When we last left the usually sunny and cheerful Hamptons in the season finale of USA's hit series, "Royal Pains," the core relationship of the show - that of brothers Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan Lawson (Paulo Costanzo) - was on the rocks and seemed to be beyond repair. While a television hiatus can sometimes heal wounds, viewers will see when the fourth season picks up tonight that the brothers Lawson are still on the outs and, according to Executive Producer/Creator Andrew Lenchewski and Executive Producer Michael Rauch, that's not going to change anytime soon.
Lenchewski and Rauch talked to our Jim Halterman about how the rift between the brothers would impact the new episodes, what viewers can expect from new cast member Ben Shenkman and, in terms of guest stars, will we see a return of fan favorites Henry Winkler (Eddie Lawson, Hank and Evan's father) and Campbell Scott (Boris)?
Jim Halterman: In terms of the series overall, is this where you saw yourselves at the start of the fourth season or do you not think that far ahead?
Andrew Lenchewski: I would say the short and long answer is definitely not. I don't think in our wildest dreams we imagined at the beginning that we'd be halfway through our fourth season while talking to you today but it's definitely rewarding. On the one hand it's nice that a lot of the things that we have believed in creatively from the beginning continue to work and it's also been really satisfying to see the characters and the show itself evolve from season to season. Every step in the process that a TV show survives is a small miracle and especially with these days and this show, with the medical show twist, it just seemed like the odds were always against us. But I think we credit our incredible writing staff, our cast and the crew that's able to make this show look as beautiful as this show and sell it so convincingly as this summer escape in the Hamptons.
JH: Talk to me about the new episodes. I was personally surprised that the Hank and Evan conflict is still going on. Can you talk about stretching that out instead of wrapping it up quickly?
Michael Rauch: Obviously there was a major blow between Hank and Evan and it's something that we had played throughout the third season and it felt like because we had played that story for so long in season three and really tried to mine it that we couldn't just wrap it up in an episode and have them kiss and make up easily. We felt like the story itself and the reconciliation could be a little bit slower and a little more real in terms of what happens when two people who love each other very much - whether they're brothers or colleagues or both - need to find a way to work together and not just make up but make up in a way that allows them to co-exist and continue to get along.
JH: Was that a big concern even last season in having their relationship be on the rocks since it's really the core of the show? Was there a concern that audiences might not follow you along on that journey?
AL: Definitely. It was something we approached cautiously and even then we were surprised at some of the audience reaction to one particular moment which was Evan taking a golf club to the windshield of Hank's car last season. I think that really was a wake up call for us about how much the audience cared about this relationship between the brothers and how tenuous that dynamic was. At the same time I think it made us realize that if we did proceed cautiously than, as Michael said, there's something to mine there and hopefully the audience wouldn't tire of seeing that conflict. I think especially because they're brothers and not just partners we're able to peel back the layers of this feud between them that speaks not just to things that happened since they got together in the Hamptons and started their business but there were things going on beneath the surface that date back to when they were kids.
MR: As we were building to season four and we didn't want to become predictable and we didn't want the show to be predictable and to play out this conflict with these two brothers. It felt like it would be more unexpected than to just have it be a quick kiss and make up and fall back into the conventional world of storytelling, not that there's anything wrong with that, that is our bread and butter, but we didn't want to always feel like the audience would know what to expect.
JH: My question in watching this episode is that Henry Winkler has to pop up soon to help bridge the gap between the brothers, right?
MR: Henry Winkler is coming back. We won't say when but your storytelling instincts are correct.
AL: The easy indulgence would be to have him around in every episode but like Boris, he's more effective when you use him at just the right moments and we think we've found just the right moment in a few episodes into the season.
JH: When you bring a new character in, like Ben Shenkman's Dr. Sacani, how do you craft it so it fits into the world but yet is a different embodiment from what we're used to seeing.
MR: That's a great question and especially relevant with this character particularly because of the type of character he is and we're seeing that his character has a social deficit and is sort of walking the line that feels true to people like that while at the same time not getting too heavy with it. It's one of the reasons why we wanted Ben to play Dr. Jeremiah Sacani because it was such a nuanced character in how we imagined him and how we're writing him and it would be very easy for an actor to play him very broad and kind of silly regarding the deficit that he has or the other way to overplay the condition and Ben has done an amazing job of walking the line. In adding a new character, like with Henry Winkler's character, it's always very scary because you can write it a certain way and cast it a certain way but until they show up on set acting with the other actors there's no way to know if it's going to work.
JH: What about romance this season across the board? Hank and Jill (Jill Flint) are 'off' as of now, right? Evan is still with his fiancé. Where are things going?
AL: That's one of the things that thematically we wanted to play with in Season Four and it's something that we're really playing with Divya's (Reshma Shetty) character this year in terms of someone who continually is in a situation where her heart hasn't been able to get what she wants. With Evan and Paige (Brooke D'Orsay), we've obviously planted their engagement and she doesn't care what her father thinks but we're going to explore their relationship and to show what couples go through when they're engaged and even planning the wedding.
JH: ...and Hank and Jill?
AL: We sort of left the on-again/off-again dynamic behind last season and sort of saw that dynamic evolve into one of a deep friendship and what we've played with since then is really the question of will Jill have the wherewithal to leave the only home she's ever had and head out in search of this dream and so that's what's really coming to a head in the first few episodes of the season.
JH: Tom Cavanaugh is someone who was killed off on the show but have we seen the last of him on the show?
MR: He's one of those characters that fit so well into the show and we were so proud of the arc that we told with Jack O'Malley last year and, as it was in the finale, even when he was long gone he was still present. So we've talked about different scenarios where he could come back in some scenario and we haven't broken those yet but it's not out of the question.
JH: Any other guest stars coming that you can talk about? I read Judy Greer is guesting soon.
AL: Donal Logue is in the premiere, we also had Savannah Wise from 'Smash,' Alexa Vega from 'Spy Kids' is in the second episode. We've got Ben, Judy, we've got one of our favorite director, Jay Chandrasekhar, who does a cameo in the third episode, which he also directed. And then we have a couple of potential new love interests for Hank, one played by Kat Foster.
JH: I thought I saw somewhere that Campbell Scott would be back full time this season?
MR: It's technically correct in terms of how we're using him but we definitely felt like last year and in previous seasons that we kind of showed Boris as more of a domesticated man and explaining medically some of what happened to him so we felt like this season we wanted to return to tell more of the story that we did in season one which was a little bit darker, a little more dangerous and tapping more into the mystery of the character. So we felt like we needed to have him around more to fully execute that so Campbell is being used a bit more than we did in seasons two or three.
JH: When you guys go into that mysterious and darker territory, how much of a challenge is it to make it a part of the show, which is normally very bright and sunny?
AL: I think we probably save that territory mainly for Boris and it feels so organic in his case and he's someone who we established so early in the show, in the pilot obviously, that it never feels like we're veering too far off course whenever we're with Boris because he's such a part of the fabric of this world. He was one of the first HankMed patients. But having said that, we really try to be mindful of that line. The audience comes to us for an escape and we don't play these long-term terminal illness cases very often. I think besides Boris and Jack O'Malley, I don't think we've done it at all, actually. We think it's an important thing to do once in awhile to keep this medical show grounded and real but at the same time we feel like we have this pact with the audience about what they come to the show expecting and we obviously feel a responsibility to deliver that.
"Royal Pains" airs Wednesdays at 9:00/8:00c on USA.