed is not so far from the people who are
playing them. In other cases, thatís not so true, especially in the
case of serial killers. In the case of Hank Lawson, I wish I were as
noble and altruistic as he is, but thereís definitely things about who I
am that I try to bring to the table. Off hand, my answer is no, thereís
nothing that I donít like about Hank Lawson, because heís me and heís
perfect. I will say that Hank might fall prey to the tendency to think
too much, to overanalyze a situation. There are many situations where
professionally he doesnít think at all. He just goes with his gut, and
it works out for him. But there are moments in his romantic life and
moments with his brother where he has a tendency to be either too good
or too thought out and might possibly forego certain experiences in his
life because heís trying to do the right thing or plan too much, so that
could be one thing that he could work on.
I also wanted to know, back in the day when you
were a young bachelor; did your apartment ever smell like a moose mixed
with Chinese food?
All the time. It was hard, because at the time I was in
fact a moose hunter, and I let all the carcasses just sort of lie there,
then I would pour the beer on all of it, so thatís how it got that
smell. But Iíve since changed my ways and now itís just elk.
Oh, gosh. Iím laughing over that image.
Thank you. Sorry to put that in your brain. I wish I had
a switch or a vacuum to take it out, but you know, it happens.
Well, you know, that sense of humor is something
that I saw watching the pilot episode between you and Paulo as Hank and
Evan. Can you talk to us a little bit about the relationship between
these two brothers and how thatís going to unfold?
I have an older brother myself, and I think the
relationship between Evan and Hank is very similar to my own real
relationship with my brother. I mean, the beauty of brotherhood,
brothers having several different people representing a generation of a
family, is that each member represents a different point of view. Evan
is the one that, we both watched our father lose his shirt in the stock
market, but what you bring away from that depends on who you are. My
younger brother watched that and said, ďWell, if my father got lost in
the shuffle, Iím going to make the money that he never made. Iím going
to figure out a way to live the good life that he was never able to
live.Ē Thatís a perfectly valid way to approach it, and a perfectly
valid response. Hank watches what happened and says, ďYou know what, my
father put too much premium on money. It was superficial, and it was
fleeting. Screw that. Money is not the be-all and end-all. Itís about
taking care of people and living a somewhat stable existence.Ē Thatís
exactly the life he was trying to build for himself before he lost his
job and his fiancťe and all of it went to hell in a hand basket. So, I
think the relationship between me and my brother is the yin and the yang
of life, and as a result of that we have a lot of conflict, but at the
end of the day, we have more love and thatís what keeps us together.
Well, thatís going to be a lot of fun to watch,
and especially I think in this setting, whereas you said earlier, Evan
is something of a Dionysus individual. So, is he just going to flourish
here? Is he ever going to go back to his accounting practice?
Well, first of all, you will learn in an episode, maybe the
fourth episode, you will learn something about why he left his practice.
It may have something to do with certain dealings on his part that were
not entirely kosher. Thatís one part of the backstory that comes out in
episode four, and it makes one believe that he might never return to
being a CPA, and why heís far more dependent on HankMed than maybe I am.
But you will also watch him flourish in the Hamptons, because this
is his Promised Land. Itís where everyone has the thing that he
fantasizes about most: money and nice cars and nice clothing and
beautiful women. He is just in heaven and heís making every moment
count and loving life. Itís great to watch, because Pauloís fabulous
and the enthusiasm and giddy joy he gets out of all these rich houses
and beautiful cars and beautiful women, is just a joy to watch. You
always want to see someone appreciating all the artifice of the world
while Iím trying to get in there and bring some substance to the table.
When I was talking with Andy and Michael last
week I noticed in the pilot that itís really structured oddly. You love
the guy right off the bat, Iím talking about Hank here, for doing the
right thing, and then thereís that epic self-pity montage that kind of
reaches a point where you could hate him, but then he rebounds. What
Iíd like to know is, going into that, how do you prepare and how do you
work it so that you remain sympathetic to the audience, even though itís
really pushing the edge like that?
Thatís a very well crafted question, and I appreciate it.
Thank you. First of all, itís the pilot that determines how the
character handles his actions and his choices after he makes certain
decisions. In the playing of it, I think at that moment in time
self-pity is not necessarily appealing, but the humor can make it
slightly more so. For me, like when thereís the moment where Iím
sitting by the table, ice cream is dripping off my chin and Iím watching
the movie Mask. In the middle of my depressed [state]Ö the odd
kiss between Eric Stoltz and Laura Dern, where sheís trying to kiss him
through his weird catcher-mask face, kind of look at them and though Iím
sitting there wallowing in my own pity, itís kind of haunting to me that
Iím noticing that. I love that little montage just for that moment.
Then you watch a guy, at least by not protesting, just agree to go out
to the Hamptons and have a good time, and then suddenly heís back in
action, saving the model who drops on the floor at Borisí party. Youíre
watching a guy whoís basically, heís a human being, you know, he loses
his dream job and his dream fiancťe and suddenly has to realize that his
dreams are not all they were cracked up to be. I feel like heís
entitled to a moment of depression, but he quickly bounces back and then
kind of goes with his gut and I hope audiences will sympathize with that
and appreciate that.
The showís other major coup, as far as Iím
concerned, besides getting you to play Hank is having Campbell Scott
want to play Boris, who is a very mysterious character. Iím just
wondering what kind of a relationship builds between Hank and Boris, and
how much fun is it to work with Campbell Scott?
I am so glad you asked that question, because I love
Campbell Scott. Before we did the show I only loved him as an actor,
and really admired his work; now I love him as a person. Itís a dream
to work with him, not just because heís so professional and he shows up
and he is like beyond perfection on the first take and then the second
one is even more brilliant than the last, but also because nobody else
could perform this very odd role of a German baron named Boris in the
Hamptons. Somehow in his person and in his delivery every line comes
out in the most nuanced, unique, original way. Paulo and I, who are
already living the male fantasy in the show, are living out the actor
fantasy when we get to perform with Campbell, because any actor would
dream to do a scene with Campbell Scott. He is just one of the best
actors we have. When he says a word, like my name, ďI have plans for
you, Hank,Ē or when we are talking about the scene where he has a shark
in his basement, thatís all Iíll say for now, and heís looking at it and
he talks about how sharks have buoyancy, and he just has fun with the
word. He just says, ďYes, these sharks, they have so much buoyancy.Ē
Then there is a line where Iím doing a scene with Paulo, and he says,
ďBecause Hank, the best things in life are free.Ē No one can do
the delivery the way he does it, but it makes you stand there, wonder
what the hell just happened, why am I scared, and who am I dealing with,
and then when you stop and they yell, ďCut,Ē you go, ďIím dealing with
the most brilliant actor Iíve ever gotten to work with.Ē So, in
conclusion, itís pretty good. I like working with Campbell Scott. He
You were talking before how Royal Pains
is not like a medical drama, it is not a comedy like on many other
networks, and USA is good at having realistic and multidimensional
characters. I was just wondering, what kind of demographic you feel
would like this show?
I always believe that my greatest audience will come from
70-year-old Jewish men and Jewish women, but thatís from my experience
of going to High Holiday services and being adored by the women with
free candy in the back. I think we should have a large following from
the gay men of America; Iíve certainly noted their appreciation and
fascination with me. Beyond that, itís hard to say, but Iím hoping that
all women are enticed by our charm, wit, and our whimsy, and all the men
are appreciative of the beautiful women and intense medical drama that
ensues. You never really know whoís going to respond, but I hope
Were you familiar of the concept of a concierge
doctor before getting this project? I have to admit, when I first heard
of it I thought it might be made up, but apparently it is a real thing.
I was not aware of it at all. My brother and I both would
wonder when we were sitting after getting banged in the head or breaking
an arm in a wrestling match. Sitting in the emergency room for five
hours waiting for a doctor, we would turn to each other, going to a
private school in New York like good, superficial children, saying,
ďWhat do rich people do when they get hurt? Are they sitting here for
five hours, waiting for some triage nurse to get you?Ē Hereís the
answer: itís concierge medicine. Itís private physicians for hire. The
good thing is the character has evolved, so Iím not just taking care of
rich people, that I take from the rich and also give to the poor. I had
not heard of concierge medicine before. Now Iím realizing, not just
because Iím doing this show and everyoneís talking to me about it, but
the truth is I just read an article in the New York Times that in
this economic crisis of this country lots of things are getting hit.
One of the few things that is not only remaining stable as an industry
but actually growing is concierge medicine. I guess itís because even
in times of panic or especially in times of financial crisis, people are
still most concerned about their health and if thereís anything, they
would still spend the money on is to guarantee that they donít get
sick. Even furthermore, that in times of financial crisis their jobs
will depend on their physical and mental wellbeing, so it will behoove
them to protect that above all else.
I had only seen the pilot and I was wondering if
he would use the rich people to help the poor, and you did answer that.
But it just was interesting to me because Hank doesnít really seem like
the type to put up with the rich peopleís foibles. Do you think that
heíll be able to sort of balance doing all of his good work with dealing
with sort of spoiled heirs and people who have flat tires and stuff like
You watched the pilot very well. I appreciate your viewing
comprehension. Like any stereotype, if you believe that rich people are
inherently bad in such a general way you will eventually be corrected,
and our show is totally not trying to say that people with money are
evil. Our show is trying to paint a detailed and specific world filled
with nuance and accuracy. So, instead of just superficial rich people
you have a character like Tucker, who is the child of wealth, but who
has an absentee father who doesnít give the son the father that he
needs. Heís constantly in pursuit of an example, a role model, a male
companion, and Hank comes in in episode three and provides that
much-needed support to this kid. Hank becomes more than a doctor, and
the rich people become more than just superficial and pedantic.
I couldnít help but notice there were a lot
similar, kind of visual elements, as well as just kind of overall style
between Royal Pains and Burn Notice. I was curious what you thought
other than being a spy and killing people, your character might have in
common with Michael Westen and what things he certainly doesnít have in
common with him.
What a great last question, I have to say. I love it. My
answer has seventeen parts that Iíd like to address, so weíll be on the
phone for a couple of hours. No, I like the question because, first of
all, I love Jace Alexander, who is one of our co-executive producers,
and Jace directed the pilot of Burn Notice and he directed the
pilot for Royal Pains, so, another A for viewing comprehension.
What I love about the way he shot Royal Pains, like thereís one
tracking shot that though it doesnít advance the story as much, it
creates this beautiful picture of the world. I think they had to fight
to keep that shot. But itís such an awesome tracking shot through the
whole party, as everyoneís looking at me wandering through the party,
you get to see the faces of the people who live in the Hamptons, the hot
ladies, the rich men, the plastic surgeons, the kind of characters who
live in the world. You get to see it through this very cool, very slick
camera move that says to the viewer, ďThis show is going to move along
at a fast clip, and itís going to be fun, and youíre going to get
characters and stories along the way.Ē I think thatís part of USAís
entire aesthetic. The camera work is consistent with sort of the
message of the entire network, which has its own sort of personality and
brand at this point. The other thing that I wanted to say is that USA
is so smart in the way that they market our shows that theyíve actually
managed to sort of create this universeÖ [In some ways, we] live in the
same universe. Theyíve done that in a crossover promotion, where
Michael Westen, the character from Burn Notice, is actually
sending a letter off. In the letter he says, ďHey man, I know what itís
like to come to a new place and set up shop when you donít anybody and
you donít know the lay of the land. So, here are a few things that
might help you. Hereís a bottle of suntan lotionĒ Ė which is perfect
for him in Miami and me in the Hamptons. ďHereís a pair of
sunglasses.Ē Perfect. ďAnd hereís some C4 explosives.Ē So, here I am
at the end of the promo, staring at a package of clay explosives, not
knowing what to do with it. That, of course, is where our characters
diverge. On all other fronts theyíre quite similar. They have a sense
of humor, itís slightly dark, and theyíre in this very beautiful place Ė
in the case of him, Miami, and in our case, the Hamptons Ė to do a job.
Somehow USA managed to create this very uniform, very diverse but sort
of well-tied-together world.
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