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‘Royal Pains’: Interview with Exec. Prod. Michael Rauch & Andrew Lenchewski

by Lynn DeVries on January 11, 2011 · 0 comments

in Interviews,Royal Pains

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USA Network’s season three premiere of Royal Pains will air Thursday January 20th at 9/8c. To get us ready for it, the show’s Executive Producer Michael Rauch and Andrew Lenchewski, the Creator and Executive Producer for Royal Pains sat down to answer some questions about the series and the new season:

Q: How important was it for Eddie’s heart attack to reflect a change in Hank and Evan even though their father probably won’t change?

Michael Rauch: Well, the second part of the question first. I think that we’re not so sure if the father will change or not and that’s part of what we’re dealing with in these back six episodes. Seeing the effects, not just physically, but what happens to Eddie. To be in the presence of his sons, if this can help change him. That becomes a big part of these six episodes.

I think it’s a very sobering thing, especially for Hank. Evan, as was played in the 12 episodes of the summer, was more immediately forgiving than Hank was and a big part of Hank’s arc was could he get to a place of either forgiveness or acceptance? I think when you come face-to-face with the thought of losing a parent, no matter what your relationship is with them, it forces you to reassess things and reevaluate them and see if you need to change your perception of who they are and what you want the relationship to be.

Q: With this being the second season, USA likes to do something fun where they don’t give you a back-whatever until you’re in your second season. From a production and writing standpoint, how has it been different approaching the season noting you have these back six episodes to do?

Andrew Lenchewski: It was the difference between 100 yard sprint and a marathon in that we had to start out in the writer’s room thinking about how to do almost two different seasons. One that would cover 12 episodes, allow for a cliffhanger that would keep the audience interested during these fall months that we were off the air and then bring them back in the winter for another six. But at the same time, each of them had to have their own complete arcs for all the characters and for the Hank/Evan/Eddie relationship primarily that Michael was just talking about. It required a lot of foresight in the writer’s room and then additionally a lot of stamina in production.

At the end of the first season, we wrapped at the beginning of August and at the beginning of the second season at the end of October. There’s a big difference there just in terms of how much fuel you need in the tank and also in terms of logistics. We shot the season finale for Season One in summer weather and the season finale for Season Two in late fall. It’s a much bigger order but it’s also incredibly satisfying at the end of 18 episodes to look back and see how much we delivered.

Q: Divya is set to leave in a month for London and get married. Surely, she’s not really leaving, right?

M. Rauch: Well, I can’t actually answer that question because that would end a lot of the suspense and drama. She’s a very important part of the fabric of the show and she’s also a character who’s torn between different obligations. That’s a big part of what we’re going to do in the back six episodes with her character. It really takes us all the way to the winter season finale where things really come together and she’s forced to make a decision in Episode 218.

Q: Right, but the actress isn’t leaving the show, is she? I know you can’t tell me what happens with the character necessarily, but—?

M. Rauch: It would be a loss to the show if we didn’t see the lovely Reshma Shetty anymore.

Q: A common trend in today’s television series is having a musical episode. Would you guys ever consider having an episode like this where characters sing throughout the whole show?

M. Rauch: Yes, we would. I don’t know if the network would let us do it for a while, but this is something we talked about before it was a common trend from the beginning of Season One. I would love it. I want to have our characters break out in song. I don’t know if it will ever happen but I think it would be a lot fun. Reshma Shetty is a trained opera singer and Paulo can sing and even Andrew can carry a tune so we might bring some of the writers and producers into it also.

Q: Does Hank make headway in Boris’ illness?

A. Lenchewski: The steps forward in cracking Boris’ illness were, in terms of diagnosis, we went to Cuba for those episodes. Now it’s moving forward a little bit more deliberately in terms of figuring out how to cure the disease now that we have an idea of what it is. The medical aspect to the Boris/Hank storyline for the rest of this season is going to focus more on the Marissa pregnancy; how that impacts the Marissa/Boris relationship and ultimately how that translates into the Hank/Boris relationship with something fairly climatic happening at the end of episode number 17, and the aftermath of that into the season finale.

Q: Can you guys talk about working with Henry Winkler and some of the things that he brings to Eddie that have enhanced the character or made him more rich?

M. Rauch: Well, he is—the reputation is accurate—the nicest man you will ever work with both onset and offset. He’s just an amazingly sweet and kind and bighearted guy, instantly loved by the cast and the crew and the producers. When Andrew and I were looking at different possibilities for the role of Eddie, we looked at actors of all tones and there was something about casting someone who plays a slightly nefarious person but who is so loved. You just look at him and you want to hug him. We thought it would give us a greater opportunity to play a range of things with both him and the influence it would have on Hank and Evan.

By bringing this kind of kindness and this love it’s much harder to hate him and it’s much harder to paint him as the bad guy. It gave us a lot more nuance to play in terms of whose perception of the past is more correct. Is it Hank’s or Evan’s or is it Eddie’s? Maybe it’s all of theirs and maybe they all remember things a little bit differently and you have a situation where you’re not quite sure who’s telling the truth. What becomes more important is what we’re seeing in each episode than what we’re hearing about from when they were kids.

Q: With USA Network having a perfect record of renewing shows and making great TV, how did it feel for you to be so comfortable in terms of I know there’s going to be a next season already and how do you plan for the show being in this network?

A. Lenchewski: We certainly don’t take anything for granted. It is a tremendous comfort to be on a network that shows its programs the kind of support that USA does both in terms of launching them from a marketing standpoint and nurturing them creatively, giving them the resources they need to thrive. At the same time, it’s our job to deliver quality episodes and then keep the audience there once the network has helped bring them to the set. We really focus on one episode at a time and one season at a time and hopefully the ratings follow and the network decides that we’re a show they want to keep around.

Q: I saw in the first episode coming up, Tom Cavanaugh was a big part of it, which I’m a big fan of his and I know Michael that you worked with him on Love Monkey, which I was a big fan of and I was very sorry it was cancelled. The way the first episode ended, it left it open so that he could be back again. Will he be or is this something that he might be semi-regular or just a guest occasionally?

M. Rauch: It’s one of these things where Tom works so much and we left it that way so that if we have the opportunity to bring him back and he’s free we’d be able to do it. We definitely loved having him in the show and I know Tom had a great time, too. In a perfect world we’ll be able to figure out a way to bring him back. Hopefully, storylines and schedules will come together that we can make that possible. We thought he did a great job and he really fit into the show perfectly.

Q: That’s what I thought.

M. Rauch: Totally, he’s so right for this network. We’d love the opportunity to have him back.

Q: Hi, I’m a big fan of romantic relationships on shows. A lot of times, couples who aren’t really couples are the ones I root for. For a long time I wanted Evan and Divya together, although I’m loving what Paige brings out in him. I also like the chemistry between Divya and Adam, but I guess my favorite is I’m a big fan of Hank and Jill and not a fan of Hank and Emily. Aside from Hank and Emily, none of those are couples. What are your thoughts on each of those pairings and have you thought about—?

A. Lenchewski: It’s a great question and actually, all the relationships that you mentioned, Jenny, are going to be a big part of the character stuff that we play to in the back six. We’re going to see a very big evolution in this Evan/Paige dynamic that we started to tease out at the end of the front 12 which is not only a lot of fun and a storyline that brings a lot of comedic energy to the show, but something’s that really helping to evolve Evan’s character in a wonderful way.

We’re going to see Hank and Emily’s relationship climax in a way that might be pleasing to some members of the audience and maybe less so to others. The Divya/Adam/Raj triangle is also going to peak in the back six and Hank/Jill, as has been the case since the beginning of the show, there are these star crossed lovers that always seem to find fate and timing intervening for better or worse. That’s going to happen, once again, towards the end of the season. It’s been a big part of what got us here and something we’ll continue to lean on as we go forward.

Q: Can you talk about how you’re going to approach Season Three and the relationship between Hank and Evan or something you haven’t explored?

M. Rauch: We just opened up the writer’s room about a week ago so we’re just starting into it. One of the things that we talked about in Season One, Hank was a nearly perfect character and we only had, after the pilot, 12 episodes so we didn’t have a lot of time to get into unpeeling the layers of him. In Season Two, it was one of the things we wanted to work on in terms of revealing some of his imperfections. We feel like we did a good job of that but we feel like there’s a lot more to go in terms of showing some of his vulnerabilities.

The way we started the show, Evan was the one who was really, really flawed and Hank was perfect. In Season Two, they started drifting a little bit more towards the middle where some of the stuff that you’ll be seeing in the winter six, their arcs start to cross a little bit. We feel like in Season Three we know we’ll have some fun with Evan having a lot of his life together while Hank might have some of the parts of his life less in order.

Q: We just saw in the previews for the new season premiere that Eddie Lawson had a flashback to when the guys were kids. Are we going to see anymore flashbacks from before the Hamptons time?

A. Lenchewski: It’s not a device that we’ve employed commonly on the show. It was used by Michael who directed the Mid-Season Premiere for a very specific purpose to great effect and if that kind of opportunity presented itself and it called for that device we could certainly go back to it. It’s probably not a flashback in the conventional sense that you’re thinking of but it will make a lot of sense to the audience when they see the way Michael used it in the episode.

Q: Since you actually tape out on Long Island, I was just wondering how the weather interferes with your shooting being that it’s not like Los Angeles where it’s always sunny. There’s a lot of rain and the weather changes from day-to-day?

M. Rauch: It’s a really good question. Last year we had two episodes that in the story took place in Cuba and we shot them in Puerto Rico because when we start shooting it’s basically winter here on the east coast. This year we’re going to go away to a sunny place again for the same reason and try to avoid snow as much as we can.

Still, when we’re back up here in the northeast, it’s going to be basically the beginning of April and as you know it gets really chilly then and we shoot until the end of October and it gets really chilly then. It’s most difficult on the actors. We have a Hank/Jill beach scene and its 50 degrees out and they’re in shorts and tee-shirts pretending that they’re warm and hot. Also very difficult on the crew who has to shoot there, then again, it’s not dead of winter. One of the best things about this show is that we shoot on Long Island, these amazing locations with amazing mansions with amazing views and one of the more difficult parts is that we shoot in these places where it takes a while to get to every day and also if the weather isn’t in our favor we’ve got to quickly turn our schedule around. It definitely makes things more complicated.

Q: I know you guys can’t really give away anything about where you’re going with each of those but I wondered have you thought long-term about who you want to see together, who any fans want to see together and that type of thing.

A. Lenchewski: Yes, I think that the spirit of our answer is that just as love is a big part of every summer these relationships are to some extent the lifeblood of these character storylines and really give us a lot of stuff to play, not just in terms of each of those pairings that you mentioned, but the way that those pairings impact upon all the relationships within the show. There are some people who are more interested in others than seeing something potentially happening between Evan and Divya, but what everyone agrees on is that there is a great tension, a great chemistry there and now that these characters have become almost brother and sister to each other how does her relationship with Adam, her relationship with Raj, how do those impact upon her relationship with Evan? How does Evan having now met this girl, Paige, impact upon his relationship with Divya? A lot of those things are going to be a lot of fun to play with.

Just to reiterate what I said before, Hank and Jill is sort of a well that we keep going back to because it’s really interesting study in timing and fate in that it always seems to either be the perfect time for them to be together or the perfect time for them not to be together and we’ll continue to go back to that for story in the winter six.

Q: In promoting the show, you say, “the best performing freshman year of a cable series, ever”. Does that put pressure on you or is that something to be proud of?

A. Lenchewski: Probably a little bit of both but it’s a problem we don’t mind having. We’re very lucky to be on an incredibly successful network that knows the shows that it can program very well and it does an amazing job of promoting us. We feel an enormous amount of gratitude for that and at the same time it’s very important for us to produce as high a quality as possible in each episode. The fact that we have such an amazing and loyal fan base is incredibly encouraging. At the same time, we do feel a lot of pressure to make sure that every week when they turn us on they’re feeling satisfied and having fun and wanting to watch the next episode and the one after that and the one after that.

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