Mark Feuerstein – Pains Bring Gains
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted June 3, 2009.
Hollywood has never seemed to figure out how to use Mark Feuerstein.
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 – 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 unemployed torpor.
When Dr. Lawson saves a model’s 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 show’s 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 “The Promised Land,” which are the Hamptons. I’ve 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 – which supports its shows rather than makes them crazy, as they do sometimes at the networks – 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.
What about the role do you find challenging?
Well, Hank is a complicated guy, because as a child his father lost all the family’s 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 kid’s 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 he’s a good brother.
What have you liked about working with Paulo Costanzo?
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 doesn’t 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 Network’s 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. I’ll begin by telling you that I’ve 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 you’re 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 I’m watching the show in seven years as it’s syndicated on some other cable network, I don’t have to know what happened before or after the episode. Everything is meant to support the procedure. If you’re 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 I’m involved in, where we’re at with those. But at the same time every week if you tune in, you’ll 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 way.