"Ed" star tackles links, Lupus in new role
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
They say happy cows make the best cheese.
I'd like to think it's the same way with actors and acts (sans dairy, of course).
In the recent "Royal Pains" episode "Deep Blue Sea," there is a scene where pro golfer Jack O'Malley (Tom Cavanagh) is trying to convince Hamptons concierge doctor Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) that his nephrologist (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) was a child actor. Though it was just a small moment, it perfectly illustrated the chemistry between the two actors.
"That thing that just probably women find so incredibly annoying, two grown males going back and forth and bickering over a point, going, 'That's not her,' 'That's her,' 'That's not her,' 'That's definitely her,' 'That's not her.' You know? And yet for us, I could have done that -- annoyingly so -- I could have done that scene for like 20 minutes. 'It's her,' 'It's not her,' 'It's her,' 'It is her,' " Cavanagh said.
The reason that scene works at two or 20 minutes is the playful banter between Feuerstein and Cavanagh. It's two actors, famously known for their happy-go-lucky dispositions, employing just the right amounts or sarcasm, disbelief and playful annoyance to make an amusing aside in what was otherwise a more serious episode.
It's not easy for a guest star to come into an established hit series like "Royal Pains" and bond so beautifully with the regular cast. Yet that's exactly what Cavanagh has done over his six-episode story arc this season. He has both a tongue-in-cheek "bromance" with Feuerstein and a will-they-or-won't-they romance with Jill Flint's character (Jill Casey).
"Part of it is I know Feuerstein through osmosis -- through shows we both did at NBC and mutual friends -- so I know he's a good guy," Cavanagh said. "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. ... (If you were to ask) any number of people who have guest acted on the show, I bet they would tell you the exact same thing."
In this week's episode, which may or may not be Cavanagh's last appearance (his character has mishandled his Lupus treatments), the affable Jack O'Malley has finally come to grips with his failing health.
True to his nature, Cavanagh said the somber story was fun to shoot.
"One of the most fun things about this episode for me -- and also I do a small bit of directing here -- was while we were out on the boat. There's an adage to directing and one of the adages is never shoot on a 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 crewmember. 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."
"It was truly fun to shoot," he said. "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 an enjoyable shoot."
For Cavanagh, the greatest challenge in bringing golf ace Jack O'Malley to life was not pretending to be sick. It was succeeding on the links.
"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," he said. "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 (Exec. Producer) 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 (people) 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(-yards)-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."
Cavanagh rose to stardom with his Golden Globe-nominated turn as bowling alley attorney Ed Stevens on NBC's hit series "Ed." Though the show wrapped in 2004, he still gets "Stuckeyville"-related questions -- namely, when is the show coming out on DVD? So far, the release has been delayed because of song rights. The cost of royalties has been prohibitive to David's Letterman's Worldwide Pants, which produced "Ed."
"Listen, here's what my understanding is ... the Letterman company used so much great music, that the stars were basically just giving (permission) to them, because they're Letterman," Cavanagh said. "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."
In the meantime, "Royal Pains" airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on USA.