Interview with Tom Cavanagh from Royal Pains

Tom Cavanagh, who has guest starred in multiple episodes this season of USA Network’s Royal Pains, spoke to the press the other day about this week’s episode. If you’ve seen his character on this show, or if you were a fan of Ed, you would have loved talking with him, because he was very much like his characters. He spoke fast, and he seemed really enthused about it all. I’ve loved him for years, and this certainly didn’t do anything to change that! 😉

Jump with me to hear from Tom.
Jenny: Going into the start of the role, did producers already know the entire storyline for Jack and did they tell you at the beginning what to expect or were you surprised?

Tom Cavanagh: At the very beginning, I was filming a movie in Vancouver, Michael Rauch who’s an EP, an executive producer on the show, the show runner and I we go way back, we’re old friend, and we had a great time. It was Michael Rauch’s directorial debut, a season prior and he wrote the part of Jack O’Malley, the rogue, swashbuckling, semi-good looking golfer with me in mind. And we had such a good time we thought well, you know, it would be great if we could have a worthy storyline.

So when he called me we both knew the arc that the storyline would take, a harrowing but fun arc, and we were both on board with the arc from the very beginning.

On how challenging it was to play being sick & how he prepared for that

Tom: That’s a great question. First off on a larger scale Royal Pains obviously deals with that every week in one fashion or another and so there’s a pathway and a protocol set up for how Royal Pains does it. So for the actor it’s that much easier because they’re used to the subject matter, obviously not the specifics of for example with the lupus but they have pathways and protocols set up. They have an on-set doctor, they have the answers already for you; they’re already prepared. And I had a number of questions about it. You know, there’s an on-set medic standing by.

Brad would have a better set description but essentially we got a doctor, an in-house doctor. And I could ask him anything about symptoms, about how I would be reacting because, you know, you do want to get it right, you know, you always hear that about researching a role and it’s a small part on a very successful show but even so you still want to get it right. And so, you know, I had many questions, I did a lot of looking up the subject to make sure that we get it exactly right.

And then the challenge is to try and if you know what it’s supposed to be, I’m supposed to feel like and all that, the biggest challenge for this specific character, Jack O’Malley who’s a bit of a – he’s in denial, he’s a things are fine kind of guy and I’m kind of that way as well. And so the idea, what I thought was the biggest challenge was to play him not showing his sickness while being sick. You know? And I don’t know that I got it right all the time but that was sort of what I was trying to convey.

On his favorite moment working on the show

Tom: Any answer to that would sound extremely like a cliché I have to say. But the truth is this about Royal Pains – this is a flashpoint, rare divulgence about Royal Pains – these guys are great. By the way these guys are great is a terrible copy for you but it’s actually true. You know, Michael Rauch, the guy that runs the show, Andrew who also runs the show, these guys are phenomenal human beings, not phenomenal human beings as it applies to the entertainment industry but phenomenal human beings.

If any of you who are listening to this have interviewed Mark Feurestein, and I believe many of you have, you know what kind of guy Mark Feurestein is. He’s jet-engine enthusiastic, he’s a wonderful human being, he’s a great father, a great family man, he’s extremely talented and he’s a phenomenal leader for the show. The rest of the cast and the crew are again many people that I’ve worked with over the years, they’re also phenomenal.

So going to do Royal Pains and this is actually one of the barometers, if you talk to a crew member around New York City, many of them are trying to get on the show because they know the vibe that the show has. Many times crew members don’t really care that much about the subject matter of a show, but they do care about what the workplace is like and the workplace at Royal Pains is phenomenal. And I think sometimes, not always but sometimes there’s a bit of a (unintelligible) translation to what happens onscreen and I think in the case of Royal Pains that might be true.

On how Jack & his condition impacts the love triangle with Jill, Jack, & Hank

Tom: I can. Well it’s interesting because I think all three of those people have on one side of the ledger things they would like to have happen and on the other side of the ledger, things they are actually happening that impede what they’d like happen. You know, in the case of Jill she’s talking about getting off the, you know, moving up to Uruguay.

Jack’s side of the ledger is a little less complicated. I think there’s some moral goodness to Jack but I think he’d be quite happy to just seduce Jill and have things go that way. I don’t think for Jack him having a little bit of lupus is an impediment to him, to his romantic endeavors is the most PG way I can put it.

As for Hank, you know, Hank is a good man in capital letters, you know, and so if the moment doesn’t feel right for Jill then I think the moment isn’t right for Hank. I think as far as Jack and Hank are concerned, I think Jack has kind of been a little bit up front about it. He’s like, “Look am I cutting your grass?” He’s like, “No you’re not cutting my grass.” He’s like, “Good, I’m not cutting your grass.”

On how Jack’s presence raises the stakes for the show as a whole

Tom: I think any time you have a character that you’ve been allowed to get to know a little bit, they’ve had Jack on for a few episodes now and so it’s not just a simple guest appearance where somebody gets a hacking cough and then we have to figure out what’s wrong him. I think the writers and the show runners have taken time to invest something of Jack’s personality into the story and as such I think that is the main thing that raises the stake for what eventually happens to Jack.

From my own personal philosophy in terms of playing a character I’ve always felt the more a character makes you laugh the more you’re going to care about him. And I think they’ve at least tried to make Jack appealing in some ways and that’s a dangerous line I’m treading here because it sounds, you know, self-complimentary and that’s not what I mean to be. I mean I just think the writing is such that Jack’s a bit of, you know, a bit of rogue and he’s written as likeable and so you don’t want likeable people to have bad things happen to them, at least I don’t.

On the key to successful onscreen chemistry

Tom: Well that’s a great question. I’m trying to get the right answer. Part of it is, you know, I know Feurestein through osmosis, through shows we both did at NBC and mutual friends so I know he’s a good guy so that actually makes it easy when you know the guy and you like the guy and you get to act with the guy. I didn’t know Jill but she’s a wonderful person and that helps.

And I think largely the biggest part of the question, something like that is when you guest star on a show, the show is either welcoming or they are not and when it is unwelcoming you’re just doing your job, you’re a gun for hire, and when it’s welcoming it makes it that much more fun. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to have a better performance but you’re going to enjoy yourself that much more.

And rare is the set that’s more welcoming than the Royal Pains set. And that’s not for me because I know people, that’s for if you were to make this call any number of people who have guest acted on the show, I bet they would tell you the exact same thing.

More on this week’s episode

Tom: One of the most fun things about this episode for me and also I do a small bit of directing here, and there was while we were out on the boat, you know, there’s an adage to directing and one of the adages is never shoot on boat, never shoot boat scenes, never shoot children, never shoot animals. When I say shoot I mean with a camera. I was really interested, we spent basically – most of the episode takes place on a boat, not most of the episode; most of Jack and Jill’s storyline — that’s right I said Jack and Jill — takes place on a boat and it was just massively directed.

We had two boats out there, one of them it actually belonged to a crew member. And filmmaking sometimes gets a little bit easier when you take away some of the elements that are otherwise deemed necessary. In this case we had a very small crew, a splinter crew, we couldn’t run around and set up lights because we were out on a boat and it was amazing how quickly we filmed and how much fun it was. We were out off of Montauk Point out in Long Island and it was all the things it was supposed to be in terms of — and negative things — it was not, it was truly fun to shoot.

And also it contributed I think a little bit to in Jack’s storyline he’s getting more and more isolated because of the sickness and of course they’re out on a boat, you know, the clock’s ticking, all those kinds of metaphors work for the storyline. And it was really and enjoyable shoot.

On playing practical jokes on set

Tom: If you watch closely in [one] episode there’s a scene where, hell I don’t know it…yes might as well, it’s fine because it’s already aired, but there’s a scene where Reshma who plays Divya has taken Jack’s, the character I play, urine sample and so we did rehearsal after rehearsal where I hand her the cup, the cup is completely room temperature, everything is fine and then we shot the thing, I filled it up with steaming hot apple juice like fresh out of the body. And as they shot the scene I walked up and we always did in rehearsal, I handed it to her and if you watch the scene carefully we have to keep cutting away from Reshma because all she’s doing it trying not to laugh. So that was one.

Also at a restaurant Mark and I were out and there was a bunch of Danish people, although he didn’t know they were Danish, at a table next to ours and I explained to him, they were all attractive young ladies, or at least a lot of them were, I said, “These people will not stop looking at you, you’ve got to go say hi.” So Mark walked over to the table and, you know, leaned in and said, “So you like yourselves a little Royal Pains.” And they of course had no idea who he was at which point he goes, “Cavanagh!”

On preparing for the “professional golfer” aspect of the role

Tom: Well it’s, you know, I play a number of sports and you always – I hate it when I watch something of a sport that I play and the guy is supposed to be good or the girl is supposed to be good and then the camera outs them as being terrible. I just hate that because it takes me right out of the story. And so in this instance I didn’t want to be that guy.

And so I took a lot of lessons, you know, I took a lot of coaching but it’s interesting the very first time I golfed I really did knock one straight and true and it was on take one with all the crew watching and all that kind of stuff. But Michael Rauch who’s a very good friend of mine and who was directing the episode he knew that in the session prior when we were setting up the camera I was on the driving range for about 40 minutes and I didn’t hit one like that. I shanked everything, you know, I left it short, I hooked it, just like are diving for their lives and then we had four cameras running and I thought, “Oh this is going to be really bad” and then I just nailed it, straight and true right over the camera and 100 plus. And Rauch is like, Rauch from behind the camera goes, “I don’t think we need another.” And the camera operators are like, “Don’t you usually take two?” He’s like, “No, we’re good.” And bless his heart for that moment because I wasn’t going to improve on that.

So what always matters is what you have on film, you know, and so as long as they don’t show all the stuff that I’m duffing off camera then I’ll be happy with the performance.
That’s it for the Royal Pains questions…but I couldn’t just leave it at that, not when I had “Ed” himself on the line!

Jenny: I was a big fan of Ed, and my Twitter followers and I wanted to tell you we haven’t given up on getting the series on DVD.

Tom: Listen you shouldn’t give up because if you give up it’s all over. It’s all over. There’s going to be no momentum and no impetus for them to get that going.

Listen here’s what my understanding is…the Ed DVD and the music right thing because the Letterman Company used so many great, so much great music that the stars were basically just giving to them because they’re Letterman but music rights and perpetuity are a little more complicated than that. But apparently this thing is moving along and so we’re all hopeful that one day, Ed will be on DVD.
Thanks to Tom for such a great call, and good luck to him on finding a great pilot! Don’t miss seeing him this Wednesday on Royal Pains, on USA Network at 10/9c.

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