You can’t blame Mark Feuerstein for being superstitious. The actor once dubbed ”TV poison” appears to have finally found the antidote in USA’s summer-in-the-Hamptons hit Royal Pains — and he wants to protect it. ”I’m wearing the same shoes I’ve worn every day to the set since the pilot,” he admits. ”They look like a combination of a life raft and moon boots, but I don’t want to change anything. It’s all worked so well so far.”
This working-out thing is new to the 38-year-old journeyman actor. While he’s had supporting roles in some successful films, including What Women Want in 2000 and In Her Shoes in 2005, this is a guy who has starred in more failed NBC sitcoms than just about anyone in history: 1997’s Fired Up (shot down after 23 episodes), 1998’s Conrad Bloom (after nine episodes), and 2002’s Good Morning, Miami (30 episodes). And CBS canceled his most recent TV gig, the neurosurgeon drama 3 Lbs., after only three airings in 2006.
Halfway through its 12-episode order, Royal Pains is thriving. With 5.9 million viewers, it’s this year’s No. 1 new cable series, and second only to TNT’s perennial powerhouse The Closer among this summer’s scripted shows. ”The truth is, I’ve always fought to prove that a nice guy doesn’t have to finish last in our business,” says Feuerstein. ”Anyone who is interested in considering this my moment, please, by all means, let it be that I am arriving.”
The Royal ride does feel different for Feuerstein. As the exceedingly decent Dr. Hank Lawson, private ”concierge” doctor to both the rich and the mansionless, he’s at long last discovered a character that suits his breezy, affable demeanor. ”Friends would always say, ‘I want you to come through more, the Mark that’s funny, the Mark that I like.”’ It certainly helps that Feuerstein has known Pains co-creator Andrew Lenchewski for 12 years. (Nonetheless, Lenchewski still made the Princeton alum audition along with roughly 50 other actors for the role.) ”He’s such a warm, winning, likable guy, but at the same time, his intelligence makes him totally credible,” Lenchewski says. Another point of credibility: Feuerstein knows Pains’ setting well. A native of New York, he and his family — wife Dana Klein (a former writer for Friends) and their two kids (a third is on the way in September) — are living in Manhattan in an apartment next to his parents’ while the show is filming on Long Island.
Now, for the first time, Feuerstein is actually able to look ahead to future episodes and dish about Hank’s recently consummated romance with hospital administrator Jill (Jill Flint): ”I haven’t shown as much shirtless restraint in previous incarnations of my romantic persona.” Superstitious habits aside, he even remains hopeful for a second season of Pains (USA has yet to renew the drama, but its outlook seems promising). ”It’s such a relief to not have to talk to your uncle at Thanksgiving about ‘I don’t get your show, and I get why it’s being canceled,”’ says Feuerstein. ”That conversation is now out the window.”