Royal Pains fans may have been dismayed when Dr. Hank quit HankMed (again!) in the Season 5 finale to travel the world with Boris as his personal physician. However, star Mark Feuerstein couldn't have been happier about his character's decision — particularly since it meant traveling to Nice, Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez to film the new season of the USA series, which premieres Tuesday at 9/8c.
"I have friends who followed the Grateful Dead in college and they were so grateful that this band had brought them to these parts of the country that they never would have been to. Well, if that were true for them, then I have been the ultimate Deadhead in getting to follow this show around to all these incredible locations," Feuerstein tells TVGuide.com of his jet-setting schedule.
TVGuide.com caught up with Feuerstein to talk about Season 6's "back-to-basics" mission, Hank's new love interest, and going "dark" for his next TV gig:
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Last season ended with Hank leaving HankMed and agreeing to go work for Boris. Where do we pick up this season?
Mark Feuerstein: I think the show is all about second chances and I guess Hank has had maybe third and fourth chances as well. ... Something I just realized is that the cost of taking care of his mother when she was very sick when Hank was a child, which led to him becoming a doctor, also had the effect of keeping him very local and not allowing him to explore the world. So getting to travel with Boris was a great opportunity for Hank.
How will Hank not having to be in charge and being able to do more things for himself change him?
Feuerstein: It will be a sort of back-to-basics initiative for the show. I know that the network was incredibly supportive of our efforts to tell somewhat darker stories in Season 5 with Hank being addicted to pain medication, Evan and Paige having strife in their first year of marriage, and Divya getting pregnant by a guy she's not going to end up with. But I think the initiative from the network and our writing staff is: Let's get back to what we do best, our bread and butter, which is that easy, breezy, you may have something wrong with you and it may actually be critical, but we're going to bring you back and we're going to bring you back in a world that is beautiful to look at with people that only have the best intentions. ... Similarly, Hank was in it not for the corporate climb or rise to power, but more because he loved taking care of patients one-on-one. So in Season 6, you'll see Hank returning to what he does best, which is getting to know his patients and helping to find out what's wrong with them.
Was that decision from the network surprising or disappointing at all?
Feuerstein: I'm not under the misapprehension that our show is Breaking Bad. So, the answer is it comes with the territory. Of course, I love to stretch my acting chops and I get to. I play a character who is a dramatic, comedic, romantic medical MacGyver, and I am never for a lack of emotions and human behavioral observations. Sure, in my next role on HBO playing the Jewish Tony Soprano, I'll be thrilled to go dark. But if staying true to what we are means we get to do this not only for a sixth season but maybe a seventh and — should all the stars in the universe align — an eighth, then by all means I will savor every minute of being one of the leads in a light, easy, breezy, wonderful dramedy.
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It must be interesting too that Royal Pains is now one of the older veterans on USA.
Feuerstein: It's a constant vocation or hobby if you're on a USA show to observe the way in which the network's image or initiatives change creatively over time. Yes, as we watched Burn Notice and Psych and In Plain Sight and their other blue skies shows go away and give way to shows like Graceland and Suits, which are of a slightly darker ilk and maybe a little less procedural and a little more character-driven and serialized, of course you wonder about your fate. But, and maybe it's because we live in our little bubble, I get the impression that we're still their reliable standby.
Are you intimidated at all that USA is introducing another doctor concierge show next month? Is there room on USA for two?
Feuerstein: If they had asked me what would be your dream choice for the next show that we would launch on USA, I can assure you it's not a concierge doctor show. I hope for the network that all their shows work because I am so grateful to it, and I will always be a cheerleader for USA Network regardless of my status. That said, it's hard to know if there's room for two concierge doctor shows. Maybe people are so in love with our world that it exists in a sphere unto itself and isn't defined by that label and we can both co-exist on the network. But regardless of that, I'm very positive. The network has been very positive with us. Even though the writers are breaking the last episodes of this season, they haven't said anything about wrapping it all up in a nice, neat bow to put it to bed forever. So, we're not being given the impression that there's any sign of our terminal fate.
If they're letting you travel to all of these great places, hopefully that's also a positive sign.
Feuerstein: Earlier on somebody said that our show is architectural porn and we continue to try to stay true to that. Thankfully, the network continues to support us, and I think you're right. If they were planning on giving us the boot, they wouldn't be spending the kind of money they spend on our show. I think we're also playing the game. I don't know how to say that in a less-than-media savvy way, but we've made it clear to the network that if they have a cameo for a show on E! or Bravo, we can fit it in. If they want to send us Tamra Barney from Real Housewives of Orange County, we'd love to have her. ... We'll do anything to endear ourselves because we love our jobs and we want those jobs for the 200-people crew we work with everyday to continue.
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You've said this season goes back to basics. How will Hank juggle the patient-of-the-week cases while also still working with Boris and traveling with him?
Feuerstein: I wish I were one of the writers in the room because I could so much better answer how brilliantly they weave this tapestry and show me running to some pool deck to save a surfer or some rich Internet dude while, within the span of an episode, I also manage to be in a flashback to a scene in Monte Carlo with Boris or a scene with a new female femme fatale ... or in Geneva at a Swiss bank doing shady stuff. But it's a tribute to the writers, and to Campbell Scott himself because he is the anchor of that world and without him playing Boris, this entire Kuester von Jurgens-Ratenicz world would never have seen the light of day. That larger-than-life story line has not only survived, but has been a badge of honor for the show.
In past seasons, the show has skipped from one summer to the next without showing what happened in between, but it sounds like this season we'll see flashbacks of Hank traveling with Boris?
Feuerstein: Not only will there be flashbacks to what happened with Boris and Hank, we'll also visit a few moments from Hank's childhood, and I'm so grateful that we get to do that Any time you get to understand a character from his roots, it just shows how deep our ability to tell the stories of our characters has gotten.
You mentioned a femme fatale, and it's been awhile since we've seen a love interest for Hank. Is that on the horizon for him this season?
Feuerstein: I don't know how much I'm allowed to say about this, but I will say that if our audience has begun to wonder if Hank took a vow of celibacy since being somewhat footloose and fancy free in the past, I can assure them that Hank will be getting some action in Season 6. It will have some of the most romantic potential of any relationship he's had.
Royal Pains premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on USA. Catch up and watch the Season 5 finale here. Are you glad the show is going back to basics?