12:00pm PT by Kate Stanhope
'Royal Pains' Bosses Talk Possible Season Eight End Date, Going Out "on Our Own Terms"
Health scares are a common occurrence on USA's Royal Pains, but the showrunners behind the long-running series had a very different kind of scare last fall. "While we always had faith that we would get picked up, there were times when we weren't so sure," co-showrunner Michael Rauch tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Royal Pains was eventually renewed for two shortened eight-episode seasons in November. However, the renewal waiting game had an impact on Rauch and co-creator and co-showrunner Andrew Lenchewski, who now view season eight as the show's last. "The thought of not being able to end a show that we love and characters whom we love so much with the proper ending would have been heartbreaking," says Rauch. "We want to seize this opportunity and make assumptions that the end of season eight will be the end of the series so that we can plan accordingly."
THR spoke with Rauch and Lenchewski about what's coming up in season seven, the end goals for the series and the "bittersweet" beginning of the end.
How did the two-season renewal affect your planning and storytelling for this season and beyond?
Andrew Lenchewski: We're incredibly grateful to have the opportunity that few shows get, to be able to end the storytelling on our own terms. Not only that, but to be given this 16-episode canvas that allows us to build really methodically towards the end point for each of these characters and their journeys. It's been a lot of fun — really challenging — but ultimately really helpful to be able to use these last two seasons to chart our way from here to the end.
When we spoke last summer, you said you hadn't really thought about a series finale for the show yet. When did you start thinking about that and how has it been to start to plan the end of the show?
Michael Rauch: We took our time in terms of figuring out where we'd like to leave Hank, where we'd like to leave Evan, and Evan and Paige, and Divya and Jeremiah and Boris. By doing that, it really gave us an opportunity to start working backwards to figure out, OK, well if this is the end point for this series and these two seasons, where would be the most fun and the most dramatic places to start them off in the season seven premiere. By figuring that out in the beginning, it's made the process in a way easier, simpler and also just a lot more fun for us because we really have a road map of where we want to go in the big picture. It lets us take these smaller episode-to-episode story lines and organically tie them into the bigger picture.
Were you both on the same page for those endings for the characters and the show?
Lenchewski: We have — and have always had — notions about where it would be nice to see where each of these characters' journeys end, but we never allowed ourselves to become beholden to those ideas. ... We really allow ourselves to follow the detours that pop up along the way, whether it's because we cast a new character and fall in love with the actor or whether it's because we find a new medical story that allows for new stories or just because we wake up with a brand new great idea that we never thought of before. I think for these last two seasons that's more true than ever. We are really excited for these end points that we've plotted.
When the show was picked up for two seasons, it wasn't announced that they would be the last two seasons. Was that always the plan?
Rauch: USA has not said this is the end, and they haven't said this isn’t the end. It probably makes sense for them not to announce it at least yet, but no show on USA has run longer than eight seasons and we don’t expect this too. Of course we always keep hope alive. But the feeling that we have gotten is that it would make sense to plan for these two to be the end of the show. We feel creatively and emotionally that it's better to do that, and if there's some wonderful surprise coming around the corner, fantastic — we can always adjust. But as Andrew mentioned earlier, we feel so lucky to have the opportunity to choose how we finish these stories that we really want to do it as best we can.
How has the atmosphere been on set since USA hasn't announced the end of the show formally?
Rauch: Although there is somewhat of a bittersweet feeling sometimes because — while the end isn't near — it isn't that far away, we're such a close family and so everyone is just happy to be together.
Without giving too much away, are there things fans can look forward to that hint towards the end?
Lenchewski: We'll be dropping these little treats that may call back a character or a moment from an earlier season or even from the pilot. One thing that will be readily apparent is our trying really hard to bring back some of the old faces. We'll see Henry Winkler between now and the end; Christine Ebersole is in the season premiere and we saw Raj at the end of the season six finale, which may or may not be a hint at things to come in Divya's world going into season seven, so that's going to be one of the most satisfying things.
One of the big through lines of the show has been trying to find the right love interest for Hank. What will we see from that search this coming season?
Rauch: You hit on one of the big things that we're going to be doing that covers both seasons. Hank's search for love has been something that began in the pilot, and hopefully, we plan it will end at the end of season eight. It's a big part. Divya has Sashi, and Evan has Paige ... we'll be having some fun with Jeremiah, Boris has Marisa and Carlos, and … Hank is the person who has everyone, and yet at the same time, no one in his life is as fulfilling as the partners the other characters have. His search for this partner is something that's going to push us from episode to episode throughout season seven and season eight — and in a broader sense, cover the span of both seasons — as he looks in very different ways to find the right one.
You posted a photo online with Gillian Alexy. Will she be back as Charlotte this season?
Lenchewski: Yes. There is going to be a big event in the opening moments of season seven in the story line between Hank and Charlotte which is really going to be an event that sets in motion Hank's story from here until the end of the series.
What would you say the themes are for season seven?
Rauch: One of the themes that we're playing in terms of our characters is going to be a notion of — and this is something that is going to stretch to both seasons — but each one of our characters slowly fitting into the world of the Hamptons and becoming more a part of the community. With Evan and Paige, it's a notion of doing it as a domestic family now as they think about and plan to enlarge their family. With Divya, it's a notion of dealing with the custody battle for Sashi and being able to settle into a comfortable place as a single mom. And with Jeremiah, it's really charting his progress that he's made throughout the show and the bumps that are going to come along for him as he tries to become more of what he sees as a typical member of HankMed.
You touched on Divya's custody battle, which was one of the big cliff-hangers of the last season finale. So what is the next step for her and her challenges with that this season?
Lenchewski: That custody battle is definitely going to get harder before it gets easier. We're going to see Divya stretched to the limits of her patience. She's going to make it clear that she's willing to go as far as she needs to go to protect the only real family that she has. She's offered help by a number of people around her, both people we'd expect and from people we haven’t even met yet. Ultimately, she's going to realize she needs to take responsibility and resolve this issue on her own.
The season also ended with the HankMed team joining the Hamptons Heritage Board of Directors. What is the next step of that and what we will see now that they're on the board?
Rauch: There's definitely some tension that develops with Boris taking charge of the hospital. It's going to play more for Evan and Jeremiah than it is for Hank in terms of the actual day-to-day work at the hospital. As the show ages, you accumulate more and more characters and we loved it, and by somewhere in season six, we started to realize that the storytelling real estate was getting very crowded. We wanted to simplify and get back to these core characters and give them more to do. In the same notion of simplification, Boris taking over the hospital has allowed us to streamline some of the storytelling and it enables there to be a lot more crossover with these characters.
What else can you say about Hank professionally this season?
Lenchewski: Although Hank and Evan make a pact at the end of season six to make sure Hank doesn't get drawn way deeper into the world of Boris' hospital, Boris is going to maybe draw Hank deeper than he would want to go. We're going to play another big Hank-Boris adventure in season seven; this one's going to be unique as opposed to a caper as we call it. This is going to be one that brings people from the far reaches of the globe here to the Hamptons and that whole storyline revolves around a big secret that Boris has been keeping under the roof of the hospital itself. That's going to activate Hank medically when Boris needs him most, and also brings up some of the same tensions between Hank and Boris of where Hank's responsibility begins and where it ends.
Do you think these final episodes will be satisfying?
Rauch: We hope they will be satisfying and then some. We're really taking our time with them and really making sure that we are both having fun with them and emotionally taking the characters where we feel like they should go. Some are maybe happier stories than others, but we definitely want the ending of the show to fit tonally with what the entire series has been. We want people to feel good about it.
Royal Pains returns Tuesday at 10 p.m. on USA. Will you miss the series? How do you want things to end?