Several of us got a chance to talk to one of the stars of the USA network’s series, Royal Pains. Reshma Shetty was delightful to talk to and gave us insight into the show,her character and some more personal things as well. Before becoming an actor, she was planning to become a doctor or an opera singer. Here’s what was discussed, and be sure to watch Royal Pains when it airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on USA.
Q: You’ve been doing the show now for two seasons. What is there about your role that you still find challenging this far into it?
Reshma Shetty: Hopefully, every actor hopes that the character that they’re playing continues to be a challenge throughout their tenure of their show. With Divya, I think of how a character is developed is – It’s like the onion being peeled. There are so many layers to her. The writers are not scared to look into them.
I mean she’s gone from a really peripheral type of person kind of just the business mind. And obviously the physician assistant, the staff of HankMed, gave it a jump start to going into her personal life and her cultural angst, and her feelings to both Hank and Evan. So, it’s definitely challenging just because we are going into different characters. Facing her marriage and her belief that she’s going to leave. Those are all really juicy, juicy story lines. So, always a challenge, always a challenge.
Q: The entire cast has such great on-screen chemistry. How well do you all get along off-camera?
R. Shetty: Oh, we hate each other. It’s awful. We never ever, never ever speak. Oh, we all are obviously are wonderful friends. Myself and Jill live in New York, and we actually hang out a lot. We recently went dancing together. Paulo is in New York, but he travels a lot to the West Coast, so we don’t get to see him as much in upper Canada, which you know he’s from Canada. And, Mark is the one that I hardly see, just because he’s always in Los Angeles. But, we are always Facebook buddies. We’re a very tight cast. I think that it comes across on-screen as well.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about when the, when you originally read for the role, what were they going to have all the cultural elements? I love the fact that she had to hide that from her family that she had been trained in this way. Now, it seems like her marriage is arranged and she’s attracted to this other guy. I mean, did that develop out of you being cast, or was that already there?
R. Shetty: I think that’s more of a question to the writers, but I could give you my opinion. When I read for the role, the character breakdown was very different actually to who I am, except that it was for an Indian girl, which obviously I am. But, it was, it specifically said a very petite Indian woman. And, when I walked in, I’m 5’7” and obviously not terribly petite in that sense. So, I think already when they cast me, their idea of who Divya was already started to go in a different direction.
I really don’t know if they had the cultural, you know, the marriage storyline in mind, because the very first few episodes were oriented around HankMed and getting HankMed started. I think that’s the deliciousness of the character. You find out what the actor’s capabilities are. And, you kind of go with it. You can develop storylines that way. So, hopefully, this … so spectacular in my acting skills that they decided to delve into her sordid personal life.
But, I don’t know. I hope I influence them. I think it’s a really fun storyline. And, it’s a really different storyline to the normal storylines, I believe, because it’s something that every … generation ethnic woman faces, which is you’re born in the West, but you are from the East. And you don’t know which to turn sometimes. And, that’s her predicament here.
Q: I know you can’t tell us who she decides to, whether to marry Raj or go with the other guy…
R. Shetty: That’s why you have to watch.
Q: Can you talk, a little bit about why you think each one would work?
R. Shetty: I think they both hold something very interesting to, I mean Raj is obviously someone that she’s grown up with …. She loves him deeply, but she’s never really had a chance to know if she could love anybody else. But, he obviously has the family ties, and he’s a good man. I mean that’s why it’s even more difficult, because he’s so nice. They actually get on so well. It’s a very good match.
And, with Adam, she started to feel something that maybe she’s never allowed herself to feel. Or, maybe it was, it is just that he’s someone special. And, someone to interrupt her life. Or, maybe he’s just a reminder that Raj is so great.
I think both guys, she could possibly go for both guys. She could go for neither of them. I mean, you have to wait and see.
Q: How did you become involved in the show? And, what was that auditioning process like?
R. Shetty: Well, it’s like any pilot season. You get your mass of … calls for the shows. I remember, though, distinctly thinking that this role was perfect for me and was very different from the, the, the other auditions that I’d gone to at that time. She was strong. I think that was the first thing that stuck out about her. She was very sarcastic. She was put together. And, she obviously had a lot of mystery to her.
So, the … was like any other, except we were in New York, casting from Los Angeles. I went to Rockefeller Center. I did my first round. I … actually two weeks. Then, I got my call back and I met with Jace Alexander, our pilot director, and had a really fun audition, like a really laid-back actor dream audition. They flew me out to LA for the screen test and then five days later, I got it.
Q: Before you began your acting career, you studied opera. Will we get a chance to see you sing in any upcoming episodes?
R. Shetty: They’re always implying that that’s a possibility they might want to do, use I guess, path they might want to go down. I don’t know, not as of yet. Who knows in the world of Royal Pains?
Q: We’re wondering how are you most like your character and how are you most different?
R. Shetty: Ooooh, I, let’s see. Let’s see how I’m different. I am nowhere near as fashionable as she is. I am nowhere near as put together as she is. She always has everything ready on the spot, very organized. I’m not that. I do not like high heels as much as she does. I am a New Yorker and I walk around a lot, so my best friends are my Uggs.
What are the similarities? Oh, we are both very focused on our passions. I would say that. I would say that we both have a capacity for generosity. I really like that aspect of her. I feel she always cares for her patients. She’s always there for them. And, we both like chocolate. So, I’d say that’s a similarity that we have.
Q: We had read that you were on the track to becoming a doctor and then you turned to acting. How did that come about and how did your family feel about that?
R. Shetty: Well, I did want to be a doctor all through my high school years. Science club president and all of that and went to school for pre-med. But, I’ve always been playing musical instruments from a very young age. From about seven, I started piano. When I was in high school, I found out I could sing. I preferred to be on a stage than to be in the orchestra pit. Because I played violin at the time, so I was usually in violin, first violin. So, you just get that burst onstage.
When I went to college, I just decided to keep it up as a hobby. I got into the musicals and the operas. Then, I won a vocal competition while I was a bio major, which kind of stunned most of the people. It was a state competition. They didn’t know where this kid was from. Here was this bio major, and she’s beaten out all the music majors … attention.
I just had mentors come into my life who pushed me in this direction. I mean, … always there. I wish that I’d gone into straight drama earlier in many ways. But, I always had the fear that because of typecasting, opera they don’t look at your color. It’s very if you can sing, you can sing. You can play anything. There weren’t as many opportunities at that time. So, I kind of felt that it was a better route to take. And, I could hit really high notes. And, I was an attractive, non-overweight opera singer. And, it gave me a lot of confidence in that area.
But, when I moved to New York, I didn’t do any opera. I came straight to New York. I got a commercial agent before I came, started to do commercials. Then, I did a musical, two musicals, and then did a play. Then, I got Royal Pains. So, drama’s always been there from the beginning. It’s it just wasn’t, it wasn’t in the forefront.
My parents are traditional. They are from a line of doctors. So, that’s kind of all they knew. And, they were scared. I mean they wanted to support me. But, it wasn’t the easiest to sell. Hey, Mummy, I really want to be an actress. It was a bit difficult. But, as I said, they were really great with it. Obviously, now they’re happy about it all. But, still, a doctor being a doctor also has – it’s a job, too, that people look up to. And, it’s respectable in their eyes. So, it was a hard sell. It was a hard sell. But, they wanted me to be happy.
Q: There’s a lot of focus on Divya and Raj and Adam and everything. But, there seems to be a lot of sexual tension between your character and Evan. Can you talk about that?
R. Shetty: Well, yeah. People have actually, and I think surprisingly to most of us, been drawn to the relationship of Evan and Divya. I think that we’re all aware of the popularity of it. At this time, I think that we’re both, the two characters, are on very different paths; his concerning Page, mine concerning my marriage and this other guy who comes along.
I can’t speak for the writers, because obviously it’s all in their hands. But, they definitely have chemistry. It’s one of those chemistries that they both just kind of dislike each other, both kind of need each other, and have started to bond. In fact, in the episode that’s coming on tonight, Astraphobia, we have some really great scenes with them together, really talking to each other. So the bond is definitely growing. Sometimes, it’s negative; sometimes it’s positive. But, I think that’s why people enjoy it so much.
Q: I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Evan and Divya get together. I think it would be cute. And, I think it would be a fun relationship. But, just as a quick follow-up, you’ve mentioned being on Broadway, and doing plays and everything. I actually saw Bombay Dreams, but you didn’t do the Broadway…
R. Shetty: I didn’t. It was a regret of mine. I was still in school. … opera singer who I don’t know if I could have made the cut, but I didn’t audition for it. So, when I got to New York, I, the first thing I heard of was that they were doing the auditions for the national tour of Bombay Dreams. I jumped on the audition and said, I missed …, so I’m going to try at least to get into this. Thankfully, I got the lead girl in it. I got to experience the musical. And, I got to travel the country doing it. It was very fun.
Yes, it’s just a really fun musical. And it was great to bring a bit of Bollywood, I guess, not that I know Bollywood very well, to the Mid-west kind of. We traveled everywhere. It was definitely a thing to do when you’re young. And, definitely something that I will never regret that I did.
Q: Going back to you having actual medical knowledge from your studies. Is it fairly possible that you know enough to be dangerous in the eyes of the writers? Which is to say,—you go, hey when Dr. Hank does such and such with this patient, that doesn’t really ring true because blah, blah, blah, and making life complicated for the writers.
R. Shetty: I wish that I had that much knowledge. I usually make it more difficult than when I get calls from my family or my friends, who are doctors, who say something like, it’s so amazing that Dr. Hank did that. But, at the time, some of the stuff is zany. But Dr. Irv is a great, a great part of the team, and so imaginative. He reads all of these amazing history books with all of these crazy devices that people made and he knows so many stories about them and just to hear his, because he’s an ER doctor.
He works up in the Boston area. I love to just sit down and hear his stories. When we have a medical scene, he’s always there. So we have an on-set doctor telling us this is right, this is wrong, and plenty of takes.
Q: How great is it working in the Hamptons, as opposed to trying to recreate some of those spectacular locations on a sound stage in Los Angeles or in Vancouver or wherever?
R. Shetty: Well, we film out of the Hamptons, but we don’t do it as often as people would expect. For the mere reason that it’s so far away for crew-wise. So, when we go out there, we actually stay out there. But, the houses are incredible. And, it’s pretty, it’s pretty amazing. And, then a very unique opportunity to be able to visit and, for a day pretend you live there. But, it’s definitely fun, definitely fun during the summer.
Q: When you first read the script for Royal Pains, what did you think about Divya and has your vision of her changed throughout the development of the series and your character?
R. Shetty: Well, the pilot of Royal Pains that they had was, Divya was a more of a peripheral character. There was a lot of unanswered things. You got information. You understood that, that she had some mysteries in her family. You understood that she was a go-getter, but she had a secret, and it had something to do with her career. It was entwined with her family situation.
And, these have grown. She just shows up at this random doctor’s hotel room because she has gotten it into her head that this is the man who’s going to run her concierge business. Die-hard fans will know that Divya, that she tried to start up this concierge business before, and it hadn’t worked. So, she was on the lookout for the right doctor, because she fully believed that it was, she hadn’t picked the right team.
So, Evan …, his brother, kind of came with the package. And, that was also evident in the pilot when we have the scene outside and she’s forced to have to talk to him. So, dynamics, I think, were already set in the pilot that were very interesting.
How has she progressed? Far beyond my imagination. I didn’t realize how wonderful the writers have been kind, they would be to me, and how they would develop this side of her, because she is so strong and so independent, which is what I like in the pilot. But, what a great challenge to show that she doesn’t know everything.
And, she really has these huge fears and she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know how to make her life the way she wants it. However smart she is, she has a lot of people pulling at her from different directions. And, that’s a dream come true as an actor, to delve into those storylines.
Q: It seems that Divya always has fashion envy, since she is always so well put together, and fashionable. Can you talk about some of your favorite outfits and designers that you get to wear on set?
R. Shetty: Ooh. I get to wear a lot of them. I mean, I’ve gone from, … shoes to Vivian Kay that I like a lot. Let me see. I’m trying to think of all the designers that they use. Caroline, who is our stylist on the show, is amazing. I mean her, her sense of putting the colors of Divya together are exceptional. I mean, I don’t know how she actually does it.
So, I think a designer that we have used in the course, all of them have left my head. But, any that you can think of from all the big ones, from Catherine Malandrino to the Pradas to, we go to Steve Madden. I’ve had those shoes before. I mean, we really go the gamut.
I don’t think that fashion necessarily has to be high end. Though, for Divya, because she’s a Hamptonite and she’s obviously from a wealthy, wealthy family, they do tend to go on very high end. I mean all of my shoes; every one of the shoes that you see me wearing on the show is over $500, usually. So, that just gives you an idea of some of the stuff she gets to, she gets to frolic in.
Q: In your time away from Royal Pains, you worked on a movie called Not for Nothing. And, I was wondering if you could tell us anything about it and is it a movie we can expect to see later this year?
R. Shetty: I don’t even know when it’s going to be released. It was just a really fun cameo role. It was actually really … crazy girlfriend. She’s breaking up. It was a really fun, … crew. We shot in New York. (Audio breaking up)
It was just one of those things that I was drawn to just because this woman is crazy. And, yeah, it was fun to play crazy. And, so I did it.
Q: Are Hollywood and the film industry something you see in your future? Is the state still calling to you? Do you have an idea when you might go?
R. Shetty: I would love to go to any of them. I would love to do a movie. I would love to do a meaningful movie. I would love to do a comedy, I mean. And, at some point, I do want to return to the stage. I think that to have Royal Pains on is great. And, I think that definitely Los Angeles next year is going to be a place that I will go to and spend a bit more time than this year. This year I have stayed in New York because I’m getting married. So, it was not a time for me to actually go the West Coast. But, definitely movies. And, I hope at some point, in stage. It has to be something very special to me. But, I definitely do miss the stage.
Q: What are some of your favorite scenes to shoot?
R. Shetty: Warm scenes. Scenes when I am warm. I love doing scenes with all of my cast mates. I think the Evan scenes are usually very fun. That’s such a hard question, because they’re so, they’re so different.
I think my least favorite scenes are the big group scenes, big medical group scenes because they’re so technically complicated that most of it is about just getting the medical jargon right and getting the technical, you know, getting your body use to how to do these medical protocols, I guess. In a very believable way, I think those are very difficult things to make natural.
I would say that the scenes I really like are personal scenes, you know, character moving scenes. The scenes with Adam are really, really fun. The argument that I had in the last episode with Hank was a really fun scene. There’s an episode in tonight’s show, too, that’s between myself and Evan. It’s very touching and very quiet. Those are, those are my favorite types of scenes.
Q: Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch Royal Pains?
R. Shetty: Well, I think it’s a really brilliant show. I think that it holds a lot of things that people want right now. It shows stories that people can associate with. Because we don’t only help people who are the ultra-riche. We have characters who are just everyday people that we run into.
I think that the main characters are also believable and you can really, what’s the word? You can really associate with them. Hank is like the everyday guy. He’s the doctor who knows stuff though. He’s a person you want to go to if you needed some help. You’ve got the combination of these amazing houses as well. People want to see what the Hamptons looks like. The show about the Hamptons. I just think that the cast and crew is a really good cast and crew. And, it comes across in the product. And, it’s a product that’s good. I think people know it and they love to watch it.
Q: Do you have any interest in directing or writing? Or, is performing your focus?
R. Shetty: I’m not a writer. I have tried to be, just for my own creative thing. And, I actually prefer drawing to writing. I am attracted to the production side of it, meaning more directory, like more the vision of the entire movie or show, per se. I think that interests me. And, I’m sure that at the point I will want to morph into that role.
Q: So, more like a producer.
R. Shetty: I’m thinking, because I like casting control. I have many ideas about that. I think I have a good eye for being able to see where a project should go and what its style should be. Those other things interest me, but I don’t have the knowledge or the … Being on the show is helpful, because I get to see the behind-the-scenes being a series regular, and knowing the producers. It’s really hard work.
I say this for any job, I hate people who just jump into things with no real knowledge, because they never usually do a very good job. I never want to be one of those people. So, I don’t want to lightly say, oh, I’ll be a producer or I’ll be a director. But, there’s definitely an interest in learning about it.
Q: Can you talk about any other projects you have going on right now? Or are you still busy with Royal Pains. You don’t have anything else to focus on.
R. Shetty: I tell you, I’m busy with my wedding. I’ve been very lucky in New York. I’ve done some really great readings, workshops for one, for … musical and recently an independent movie. Other than that, just because our hiatus came at such a funny time. It came in December, going into January. And, of course, everything shuts down then. And, now we … season, and now I have my wedding. So, I knew that this season would be. I was thinking, yeah, I’ll just leave my honey and I’ll just go to Los Angeles. And, that’s not, yeah, that’s, that’s not going to happen.
So, my big project has been my wedding. Hopefully, this show that I’m creating, i.e. Reshma’s wedding, will be really, will be well. We’ll be well. I’ve had really fun, though, because USA has also helped me. We put together some webisodes about how to get married in New York.
It is on Royal Pains’ web site. It’s called Royally Wed with Divya. It’s – USA’s been amazing. I just had no idea it was going to turn out as great as it turned out. It’s me walking around because I’ve never been married before, and I didn’t know anything. So, meeting vendors, finding out what brides need to know, getting tips brought to you with a video. So, that’s been a really great project that I’ve been working on.
Q: How, how much of your pre-med studies helped you with the role, if any?
R. Shetty: I do think that it didn’t. The medical jargon is not horribly difficult. It’s difficult to memorize. But, to …, understand, to work out what it means, … so, I think it helped me. A few more years would have probably helped me more. But, I think I do okay.
Q: How much did you know about concierge doctors before you started the show? Because I had never heard of them before.
R. Shetty: I hadn’t heard of them until I read the pilot and then when I did my research, suddenly all of these sites popped up. So, I guess it’s been in the works for quite a while. But, I, like you, had really not heard of concierge medicine. But, it’s going back to the roots of old-time medicine, right, of the doctor coming to your home. So, it kind of makes sense.
Q: So, it’s like house calls for high end?
R. Shetty: Oh, unfortunately, yes. We are on the time now that it is house calls for the high end. But, we no longer live in little villages any more, either. So, I guess it’s just – I don’t know, just a progression. But, I hadn’t heard of it before.