The last time Royal Pains fans caught up with the HankMed team, Hank (Mark Feuerstein) was getting ready to go under the knife for major surgery.
When the USA series returns for Season 5 on Wednesday (9/8c, USA), the doctor will still be adjusting to being the patient. "It's a new dynamic because it's the first time that Hank has really been weak," Paulo Costanzo, who plays Hank's trusty brother and CFO Evan, tells TVGuide.com.
Fortunately, Evan will be around to help his big brother heal. "It's rather sweet really because, at the end of the day, Hank raised Evan as if he were his father because there wasn't a father around. Then there's the brother dynamic where they fight and bicker, and now there's this nurturing aspect," he says. "At the heart of it, Hank is really — other than his wife — the most important person in Evan's life, and he doesn't want him to get hurt or die."
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Season 5 will see Evan step out of his brother's shadow in more ways than one. In addition to a possible acquisition of HankMed by another company that threatens to change the "whole landscape of the business, and of the show," according to Costanzo, Evan will find a big rival in one of Shadow Pond's affluent new neighbors, Blythe Ballard (played by Frances Conroy)."They're basically arch-nemeses," Costanzo says. "She's really out to get him."
Costanzo admits he had some trepidation about going toe-to-toe with the Emmy nominee, who will recur this season. "I know her most recently from American Horror Story, and she plays a scary part on that show. I was like, 'Oh my God, what if she comes to set and she's all method-y and she chooses not to talk to me or be mean?" he says. "She's the sweetest person. For some reason, she's one of those people that gets my sense of humor. I get her to cry with laughter."
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On screen, their characters' dispute will push Evan into unchartered waters — politics! "Basically, Blythe threatens to deep-six HankMed through bureaucracy," Costanzo says. "Evan decides that the only way he can fight her is by fighting fire with fire, and for him to run to be a part of the Village Council so he has some influence and control and power over the decisions that are being made to save HankMed."
The move is a big one not only for the company, but for Evan personally. "Evan has grown up as the little brother to the overachieving doctor and he's never really gotten any true recognition himself. Granted, HankMed was his baby and he made that, but still, it's all based around his brother," Costanzo says. "This will be the first time that he gets personal, widespread recognition and acceptance. I think there's a deeper meaning for him."
Royal Pains viewers know all too well that Evan is the perfect character to run for office. Behind the scenes, however, Costanzo says it's been a bit more of an adjustment. "We just did a scene where he is having a campaign event. ... There is like a 3-foot-tall picture of my head with my finger pointing saying, 'We want you.' As an actor, it's always a little embarrassing to show up on set and there are 100 extras all looking at you. You're like, 'What?' and then you see a huge banner with your head on it," Costanzo says with a laugh.
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Fortunately, he won't have too much downtime to sweat the small stuff. Costanzo, who made his directorial debut on the show last season, will be stepping behind the camera this summer to direct five Royal Pains webisodes focused specifically on Evan's campaign. "They follow Evan through the stuff you don't see on the show, the in-between-the-line stuff," he says. "They are giving me a lot of money to do this. It's not something small. If you're a fan of the show, you should absolutely check them out because they are mini-episodes of the show."
Taking a page from many other USA shows such as Psych and White Collar, the webisodes will also be interactive. Shooting hasn't started yet on the online series, but Costanzo already has big plans for the finale. "The final webisode may be a musical number. I'm a musical theater aficionado, aka loser," he says with a laugh. "It's not like a whole bunch of cops dancing in the middle of the street musical number. It's more like in a Disney movie."
Whether Evan wins or loses the election, Costanzo thinks they've already succeeded. "A lot of people have said this season is the best season yet. We keep adding things, and everyone's story lines, as well as everyone as performers, seem to be evolving — all that needs to be in the recipe of a show that continues to be picked up and survive," Costanzo says. "I think we're more than surviving."
Royal Pains returns on Wednesday at 9/8c on USA.