8:01pm PT by Kate Stanhope
'Royal Pains' Bosses Discuss Finale "Curveball," Flash-Forward and Revival Hopes
[Warning: This story contains spoilers form Wednesday's series finale of Royal Pains, "Uninterrupted."]
Hank (Mark Feuerstein) finally got his happy ending — but he had to leave the Hamptons to find it. On Wednesday's series finale of Royal Pains, Hank's search for a new adventure led him to turn down an offer to run away with longtime travel buddy Boris (Campbell Scott). Instead, Hank traveled solo to South Africa, where he rekindled his long-dormant romance with Jill (Jill Flint). But while HankMed closed down temporarily, the show's other central characters weren't left hanging: Divya (Reshma Shetty) headed off to start Johns Hopkins medical school, Jeremiah (Ben Shenkman) turned his focus to his new lab and his new romance, and Evan (Paulo Costanzo) and Paige (Brooke D'Orsay) expanded their family three-fold. Just one episode after learning they were expecting, the couple decided to foster Lena (Sarah Mezzanotte) and her younger brothers in order to keep them altogether. (Thankfully, space is no longer an issue for the Lawsons as Evan inherited Shadow Pond from a newly off-the-grid Boris.)
The finale ended with a sweet three-year flash-forward, which showed Hank and Jill, newly engaged, visiting the Hamptons for the summer to work for HankMed once again and spend time with Evan and Paige and their kids.
So why was this the right call for Hank? What storylines didn't make it into the final episode? And what hopes are there for a revival? The Hollywood Reporter spoke to showrunners Andrew Lenchewski and Michael Rauch about all of that and more.
Obviously the big twist in the finale was Hank and Jill ending up together. Obviously, Jill left in season four, but at what point in the series run did you realize she was still the one for Hank?
Andrew Lenchewski: It was tricky. I think when we said goodbye to both Jill Casey and Jill Flint in season four, there was a very strong sense, particularly for Michael and I, that this wasn't going to be a permanent goodbye. And then, before we knew it, it was four seasons later and Jill Flint was off on another medical show and we were really trying to answer the question of what is going to be the right ending for Hank, what is going to be satisfying for the audience and ultimately what felt right to us — because obviously Hank had a number of unsuccessful relationships in the intervening seasons — but at the end of the day, it really just felt to us like Jill Casey was ultimately the reason that Hank stayed in the Hamptons in the first place and it really felt like dramatically, poetically, karmically, the right ending was for the two of them to end up together. The twist that we put on it that ended up feeling like it wasn't too expected of an ending was that they were going to end up together but not necessarily in the Hamptons, at least not for now, which is where the Africa story came in. That helped make it feel like we were throwing the audience a little bit of a curveball.
Why did it feel true to the character to have Hank leave this life that he's built for himself in the Hamptons?
Michael Rauch: Part of what we wrestled with … was beginning season one imagining that Hank was going to be one who got married and settled down and had a family and Evan was going to be the bachelor, and as that kind of flipped throughout and we said goodbye to Jill in season four, we were not necessarily going to pair Hank up with a true love to marry, and then that kind of became a story unto itself. So what we started to really embrace was not just the notion of Hank being OK being single, but also the feeling of Hank has done so much over the eight seasons in this community in terms of helping people and feeling like perhaps in his mind it's time to try a new adventure. His heart and his home may always be in the Hamptons, and maybe it will just be part of the year, but he can use his medical ability, let's say he summers in the Hamptons but in the winter he goes other places where he can really help people. so it felt like it was a nice marriage for us of allowing Hank's roots in the Hamptons to continue to grow for the rest of Hank Lawson's life, and at the same time, allow his medical ability and his being the doctor everyone wishes they had to help people in other places that need the help.
The other great twist in the finale was, after revealing Paige is pregnant in the penultimate episode, having her and Evan foster three kids. What was the creative thinking behind that?
Lenchewski: This storyline about them trying to get pregnant, which we had been playing since season seven if not earlier, is a storyline that we've seen before on TV and we tried really hard to think about how we could put our own spin on it and ultimately, this wasn't a medical storyline for us, it was a family storyline, and it felt both really surprising and really satisfying at the same time to see them take these kids who were so in need of a family of their own and incorporate them into the growing, extended Lawson family. It felt like it made sense and also it wasn't going to be as easy as whatever we could fit into the finale. There was going to be a long road ahead of them. This is going to be a pretty big adjustment for Evan and Paige and also for these three kids, and we like that sense that there's going to be more story for the Lawsons off screen even if we weren't going to see it. The other thing that happened, because we introduced these kids at the beginning of season eight, we just fell in love with all three of them: with Sarah, with Zachary, with Anthony. They were not just adorable but such wonderful actors, each one of them, and we felt a chemistry between the characters and between the actors, so it was a really fun accident that we happened upon. It felt like the right ending for Evan and Paige.
You could have easily just ended the finale with Hank and Jill getting back together in South Africa, but then the finale flashes forward three years to show Evan's growing family and to show Hank and Jill back in the Hamptons. Why was that important to add?
Rauch: We actually spent a lot of time, obviously, talking about the perfect way we wanted to end the series. We went back and forth a lot. Ultimately, what it came down to was, as we talked about before, the show has been about two things: second chances and family. It felt like the most satisfying and organic ending final image of this series would be seeing not just our family in terms of the Royal Pains family, but how it's grown and how despite everyone coming and going and building families outside of HankMed, everyone's still apart of the same family. So, as romantic as it felt ending with Hank and Jill together, ultimately this series wasn’t about a great love story. That may have been part of what it was about, but it was really about the Lawson family. At the same time, it was also exciting for us to show what Evan and Paige's kids would look like. … It felt like it would be a lot of fun.
We also really wanted to show Evan and Paige maintained the stature of Shadow Pond, but at the same time made it their own. So all there's all this kid stuff around and the fact that Shadow Pond itself, the gift from Boris lives on, but now lives on in a very different, practical way.
There was also a big Boris reveal that he's actually Russian royalty. How did you think that up?
Lenchewski: With Boris, it was really hard to continue to one-up ourselves with this character when it came to mystery and intrigue because we had already shown so many different sides of him and so many different secrets have been revealed, and we had gone with him to so many different places and ultimately we had to come up with something that felt like it was true to this character who had really been the aristocracy of our world since the pilot, and at the same time, sort of elevated the character one final time and gave the audience one last "Holy shit, who is this guy?" This felt like a way to do those things and also to give him a reason to have to leave the Hamptons because, as Michael said, staying on scene with our show being about a family, ultimately he was making a decision that was about him and his family. So we liked the idea that he was going to be leaving and leaving for good. We liked the idea that he was going to try and get Hank to come with him, and we liked the idea that, for the first time, Hank was going to put his own journey above serving Boris' needs.
Was there ever talk of having Hank and Evan's half-sister, Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) come back to the show? That was a big storyline in season six, and they've referred to her since, but we haven’t seen her.
Rauch: We did talk about it and we broke some story for it. Willa went onto become the star of the MTV show Scream, so scheduling became an issue. We also felt like we were able to say goodbye to her in a way that felt like she had repaired her relationship with Eddie and that she was going to be safe and protected by her newfound brothers. If we brought her back into the fold, it started to feel like the most dramatic stories we had already told and then it would be more of us servicing the character without really being able to utilize it in a way that would push the new story forward. I think if we had had another few seasons, we definitely would have brought her back. But we knew how many stories we had to start telling and wrapping up and it didn’t feel like bringing that character would have helped with that.
What's next for you both now? What kind of shows or projects are you hoping to work on next?
Lenchewski: Personally, I don't think I'm looking to do another medical show anytime soon, but I'm sure those are famous last words. It's weird giving these interviews, because we finished shooting almost a year ago. So much time has passed and, for me, the first few months were really helpful after eight years on the show just to kind of recharge and catch up and have a life again. And now it's an exciting time, getting the opportunity to go out and look for new stuff and having this show under your belt is, of course, a huge asset because there were so many people who followed the show so loyally for so long. I'm working on a couple new things on USA, which I'm excited about, and just hoping to find something that will be as rewarding creatively and personally as Royal Pains was.
Rauch: I ditto all of that, and I'm working on a couple things for CBS.
Speaking about USA, the network has obviously reinvented itself and shifted its focus in recent years. If you were pitching Royal Pains today, which networks would you take it to?
Lenchewski: That's an interesting question because, creatively, it's very hard to imagine Royal Pains on today's USA living side by side with Mr. Robot. In fact, our best friend and creative soulmate at the network, [NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment svp current scripted programming] Michael Sluchan, he's very frankly confessed to us that USA would not buy Royal Pains today, so it really was the final relic of the old USA. And that's the nature of the business; things evolve and things change and I think that's why Michael and I are so fortunate that the show was sold to USA when it was sold, and that was the home where we got to make it for eight years because we couldn’t have imagined a better or more supportive or more dedicated group of people.
It doesn't take long these days for talk to start about reunions or revivals or reboots. Is it five years from now or 10 years from now? What are your thoughts about the future of this project after the finale?
Rauch: It's funny you say that because we were joking with Michael Sluchan yesterday because our numbers on season eight keep going up every week, so we were joking, "Season nine, here we come." But I think for us, and by us I mean Andrew, myself, the writers, the cast, the crew, the opportunity to come back, whether it's a year or five years down the line, and revisit these characters who we all love and miss so much and the opportunity to see what's going on in the Hamptons with these people in the future, would be an incredible creative and personal experience to have. We'd be thrilled to be able to go back and, at the same time, if it didn't happen, we feel so happy with the way the series ended and satisfied with that that we don't feel like there are stories that we have to tell, as much as there are stories we could tell.