Few actors I have interviewed are as enthusiastic for what they do than Mark Feuerstein, star of “Royal Pains” on USA Network.
In a recent phone interview, the 40 year-old actor expressed more than once how grateful he is to be starring in the top-rated show on USA (averaging about 7.2 million viewers an episode). “I really do thank my lucky stars,” said Feuerstein, who previously starred in a string of TV comedies that went nowhere.
Not so for “Royal Pains,” which returns to USA Wednesday night (Jan. 18) at 9/8c for a flight of new episodes that resume the show’s third season. When we last saw Dr. Hank Lawson (Feuerstein) and his brother, Evan (Paulo Costanzo), Dr. Hank was attending to a patient (guest-star Wilmer Valderrama) who was suddenly near death after he was mistakenly administered the wrong medication at Hamptons Heritage Hospital, the fictional medical center on Long Island’s posh East End where “Royal Pains” takes place.
The medical mistake will have implications for at least one character (or possibly two) as the show resumes this week. And there are also implications for Hank’s love life – which you’ll see if you tune in.
Meanwhile, in our interview, sunny Mark explained a few things about the show and about his life, including his show’s title, his good fortune and why his photo is the only celebrity 8X10 hanging in the dry-cleaning establishment I use in my New York City neighborhood! (The short answer: He grew up in this neighborhood and stays with his parents when he’s in New York filming “Royal Pains.”)
Here’s what he had to say:
XfinityTV: First things first, Mark: Please explain why your photo is displayed in my dry cleaners. You poor man! They’re very lovely people and they’re excellent cleaners and they handle the entire Feuerstein family’s dry cleaning, including my own when I am in New York. It’s nice to know that they appreciate me.
On to “Royal Pains”: Please explain your show’s title: What’s “royal” about “Royal Pains”? It’s a play on words. I think the pun that our brilliant and wonderful writer, Andrew Lenchewski, was going for was that the caliber of, or the socioeconomic class of, the people who are suffering from various maladies [on the show] are from the upper echelons of New York society. So not only are they royal pains in the ass, but the “pains” are being suffered by people who are from New York “royalty” – meaning: they’re just rich.
And it also refers specifically to the circumstances under which Hank and his brother, Evan, get to live in a baronial mansion in the Hamptons. That is correct. [The “Royal” in the title also refers to] European royalty dating back to whatever Hapsburg empire or dynasty that [the home’s owner, Boris Kuerster Von Jurgens-Ratenicz, played by Campbell Scott] is a part of. His clan hails from Austria and Germany and various parts of Eastern Europe.
He’s a vital character on the show, isn’t he? Yes, it’s been an incredible saga for our show and for our viewers who have watched throughout. They have watched Boris suffer from his genetic condition. We’ve watched him go from thinking he was perhaps definitely going to die from this condition to treating himself with the hormones of sharks which he kept in a private aquarium in his estate, to learning that the particular strain that he has may not be terminal. I feel very fortunate that this great storyline has been at the center of the show for so long and we hope it continues. . . . It’s only a fraction of the various operatic plotlines on our show.
You seem sincerely enthusiastic about “Royal Pains.” Well, it truly is a dream job. I pinch myself everyday and I don’t only say that – and I’m not saying I literally pinch myself – but I love not only the drive that we take every morning 45 minutes to work [from Manhattan] through the countryside to the promised land out in Bridgehampton and Southampton, but I get to work with a family of 80-100 amazingly talented crew members and a cast that I couldn’t have dreamed up that works so well together. . . . The storylines are so rich. In our second season when we introduced Henry Winkler [as Hank and Evan’s father, Eddie], we got to deal with issues pertaining to family. [The storylines] are just very deep and fully dimensional and I get to play a character who gets to be romantic, dramatic, comedic and a medical genius, all because of USA Network.
Let’s talk about playing a doctor. In real life, did you ever consider becoming a doctor? Was that ever an option? It was, until I took biology at Princeton University and received a D for my lack of preparing a photo lab report which I thought was, like, in seventh grade where you write a nice paragraph about [some scientific theory], but it was too intense. I mean, to be a great surgeon or a great doctor, you have got to learn it like your life depends on it because lives will eventually depend on it. I was never going to be a great surgeon, I was never going to be a great doctor, I’m just lucky I get to pretend to be one on television.
What’s next for you in your career? There are no movies coming out with me in them this particular season. In recent years, I was lucky to do “Defiance” with [producer] Ed Zwick and work with Daniel Craig and Jamie Bell and Liev Schreiber and tell a great story about Jews hiding in the forests [during World War II] and it was truly a great opportunity and I was so lucky to work with such A-list talent. . . . I directed the third episode of [“Royal Pains”] this coming season, called “My Back to the Future” because [his character hurts his back] in the episode. And to direct was probably the greatest challenge of my entire career. I’m also currently writing a [feature film] screenplay with my wife for Fox. In the duration of the year, I have become a multi-hypenate as an actor, writer and director. I feel very fortunate to be able to do that.
Is this due mainly to the success with “Royal Pains”? For me [the “pains”] haven’t been as royal as they have been growing pains, but it has breathed a whole new life into my career. I really do thank my lucky stars when I talk to Lenchewski, who wrote the pilot, and I get to tell him that I live in a nice house in L.A. that I call “the house that Chewy built” because he wrote the pilot and I was fortunate enough to get the role of Hank.
If your photo’s in the dry cleaners down the street, can we assume you stay around here when you’re in town? I literally stay in the bedroom that I slept in when I was in third grade – same blankets because my mother has not taken it upon herself to update our linens! So it isn’t necessarily where one would imagine a well-adjusted 40 year-old living — next door to my parents was not necessarily what I imagined. [But] when I come home at 11 o’clock at night and there’s a note on the door from my mother saying, “Mark, would you like to have some soup?” It’s very nice!
“Royal Pains” returns Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 9/8c on USA Network.