A new television series premiering on the USA Network this week will give East End residents a chance to peer at their world from the outside looking in, or at least give them a glimpse of how the rest of the world sees them.
The Hamptons is the backdrop for “Royal Pains,” a story about New York City surgeon Hank Lawson, played by Mark Feuerstein, who is blackballed in the medical community after he opts to save the life of a poor teen rather than a rich hospital trustee.
Down and out—and even dumped by his fiancée—Dr. Lawson lets his brother, Evan, played by Paulo Costanzo, convince him to spend the weekend partying in the Hamptons rather than wallowing in self pity. They crash a party, putting Dr. Lawson in the right place at the right time to save the life of an ailing party guest. Dr. Lawson’s heroics create a buzz, and Evan sees dollar signs and opportunity. The weekend getaway turns into a summer-long ride, as Dr. Lawson unwittingly becomes a concierge doctor for wealthy Hamptons denizens, providing a service his brother brands HankMed.
On a recent day off from filming, Mr. Costanzo talked about the show, his character, and what it’s like to film in the Hamptons—or at least fake being in the Hamptons.
Mr. Costanzo said he’s become used to introducing himself as “Evan R. Lawson, CFO of HankMed,” after saying it for the camera a million times recently.
“He takes humongous amounts of pride in being the CFO of this business that’s he’s created that’s based around his brother being a concierge doctor,” Mr. Costanzo said of his character. “He runs the business. He takes it very seriously. He’s constantly looking for opportunities to expand, sometimes in cheesy ways, like wanting to get on US Weekly and whatnot.”
Evan is not all business, though, and wants to enjoy his summer in the Hamptons.
“He’s like a dog sticking his head out the window on the countryside,” Mr. Costanzo said. “He’s just loving every second of it.”
The actor is also enjoying himself as much as the character he portrays.
“Overall, at this point in my career, it couldn’t be more perfect for me,” he said. “Some people would have called me cynical, because I can always find fault with something. If it’s not the work that I’m doing or the quality of the project or whatever; there’s always something. With this one, I can’t think of a damn thing to complain about.”
Though the USA crew has filmed in the Hamptons only occasionally since production of the series resumed last month, back in September the network filmed most of the pilot on location in both Southampton and East Hampton towns.
Mr. Costanzo admitted that prior to being cast as Evan Lawson, he had never been to the region. He said he’s just a poor kid from Toronto who had a vague understanding that the Hamptons was some place rich people went. Once he arrived, he got to stroll down Main Street in Southampton Village with Christine Ebersole as cameras rolled, and also visited an astonishing Bridgehampton mansion, among other sights.
Earlier this month, USA filmed at a beach house on Surfside Drive in Bridgehampton, and used the Mecox Beach parking lot as a staging area, according to Allyn Jackson, superintendent of Parks & Recreation for Southampton Town
The Bridgehampton shoot was followed by a quick shot done on Gin Lane in Southampton Village.
But the producers have opted to film on location in Southampton or East Hampton only once per episode, if that, for the rest of the season, citing the expense of bringing the cast and crew out to the East End.
Instead, location managers have found grandiose houses in western Suffolk County and Nassau County and have faked them for Hamptons mansions.
“All we have to do is send second units to the Hamptons, get them to shoot a whole bunch of exteriors of those gates, and then cut to us driving into the gate of a real big house that could be anywhere,” Mr. Costanzo said. “I mean, it could be in China.”
“And the houses we’ve been finding are utterly insane,” he continued. “I don’t say this with any exaggeration: I’ve seen ‘MTV Cribs’ many times, and I’ve seen houses that destroy anything I’ve ever seen on ‘Cribs.’ I’ve seen things that I can’t even believe.”
In fact, the Hamptons party the brothers crashed at which Dr. Lawson saved a model was actually filmed on western Long Island’s Gold Coast at Oheka Castle, now a hotel but formerly the second largest private residence in the United States.
Another house had a pool and hot tub in the basement, with 60-inch televisions on every wall and 10-foot-tall columns that were really cylindrical aquariums with $100,000s worth of exotic fish swimming around and through living coral, Mr. Costanzo said. “At the top, like the cherry on top of the whole estate, a waterslide that had been carved through the grotto, and snaked around the grotto, shoots you out through a waterfall into a giant pool.”