To do that, he's starring in, and producing, CBS' new comedy, 9JKL. The show is based on a period in his life following the end of Royal Pains where he was trying to find his next gig — while living between his parents and his brother in the same apartment building. And if the familial inspiration wasn't enough, Feuerstein also co-created the series with his wife Dana Klein, who now runs the writers' room for the comedy.
Some things have been changed to protect the guilty, of course. Mark plays Josh Roberts, a recent divorcee who moves into the empty apartment between his family members after his show Blind Cop ends. Elliot Gould, Linda Lavin, David Walton and Lisa Lapira fill out the rest of the cast as Josh's family. Everything has been hyped up for the sake of comedy... Though some truths ring true, like his father walking in every morning in tighty-whities to ask Josh if he wants breakfast.
TV Guide talked to Feuerstein about why going personal felt like the right career move, working with family, and how Royal Pains fans will get to see a whole new side of him.
It's been quite a year for you: Royal Pains, to Prison Break villain, to Wet Hot American Summer... And now a semi-autobiographical sitcom. How did 9JKL become the thing you wanted to do?
Mark Feuerstein: After Royal Pains I was trying to figure out what would be my next move and the first piece of advice I got in our business was, "No one is in the Mark Feurerstein business more than Mark Feurerstein." I knew if I wanted to find the right thing that I might have to find it for myself — not because there weren't opportunities, but they weren't necessarily as ideal as I might like or necessarily stories that I connect to.
I would talk about this period in my life where I was living in an apartment between my parents on the one side — in the apartment I grew up in — and my brother, his wife and their baby in the apartment on the other side. Every morning my father would come in in his tighty-whities and go, "Mark, you want breakfast? You want french toast? Do you want scrambled eggs?" Every night my mother would want me to come over and talk about the days' events. Everyone thinks their life is a sitcom, but I actually had the means to make it one. When I pitched it to a producer he was like, "That's a show." Then I had to tell my wife, "It really is a show, honey." She agreed to write it with me. So we've created the show together.
What is it like to work on such a family oriented show, both in front of and behind the scenes?
Feuerstein: It's fantastic because I have always believed that this business is too hard to look at it like it's just a paycheck or like we're punching our card at the factory. It's something I do for the love of the game so to bring the love of your parents, your brother along with the love of your wife together in one idea is a dream scenario. I can't believe we get to do it every day right now. I fantasize that we'll get to do it for years to come.
Your parents have been very supportive of the show... Were they always on board with it, or did you have to do some convincing?
Feuerstein: We let them know a little late in the process. After we sold the pitch is when we really let them know this was happening. Perhaps we should have let them know — we let them know mumblings about this but not 100 percent that it was going to happen. They've been supportive all along the way...With support like that you don't have to doubt yourself as much. I hope when you watch the show that I don't air too much of our family's dirty laundry, and that they know if there are jokes made about them they are made merely to make a joke and to entertain, and not any deep psychological angst. If I have any resentment from filling any obligations over the years then I am certainly getting my revenge now.
How meta do you guys plan on getting? Do you have plans for someone from Royal Pains to show up as a cast member from Blind Cop?
Feuerstein: You're so funny for saying that. It's brilliant that you put together that Blind Cop is loosely adjacent to Royal Pains in that it was the show I did before and even more prescient because Brooke D'Orsay, who played Paige my sister-in-law on Royal Pains, has already played a love interest to me on 9JKL. At the table read I was introducing the woman that I would be on a bed making out with as my former sister-in-law for the last seven years. In the fictional realities of both shows, I guess we are saying incest is best, but that is certainly not the message of the show — contrary to certain opinions of the relationship with my mother on the show.
Is there a side of you that your fans are going to see on 9JKL that they haven't before, simply because this is based on your real life?
Feuerstein: I think because of autobiographical nature of the show, we will be handling issues that Mark Feuerstein has dealt with from what it's like to be an actor in transition having just ended a show and looking for your next gig; and as a single guy who was married, who thought he had his meant to be wife and it turned out she wasn't meant to be. I think in seeing my character deal with those issues you'll see someone who is a little more vulnerable, a little more anxious than maybe Hank Lawson was on Royal Pains.
I love getting to play a character that's kind of a clean-cut hero, well-intentioned and perfect around the edges, but it's very fun for me to get to play a character who is just a little closer to the slightly neurotic mess that I can be. [He] also has his moments of confidence but is a little more true to the vulnerabilities of the human condition than maybe Hank Lawson was, because he was always so assured in everything that he did.
9JKL premieres Monday, Oct. 2 at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS)