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Plus: Why there's hope for a movie
The series finale of Royal Painsgave everyone -- fans included -- the happy ending they were looking for. Hank (Mark Feuerstein) ended up with Jill, spending summers in the Hamptons with Evan (Paulo Costanzo) and Paige (Brooke D'Orsay) and their kids (so many kids). Divya (Reshma Shetty) completed medical school and returned to the Hamptons to work at HankMed 2.0 along with Evan and Jeremiah (Ben Shenkman). And Boris (Campbell Scott) ... well, presumably Boris is still running from his familial duties as -- wait for it -- Russian royalty? Yep, you read that right.
TVGuide.com spoke with Feuerstein, as well as executive producers Andrew Lenchewski and Michael Rauch, about the series finale and that three-year flash-forward at the end. Check out our exclusive interview (which has been edited and condensed for length) here:
TVGuide.com: How long did you have the ending of Royal Pains mapped out?
Andrew Lenchewski: It was really less about having specific plot points or events planned out in advance. It was more about really giving the show the thematic closure that we thought it needed and deserved. For us, the show was always about two things: family and second chances. So, what we really wanted to accomplish by the end of the finale was taking each member of this unlikely family that had formed, and making sure that each one of them had fulfilled his or her respective second chance in life. And with no one was that as important as it was with Hank. As you remember, when we met him in the pilot, he's lost his job, he's lost his fiancée. He has, at best, a strained relationship with his brother. He has no relationship with his dad. And by the end, we see a guy who's truly found himself and reclaimed his life in every way. So, that felt satisfying to us.
Royal Pains: How did it all end?
Were there any alternate endings that you considered and rejected?
Lenchewski: There was an alternate ending, and it was really a debate between two different endings in the writers room about, where should Hank end up? It was pretty divisive and polarizing and probably split about 50/50. There was a camp that was for Hank ending up in the Hamptons, and there was a camp that was for Hank ending up elsewhere. And there were really strong points of view and arguments for each one. But ultimately, we thought that the audience would want to know that, long after they walked away from the show, they could imagine that Hank and his family were still hanging out in the Shadow Pond guest house, enjoying bagels and cupcakes, and that Hank was still taking care of the haves and the have-nots in the Hamptons that always needed him, and would continue to. ... Because the show for us has always been so much about family, we really love the idea of, in that flash-forward, ending up back in Shadow Pond, seeing the family together, and feeling like, even if only for a summer, they would be able to all be as one again.
Mark, how much input, if any, did you have in the ending?
Mark Feuerstein: Not so much. And not because I wasn't invited to participate in the conversation, but more because I so trusted Michael and Andrew and our amazing writers room to guide Hank home in the end, that I wasn't going to lobby heavily. And there was already a very healthy discussion about it in the first place.
Were you happy with the ending?
Mark Feuerstein: I could have seen it go either way. ... I could have seen Hank going on a Jill Casey-like Doctors Without Borders mission for the rest of his life, having somehow a wife and children on the road and doing his thing internationally. But I kind of love the way he got his cupcake and was able to eat it too, by going to Africa and us seeing him willing to take action to get the love of his life -- which, by the way, I think is so poetic and fitting. Because I did believe that, despite Boris and the mansion and this new possibility as a concierge doctor ... it was love that kept him there in the beginning. It was Jill Casey and meeting her at that party that was the clincher. So it was just so fitting that it was Jill all along, and that he goes to Africa to get her, but he brings her back to the place where he found his second chance, where he got his second life and where he invested his heart and soul into all these special relationships, most of all with his brother.
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Talk about the realization Hank comes to in the final two episodes, about feeling fulfilled in his life.
Feuerstein: A TV show is an organic beast. And I've heard Michael and Andrew talk about how in the beginning, it was thought that Hank would be the one to find the love of his life and be the mature man, settle down, maybe have children, and it would be Evan who was always searching and yearning and dating. But, as happens with a TV show, it seemed more interesting to the writers and more original ... to make Evan the one who happens to find love and Hank the one who is constantly trying and not succeeding. ... That moment where Hank does come to terms with the fact that he might not find anyone and that his life could be OK just with the people that he has in it, is quite a profound moment. And not to get too heady, but there is something about giving it up in order to get it, some kind of sense that you have to give up the hope to find the love of your life in order to have it. And in some ways, poetically, he does that, and he is able to understand and come to realize that he needs this woman.
For Michael and Andrew, did you have a Plan B in case Jill Flint wasn't able to return? Michael Rauch: We began talking about the possibility of Jill and Hank ending up together seasons ago, mostly because that was the love story that began the series. ... So, Jill was always kind of in the back of our minds as someone who it would be really romantic and poetic if they began the series together and ended it together. And then, when Jill got the Night Shift job, and Night Shift became successful, we started to have some scheduling concerns. [But] when we reached out to Jill, she was so happy and so kind to us to say, 'I will make it work. We'll figure it out.' And between Jill and her reps and the people at Night Shift and NBC, everyone kind of bent over backwards to make sure we'd be able to use her, both for the 100th episode and also the finale. So, there was a little bit of anxiety before we made that call, but 30 seconds into the call, we were reassured that we'd be able to make it happen.
Boris' backstory has been played as a mystery throughout the series. How long did you have the Russian royalty backstory planned out?
Lenchewski: It was actually something that was pitched at the beginning [of the final 16 episodes]. One of our amazing writers, who has been with the show since Season 1, Carol Flint, was the one who first proposed this rather elaborate backstory for Boris. And what was amazing was, the more we talked about it, the more it felt like, even though we were discussing it for the first time, there had been seeds planted along the way that really helped support it. For instance, Boris' half-brother Dmitri, and other hints at Boris' aristocratic roots that we had shared with the audience in earlier seasons. So we started driving towards it, and I think what made it work for us was the idea that this was our international man of mystery character.
For all eight seasons, we were constantly peeling the onion and discovering new things about him. And he was motivation for us to be able to go and shoot in some of these incredible international locales that we got to shoot in. Those Hank/Boris adventures became a real staple of the show. So, at a certain point, it became very difficult for Boris to top himself. And yet, this idea that he descended from this very august lineage and yet, as far back as it reached, it was now at a moment in time where his heritage was as important as ever because of what was going on in the world, and he would have to react to it in a way that would allow him to honor his heritage but protect his family. It felt like it gave us all the things we needed for a series finale that would still let Boris stay true to who he was as a character.
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We only see Hank and Evan and their families in the final scene. Was that a conscious decision to bring it back to the two brothers?
Feuerstein: Yes. It was a demand I made. (Laughter)
Rauch: It's an answer in two parts. One is that, as you may know, Reshma was incredibly pregnant for Season 7, and especially for Season 8. And as we were writing the scenes, we had no idea if we were going to have her or not. And since we knew this was going to be the last scene of the series, it became a very complicated prospect for us to write Divya into the scene. If we had Divya, we'd want to have Jeremiah too. But then if we had to pull Divya from the scene and just have Jeremiah, we thought that would have felt odd and felt glaring that she wasn't there.
That kind of production reality went along with the bookending of the show -- which is, the show began with these two brothers and a broken family, and a relationship that was in desperate need of repair. And it felt like a really beautiful ending to have those two same guys, however many summers later, best friends. There was something very fulfilling and complete about the notion of them beginning as almost antagonists toward each other, with a complete lack of a sense of family, and being able to end with the same two guys who have grown so much, matured so much, found love, found family, both together as brothers and also with spouses and, for Evan and Paige, children. And in a way, there was something just incredibly simple about keeping it to those two and being able to mention Eddie and Mrs. Newberg and obviously Divya and Jeremiah -- to have a verbal presence for them, but to really focus on the Lawsons.
Speaking of Evan and Paige, how did you arrive at their ending?
Lenchewski: The storyline of Evan and Paige trying to start a family is one that we've been telling for these last couple seasons. And it was a real puzzle in the writers room, because we felt like every different version of the pregnancy story had already been told on TV. The one that we all felt we hadn't seen before was the one where the wife is eventually able to get pregnant, but only after already having made the decision to adopt. In addition, we had introduced these three characters at the beginning of Season 8, these three kids who were without a family of their own, having been orphaned when their parents died. ... It felt like a really nice way to show Evan and Paige completing this journey of trying to start their own family, and at the same time, introducing this clearly enormous challenge that they'd be grappling with long after the series was over.
Mark, did you take any mementos from the set?
Feuerstein: Yes. I stole a porcelain horse head, a beautiful indigo blue porcelain horse head. I loved it. It was symbolic of the experience in the guest house and the Hamptons at large. And I knew my daughter, whose favorite animal is horses, would love it. So I put it in the trunk along with all the other stuff that I had, and as I was getting out for dinner, I think with Michael and Andrew -- one of our many celebratory dinners at the end there -- as my trunk was opening, it fell right out and crashed on some street on the Lower East Side. So it still sits there in some drain as my memento of Royal Pains.
You probably haven't thought this far ahead, but there are so many reboots and revivals these days. Would you ever consider doing a Royal Pains movie or something similar?
Feuerstein: I would love it. Are you kidding? This TV family has become my real family. I love every actor on the show, the writers. To bring the crew back together, to get to work with Michael and Andrew again, it is a fantasy. I would do it in a heartbeat. If they asked me tomorrow, I would be on set at 9am. Not 7 or 8. That's a little early. (Laughter)
Rauch: Nothing would be more fun than getting to work with everyone, the writers, the cast and crew. We feel like we both finished the stories of the characters and the relationships in a way that felt complete and emotionally fulfilling, and at the same time, there's a promise of what's to come next. So it would be a great opportunity and a lot of fun to be able to explore that.
Lenchewski: I'll be a little bit more sobering about it. We basically had to end the show twice. At the end of Season 6, we were on the bubble, and so we had to construct a season finale that could serve as both a season finale if we were renewed and a series finale if we weren't. And so that was kind of creatively and emotionally draining. And then we obviously did it again at the end of Season 8, and we felt like, OK, this really feels like the perfect conclusion to all these stories. So the idea of having to unwrap that and then wrap it back together again at a later date feels a little daunting. But I will say, two weekends ago we went to the ATX festival and Michael and I had an amazing weekend with the cast. It really felt like the family was back together again. And the studio picked up the tab. So what I would wish for is for the studio to send us all on more vacations without us having to tamper with the ending of the show creatively.