Boris' move to buy Hamptons Heritage and invite the entire HankMed team to be on the board of directors may have caught Royal Pains fans by surprise, but behind the scenes, it was a long time coming.
"This was a twist that we initially planned to put in last season's finale. It didn't quite feel like the right time to do it, but we loved the idea," co-creator and executive producer Andrew Lenchewski tells TVGuide.com. "We loved that it could really be a satisfying payoff for everything that Boris and Hank have been going through together, and we also loved that it could really platform a lot of great things to come with Boris at the helm of Hamptons Heritage."
But what does this mean for the HankMed team since everyone accepted Boris' offer except Hank (Mark Feuerstein)? Will Hank be able to resolve his fractured relationship with Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) despite her disappearance? And could his new lady love Charlotte (Gillian Alexy) be "the one?" TVGuide.com spoke with Lenchewski and executive producer Michael Rauch about all those burning questions and more.
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Everyone accepted Boris' offer except for Hank. Why did he turn it down?
Michael Rauch: Well, a lot of that will come out in the season finale, but the basis for it really goes back to the pilot. Part of what defined Hank in this series was how he was treated by a board of directors in a hospital system. So, just instinctively to go back and become something that he escaped from and was pushed out from felt like it was going against the grain of who he was.
What does this mean for HankMed now that the rest of the team has joined the board?
Andrew Lenchewski: It means that HankMed will now, in theory, return to the kind of very comfortable familial relationship they had with the hospital pre-Symphony when Jill Casey was still running the joint. But, on the other hand, we also know that things with Boris — as Hank says in the finale — always end up being more complicated than they seem at first. We think this will be a great way to introduce a whole new layer of conflict and tension between Hank and Boris and a whole set of challenges for HankMed to deal with in how best to divide their time and their resources.
Do you see that changing the structure of the show at all for next season? Will there be more scenes in the hospital and dealing with that bureaucracy?
Rauch: Only in the best possible way. We definitely want to, as we do every season, end the season in a way that will shift our storytelling and catapult it into the next season so it doesn't feel like we're repeating ourselves. ... It obviously gives Evan more responsibility and a different angle for his career, which we think will be both good and possibly challenging in the seventh season. Part of the appeal of the show and our aesthetic is being outside and being in wonderful locations. So, we certainly don't want to make it a hospital show, but it helps us find new ways of telling stories at the hospital.
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The episode also ended with Emma going off the grid. Will she be back in the finale? Is there hope for her and Hank to resolve some of the trust issues between them?Lenchewski: Yes, the finale will be the culmination of the story we've told this summer about this stranger in a strange land, and we'll finally answer the question about whether or not, given her background and her history with her own family, she's able to accept the invitation that Hank and Evan and Eddie have offered her to be a part of their family. We have Henry Winkler joining us for a very special and emotional scene and Willa Fitzgerald, who plays Emma, who's done a fantastic job all season long, does her best work of the season in this episode.
How will Divya's custody battle with Rafa and his mother come to a head in the finale?
Lenchewski: It's actually going to escalate in the finale and it will also be left as a cliff-hanger to be resolved in Season 7. There is a big twist at the end of the finale — the return of a character that Divya hasn't seen in a long time who may be of comfort to her as she continues to fight this fight — but the fight is not going to end with the end of Season 6.
Was there any hesitation about writing a cliff-hanger for the finale not knowing whether there will be a Season 7?
Lenchewski: We're optimists at heart and we think that the storytelling that we've done and the way the show has performed hopefully will earn us a Season 7. We really tried very hard not to let that uncertainty dictate how we wrapped up our stories this season. We really just wanted to tell the best stories we could with the most satisfying conclusions that we could and at the same time, make sure that we left room for new stories to be told if we do get the opportunity to continue.
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There has been another new woman in Hank's life this season: Charlotte. What can you say about where Hank and Charlotte's relationship is headed in the finale? Is this something that could carry onto next season?
Rauch: We've been really happy with the Hank-Charlotte story, and Gillian Alexy, in her portrayal of Charlotte, has walked a terrific line in terms of her medical issues as well as being a romantic interest for Hank. She is in the episode and we definitely tell more of their story while leaving it a little bit open-ended in terms of if we want to pick up with her and their relationship in Season 7. ... It's a little bit of an unanswered question in terms of where we're going in Season 7 with them.
It had been awhile since Hank had a love interest on the show. Is that something that you look to the fan reaction to gauge more than other story lines?
Rauch: It's definitely something we pay very close attention to. We do listen to the fans, but in terms of what feels satisfying for us, in a strange way the storytelling tells us if the character is fitting well with Hank. ... We're aware of the fans' opinions of the various women we have paired Hank with, but we're acutely aware of how we feel about it. [We pursue stories] that we feel [are] working in a way that is fun or if it's working in a way that is going to be... a life pairing for Hank, which we ultimately want to happen.
Now that you're going into Season 7, have you started thinking at all about the end of the show?
Lenchewski: The show has always really been about two things: It's been about family and it's been about second chances. While we haven't gotten ahead of ourselves and ever really talked about what would happen in the series finale, much less committed to it, for me it would be important to feel like those themes have been fully realized — that the family that Hank brought out here and the family that he's found out here feels like a family that will be with him for the rest of his life. And then to also feel like all the characters around [Hank] have fully realized their own reinventions in whatever ways applies to each one of them. The biggest thing that we've been seeing Hank wrestle with over six seasons, that we hope we can bring to a successful conclusion at the end of the series, is the search for love. He is a character and an actor who is hard to find an equal to, and we think the audience has incredibly high standards for who they think is worthy of him. So, maybe that will be Charlotte, maybe it won't. But Michael and I both feel it would be great to see Hank end up with someone that he is truly happy and we think the audience wants that for him too.
Royal Pains' season finale airs Tuesday at 9/8c on USA. Do you think Charlotte is a good match for Hank? Who do you think the surprise guest will be?
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