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'Royal Pains' returns tonight: Mark Feuerstein talks Season 2

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Mark-Feuerstein

Image Credit: Williams and Hirakawa/USA NetworkRoyal Pains, cable’s No. 1 new series last summer, returns tonight for its second season (USA, 10 p.m. ET, following Burn Notice‘s season 4 premiere). When we left off, Mark Feuerstein‘s Hank Lawson, a “concierge doctor” in the Hamptons, had just been informed by his brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) of HankMed’s sudden financial trouble, and Evan had left to find the person responsible, their estranged con man father (Henry Winkler, who joins the cast in the recurring role of Eddie R. Lawson June 10). Hank had also begun to understand the severity of the mystery illness his top client/landlord Boris (Campbell Scott) faces and the lengths to which Boris is willing to go to treat it. He’d shown up to receive a message from his love interest, hospital administrator Jill (Jill Flint), only to discover her estranged husband answering her door. He doesn’t know that she’s officially given him the boot (bye-bye, Bruno Campos). And his physician’s assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty), who was determined to end her loveless engagement, took another step closer to her arranged marriage.

Here, Feuerstein tells us what to expect next. If you haven’t tuned in before, he also gives enough background so you can jump right in:

• Henry Winkler’s reputation as “the nicest man in Hollywood” will be used against him: “It’s a perfect casting because he’s so nice that you wonder if it’s genuine, and then you are awestruck every day that you get to know this man, Henry Winkler, that it really is genuine,” Feuerstein says. “But that [same] question will exist in your head when you watch him play Eddie R. Lawson, and the answer will not be the same on our show that it is in real life. You will you see that it is the brilliant machinations of a con artist who makes you feel like he’s your best friend, but then takes your wallet, your keys to your house, and your car. Hank shows his not-so-perfect, angry, resentful side. He has a lot to resent, because as we heard and go further into in season 2, Eddie R. Lawson was an errant father to say the least. Our mother was sick and he left, left us to clean up the mess and left us to basically raise ourselves, which is why we’re so close as brothers, and why I can’t stand him as a person and as a father. But Evan lives slightly in the delusion of younger brotherhood and still idolizes him. And that dynamic will play itself out over season 2.”

• Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden will recur as a professional adversary to Jill: “The Jill Casey character, while lovely and charming and full of dimension last season thanks to the writers and [actress] Jill Flint, takes on another fuller life, and part of that is getting a little deeper into her existence at the hospital as an administrator. A great foil for her is a character [Dr. Elizabeth Blair] who represents the authority of the hospital, the bureaucratic protocol of the hospital, and that character comes in the form of a more senior doctor played by Marcia Gay Harden. She’s heard about the shenanigans of Jill running around with this renegade doctor Hank, judges it, and is not a fan of it, and takes to cause some trouble in Hamptons Heritage Hospital for Jill. That tension is great for Jill Flint’s character, and no one could play the complexity of a doctor who is both good at what she does but also vindictive better than Marcia Gay Harden.”

Trauma star Anastasia Griffith will recur as a professional rival — and potential love interest — for Hank: “Her character’s name is Dr. Emily Peck, and in the same way Marcia Gay Harden is a new rival/conflict for Jill Casey, she will be a great threat business-wise for HankMed and for Hank himself. Where will that conflict go emotionally or romantically, that’s another question,” Feuerstein says.

EW: Romantically? Oooh.

Feuerstein: [in sing-song voice] I don’t know, Mandi. These are the questions.

EW: A little angry sexual tension would be fun.

Feuerstein: Well, now we get a glimpse into Mandi’s side of life, and I’m not disappointed. But yes, that’s exactly, right. Where the conflict may lie, so too may the attraction.

• HankMed will take a trip to Cuba, in episodes 4 and 5: “There is a situation that we’re already aware of with regard to Boris medically. In Season 2, it only gets more complicated. We begin to truly get to the core of his condition, which dates back hundreds of years in his family. It’s a genetic neurological defect. In reality, there’s research done all over the world for various genetic conditions like this, and in the story of Royal Pains, Boris sort of commandeers us in his typical way to the place where he feels the most progress can be made,” Feuerstein says. (That’s Cuba, although the show shot these scenes in Puerto Rico.) “Though it actually ends up being a great coup storywise for the show, it was originally devised in our production schedule as a way of avoiding what we called ‘the Royal Rains’ last season,” he admits. “There was not a day when we needed a perfect sunny day when there wasn’t the threat of torrential downpours. We got lucky on some, but in certain episodes that you might have felt, ‘Ah, yes, another few gorgeous days in the Hamptons on Royal Pains,’ that was the result of movie magic, shooting under an overhang instead of out by the pool, or moving an entire party inside. There was an episode with a ballet dancer [Community‘s Gillian Jacobs]. That entire performance she and her troupe give was meant to be out on a lawn on a beautiful day with the harpist playing or whatever, and it was moved inside of this beautiful mansion. No one would have ever known because of our brilliant art department and production team, but we were plagued, yes.”

With a larger 18-episode order for Season 2, production had to begin even earlier this spring — hence, the tickets to Puerto Rico, which held a greater likelihood of blue skies than New York. And how did that work out for them? “It worked out beautifully, although of course for the entire two weeks we were in Puerto Rico, the weather had never been more beautiful in New York City,” he says. “Every day was 75, sunny, and perfect. But hey, we’re just changing the name of our show from ‘Royal Rains’ to just ‘Royal Bad Luck.’ Or ‘Royal Always in the Wrong Place.’ It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but you know…” The Cuba excursion also, by the way, brings a romantic entanglement for Boris and a “brief, transient romantic interlude” for Hank, Feuerstein says. Oh, and Evan gets kidnapped by a bunch of banditos, and Hank has to solve a lesser medical situation of theirs to save him.

• Hank’s dance with Jill will continue, but they’ll sit a few songs out: “There’s always going to be a tension there, and there are moments in this season where that tension will pull, romantically and physically, but there will also be a détente, a break, some sort of calm and peaceful resolution to their friendship for a certain amount of time this season where their relationship won’t be at the forefront of Hank’s various issues. It will take a back seat for a significant period of time, but it’s always there to be resurrected because there’s always going to be feelings there,” he says.

• Divya’s engagement will continue, for now: “I can assure you that the complications of being in what is a sort of strategic engagement with Raj makes life very challenging for her as she comes into her own romantically, emotionally, and physically as a new fiancée. They didn’t begin with the red-hot emotions of a typical American couple. They started with very little in that regard, and it was mostly about their families strategizing what might be best for them. But now they’re stuck with each other, and they have to deal with it. In being together, there is the impending possibility that Divya will have to go back to England to be with him, and so there’s a current in the first half of the season of Divya’s impending departure, and that’s scary for Hank, for Evan, and for HankMed.”

• Feuerstein’s new friend, the 7’1″, 450-pound Big Show, from the WWE, will make a one-off appearance. The two of them shot a film together, Knucklehead, last fall in New Orleans that was produced by the WWE. “I fell in love with the guy. He is the best. He’s so fun, awesome, smart, talented, everything,” Feuerstein says. “We would just hang out and sit on his enormous bus on which he travels the country for wrestling shows, and watch movies and eat — because my boy can eat. It came up in a conversation with executives at USA that I had done this, and we thought it would be such a great idea if he came on the show. He’s not playing himself, he’s playing a character that was invented by the writers. I can’t tell you much about it, but suffice to say that when he read it, Big Show said, ‘It’s as if the writers knew me, the way they put these perfect words into my mouth.'”

Read more: Mark Feuerstein on Royal Pains‘ season 1 success