Royal Pains Mark Feuerstein Interview

January 22, 2011

Royal Pain’s Mark Feurstein is not only an incredible actor but he is a fabulous guy to interview and let’s face it he is good looking to boot. You can read all about Mark, in his own words below as well as enjoy an awesome video and some fantastic pictures too.

Mark Feuerstein

He plays Dr. Hank Lawson on the USA hit show Royal Pains and Mark Feuerstein is every bit as wonderful as the character he plays. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A interview with Mark, which was insightful as well as a great experience.

Q. Can you talk about what you like about how Hank is at odds with his father and how it helps the relationship between father and both sons?
A. 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 estranged father 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. 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. 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?

Q. You and Paulo, who plays Evan, have this great on screen chemistry, how well do you get along when the cameras aren’t rolling?
A. 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. We joke around all the time. 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 great. Everybody loves him. He’s the class clown who also has true heart and love for everyone around him.

Q. How did you prepare for your role as a doctor on the show?
A. I followed doctors around, whoever would allow me to. 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. We have on staff on the show a doctor named Irving Danish. He’s an emergency surgeon in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He is 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. There’s a great synergy that happens because he’s the one who thought of them, 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 headache, he’s right there. There are actual medical episodes that he’s taking care of while also giving us the brilliant fake ones.

Q. What would you say you and your character Hank have in common?
A. 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. 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. The name of our premiere show was called “Mulligan,” which means, in golf terms, a do-over. And just like my character gets a do-over in Long Island I feel that as an actor I’ve been given a do-over with Royal Pains to do it right.

Q. What are the challenges you face in portraying Hank?
A. It’s a great role. 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 for example. 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. 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.

Q. What has been your personal favorite episode or scene?
A. 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. 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. 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?” One of my favorite episodes is “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, I loved every story in that one. I have to say in this current season, the premiere episode is definitely one of my favorites.

Q. From when you first started the show up to now, how does your character still surprise you?
A. 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. The truth is your own life is never empty of high stake situations. 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.

Q. What have you learned, from the medical aspect of the show?
A. 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. 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. I think Hank Lawson stands for getting it checked out, taking responsibility and not leaving it to the last minute when everything goes awry.

Q. What’s your advice to actors?
A. There is a line that I sometimes feel weird saying 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. The line is more about taking responsibility for your own career. I mean, when I got Royal Pains I don’t want to bore you with a long story, but basically it was a moment in my career where I was doing a show called Masters of Horror, which wasn’t my best work. It was fine, but I didn’t love the episode I did. It was just a moment in time where my wife was about to have a baby, I wanted to work, earn a little money. The producer of that was a guy named Adam Goldworm who went to USC with Andrew Lenchewski, one of the executive producers of Royal Pains. A year after shooting Masters of Horror I’m having lunch with Adam, who I just kind of became friends with and he told me Andrew was shooting this new pilot for USA. 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. Second, I want to congratulate you on the fact that I’m going to be starring in it.” It was pretty bold, but a month later, after jumping through a lot of hoops for Bonnie Hammer, it’s the greatest story of my career to date.

Q. Can you tell us something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?
A. 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. 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, 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.

Q. What is it that made you decide to be an actor?
A. My story is kind of unique. In high school if you had asked me what I was going to be I was going to be a lawyer like my dad. I had been very involved in all the extracurricular activities that would get you into a good college; student politics, I was captain of football and wrestling teams. I did well enough in school to get into Princeton. Then I got there and I was doing all these extracurricular activities again, thinking that when you 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. 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 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 named Josh Klausner, who ended up writing the story for the movie Date Night and is a very talented writer and director now. My next director was Eugene Jarecki, brother of Andrew Jarecki and who he himself directed Why We Fight and a bunch of fascinating documentaries himself. 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. The rush of being on stage and making people laugh, making people cry and something about my psychosis as a second child, younger sibling, wanting attention combined and bam, an actor is born.

There you have it my friends my interview with Royal Pains’ Mark Feuerstein. I could go on and on about what a great guy he is but I won’t. Instead I will simply say I have been a fan of his for years and it was a pleasure to get the chance to chat with him. I hope you enjoyed it.

Mark Feuerstein 2Mark Feuerstein 3Mark Feuerstein 4Mark Feuerstein 5Mark Feuerstein 6

Photos: www.wenn.comNikki Nelson/Ivan Nikolov/Jody Cortes

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7 Responses to “Royal Pains Mark Feuerstein Interview”

  1. 1
    Sarah Says:

    Another awesome interview! He really seems like a nice guy and one of my fav shows!

  2. 2
    Sandy Says:

    What a super job!

  3. 3
    Joan Says:

    It’s nice to see an actor give so much credit to the writers.

  4. 4
    Jen Says:

    WOOT Rachelle!

  5. 5
    dd Says:

    I agree Joan!

  6. 6
    Jeanette Says:

    What an awesome interview, Rachelle!

  7. 7
    Miriam Says:

    Fantastic Job Rachelle