Paulo Costanzo plays Evan. R. Lawson on USA Network’s new hit scripted drama, and my favorite new show, Royal Pains. Not only is he tremendously funny in the role of Hank Lawson’s brother, he also admits to caring about the ratings a little bit! Both Bill and I have enjoyed watching Royal Pains and other than all the beautiful women, the exploits of Evan as played by Mr. Costanzo are probably my favorite part of the show. Since Bill’s maternal grandfather was named Paulo DiCostanzo, he might even a bigger fanboy than I am.
Below is a composite from an interview Paulo Costananzo did last week via conference call and a follow up call where he answered some of our readers questions. Thanks to Paulo and his publicist for taking the time!
We’re a site dedicated to the ratings and the fans who obsess over them. Do you and cast and crew care about ratings?
I can’t speak for everyone but I definitely care about it in the sense that we all want to know what our future is going to be. Also, I’m enjoying doing the show a lot and would like it to see it go a second season. I don’t think fans have to worry at all as far as a second season goes. It’s the most successful new show this summer. The response has truly been fantastic, I’m not sure anyone expected it (Royal Pains) to get better numbers than Burn Notice out of the gate.
The show is actually shot in New York, what’s that like?
We shoot in Brooklyn, the studio is in Queens, and we shoot all over Long island. I've never lived in New York before and to get to spend four months has been a blast and the locations are definitely an awesome part of the experience.
You have great on-screen chemistry with Mark. Is it something that happened instantly between you guys or did you do something to develop such a great rapport?
Well when I went in for the first audition, I got the callback pretty much the same day. The callback was for a chemistry read, which means that they bring you in to read with other actors who have already been cast to see how you get along with them. So I went in for this chemistry read, and at that time I was reading for the best friend, not the brother. There was no brother in the script. It was just Hank’s best friend, Evan, with some other last name. So I went in and I walked in the door, and I looked at him and he looked at me and I said, “Wait a minute. You look exactly…” and he finished my sentence by saying, “Like me!” And we both went, “What the hell?” And in my head I was like, I lost this role. There’s no way I can play this man’s best friend. I look exactly like him, just younger.
So at that point I said, “It looks like…” At that point I threw caution to the wind. It was just, like, I honestly feel like our Jew-fros, like if they got too close in proximity, they would just magnetize together and be almost impossible to separate, like Velcro. And he went, “Yes, I agree.” And I said, “Let’s try it.” And we got close and we somehow strangely mimed this head mashing, which made the room laugh, which I thought was really funny. And I was like ah, and that’s how we began our relationship.
How did you get from high school play to where you are today?
Well, I got an agent for commercials and shows, and I think I booked my fourth audition. I was a guest star in this really hilarious TV show in Canada called Ready or Not, like where every episode is about a girl like getting her period for the first time. […] But then I got another series called Animorphs and I played an alien for a couple of years. And then I just went completely out of work for about eight months and I was honestly considering changing lines of work because none of the casting directors in Toronto liked me and they thought my style was too idiosyncratic. Like, “Why can’t this guy just say the exact lines on the script? Why is he always trying to make up his own lines and change the script?” And then I auditioned for Road Trip as a nationwide talent search and I guess they didn’t feel the same way because I definitely improvised a lot of my audition and they gave me the part.
What you would advise young actors starting out today?
The only thing I would advise them to do is prepare for the amount of adversity that you’re going to come in contact with by choosing to be an actor because before you actually “made it” or get the skills, people are all not going to take you seriously, and many people will try to discourage you from it. Don’t take any of their advice. Do it, and do it and do it. Remember the compliments. Forget the insults. I know it sounds cliché, but you have to believe in yourself because there’s going to be moments that no one else does.
[…]What are the major differences between acting on Royal Pains compared with your experiences on Joey?
Well it’s a sitcom versus a single camera drama – completely different mediums. A sitcom, you rehearse for four days of the week and then you shoot it all in one night in front of a studio audience. It’s like a play every week, whereas this show, you just shoot it over a seven or eight-day period with a single camera. I enjoy this format of show much more. I’m a feature guy. I like making movies. So the four camera thing I didn’t love it that much. I found myself slightly out of my element. I am enjoying this much, much, much more than Joey.
On what Paulo would think of a Burn Notice/Royal Pains crossover:
What I would love is a crossover between Royal Pains and Burn Notice, that we could be involved in some sort of gun play intrigue. I would really love that because we have no guns. We have nowhere near enough explosions and guns on the set. Imagine if we showed up in the episode of Burn Notice, and in the episode directly afterwards he (Jeffery Donovan) showed up in ours.
[…]I was just wondering if Evan was just going to go from girl to girl or if you would like to see him kind of have a longer relationship?
Well if you haven’t noticed, Evan hasn’t actually had sex once this entire season.
Most people don’t notice it. He’s always chasing the girls but never gets one. In fact, I don’t know yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he will not have sex through the entire first season of the show. So I just want Evan to get some action of any kind.
I noticed his (Evan’s) Italian was pretty bad. Can you speak any other languages?
Yes, I’m half Italian. So my grandfather speaks heavy Italian... and I couldn’t understand a word he said. And I realized he’s getting up there, I’d love to be able to understand three words he says in my life. So I went and started taking Italian classes about a year ago and I took it for about nine months, so I know enough to understand and make sex jokes, but that’s kind of it. For instance, “No, no, no. Mi piache, mi piache a verde seso con muto devere su tipo dimare mari con me mylalini, gondarone, mi amo…” I just said I like to have sex with many different kinds of animals like little piglets and baby shrimp. I love it. That’s what I said. Lo amo, I love it. That was a fun episode. They actually wrote that because I told them I can speak some Italian.
What are your influences for the Evan character?
I happen to have a couple of friends a lot like Evan. This is all kind of subliminal. I didn’t think about this, but I do, I have a couple of friends who are very entertaining, always the life of the party, and slightly over-the-top and go after a lot of superficial things and are wowed by that stuff. That probably had something to do with it. But there are certain scripts that are just written in a way where, for whatever reason, I read it, and instantly that inspiration hit me and it was just kind of electric, and I didn’t have to think about it. It just kind of went from there.
That’s what makes it really fun. This whole thing has been, as they say, man, I feel almost guilty saying it, but it comes very easily to me, this character. So this whole four months in New York has been like summer camp for me. I just have to look over my lines and it’s just kind of there and I just go, and I play and have fun. That’s the fun part about playing the role that’s more of the funny guy. I get to just go and just play around every day.
Are you picky about the roles you play or who you might be cast with?
Absolutely! There are many factors I consider. I don’t audition for things I don’t think I’d enjoy doing or fit in well with. Scripts, characters and other actors do matter, too .
What are your favorite television shows?
Honestly, I do not watch a lot of television and prefer catching up on many classic feature films though this year a friend made me watch it and I did somehow get hooked on American Idol. I also love Californication when it’s on. I think David Duchovny is a complete superstar on that show.
Off camera, do you enjoy playing chess and have you done any kind of writing (i.e. Poetry, TV or movie scripts)?
I do not ever play chess. I do have a feature film I am working on that I hope to get to production in between seasons of Royal Pains and I have produced a short film (The Tao of Pong). I used to write a lot of poetry in college.
Ever consider doing standup comedy?
I did standup once in a high school talent show but that’s the only time I’ve ever done it. It went pretty well, but I don’t see doing it again. The thought of it terrifies me.
Evan gets a camera….This is how Paulo ended last week’s conference call:
Thank you. I’m going to say one more thing to everybody. On the USA Web site, they were going to have me do something similar to what Jeffrey Donovan does on Burn Notice and do kind of, an Evan’s tips thing which I didn’t want to do. So I came back and I told them that I wanted to do something a little more cinema verite (a style of documentary filmmaking).
So they actually came back and said yes somehow. And they’re allowing me to do kind of my own behind-the-scenes – they just gave me a camera and I’m shooting behind-the-scenes and it’s going to become kind of a video log on the Web site. So I’d love you all to check it out because it’s going to be very kind of intimate and personal with just me and a camera.
As well, I’ve set up an e-mail account called firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love people, if you’re reading this or if you’re seeing this, just to e-mail me with anything that you’d want to see behind-the-scenes. Just typically e-mail me and I’ll try to address it because I have another month here, and I have a lot of time and a lot of tape to shoot.