We had the pleasure of speaking with Paulo Costanzo. We spoke with him about his role on USA’s Royal Pains. Here’s what he had to say.
What was it about the show Royal Pains that made you originally want to be a part of it?
Paulo Costanzo: Well, you know, as an actor in L.A. between projects it’s very competitive right now. So you pretty much, if there’s a role that you like, usually there’s at least 80 other actors who are petitioning for the same role. So I was in audition mode and this is one of the things that came across my desk because I have a giant desk as an actor, full of thousands of scripts. It’s just a room that is a desk that I can also dance on top of if I want. Across that desk came this script and I thought the character was kind of easy for me. It just kind of fit instantly. A lot of roles you read and you’re like okay, I know I have to start the character work and try to get to this place where I can play this guy. This one is just I already had it, kind of, inside me. So yes, I just went in with that in mind. That was a horrible answer to that question.
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?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
They showed off some of your amazing dancing skills on the show. Is it something that was choreographed or did you improv?
Paulo Costanzo: That was written as a very short thing. Evan dances around the kitchen preparing for the thing passionately. And I came to Don Scardino, who directs a lot of 30 Rocks. I believe he’s the producer of 30 Rock. And I said, “I’m going to go this week and get a choreographer, so I actually have a couple ballet moves I can throw in there.” And he goes, “Aw, don’t worry about it. No, I’ve got this great girl.” And God strike me down I can’t remember her name right now, but she choreographed everything for 30 Rock and everything for Saturday Night Live over the last ten years. So she’s like a pro. And she showed up, and we worked for about an hour, and between the three of us we came up with that strange dance, which still makes me feel slightly uncomfortable to watch, but people seem to like.
how did you fashion Evan when you were reading the script. In a two-dimensional script it doesn’t have your juice yet, and I was wondering how you kind of infused or what things influenced Evan for you?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
What festivities does Evan have planned for later on down the road?
Paulo Costanzo: To be honest, it’s interesting to ask questions like that because I don’t even know. They give us the scripts so late for this show, sometimes within three days of shooting it. So, I don’t know, there’s definitely some festivities that occur in the next couple weeks, but none that are Evan-initiated, sadly.
Can you speak any other languages?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
Can you talk about some of the guest stars we’ll see this season?
Paulo Costanzo: Andy McCarthy’s back next week in a much larger guest-starring role. And Rosalyn Sanchez showed up. She is utterly gorgeous and a really, really nice actress as well. And as I say, I have no idea who else.
Even though you’re not a medical person on the show, what’s the coolest thing you’ve learned around all the medical speak?
Paulo Costanzo: Oh, dude, that’s crazy. Well, I’m going to jump the tracks for a second here. This weekend I went to the Hamptons. This doesn’t have to do with the show, specifically, but I’m interested in medicine more. And I met a surgeon up in the Hamptons and he told me, I said, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve done?” just because he told me he loved the show. And he said, well, this one time there was a car accident and I stopped on the side of the highway and there was a guy in cardiac arrest. And he said with a pocketknife that he carries, a very sharp pocket knife, he cracked his chest, reached inside and massaged his heart, and he said he saved his life.
Do we find out why Evan’s not eager to return to New York any time soon?
Paulo Costanzo: I can’t say, though I would love to. Nothing would please me more.
What are the major differences between acting on Royal Pains compared with your experiences on Joey?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
How did you get into acting in the first place?
Paulo Costanzo: In high school, my first thing ever was I played Tony in West Side Story when I was about 17. I was a really shy kid and I just like forced myself to learn how to sing this one month because I loved West Side Story so much and I somehow managed to get the role. I had an afro and glasses, and the guy who cast me goes, “All right, the first thing to go is the afro and the next thing, I’m going to buy you contacts and we’re going to get you…” So he kind of molded me into what it had to – that’s still probably the hardest role I’ve every played in anything, the most taxing role. But yes, that’s where I started.
How did you go from a play in school to where you are now?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
Are we going to see any of Hank or Evan’s friends from New York in the Hamptons?
Paulo Costanzo: I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. That’s not in the game plan right now, but maybe.
Can tell us anything about if Evan’s going to find anything else about Campbell’s mysterious creatures and other such strange things around the mansion?
Paulo Costanzo: Boris is a bolt of mystery. So yes, that will be slowly unfolding. And as I say, I have no idea what it’s going to be. I just know that that’s a large part of the show because we love Campbell Scott and the character is just -from the get-go, they’ve established him as the intrigue of the show.
Do you know anything about Evan’s back story, or do you just kind of like try to make it up as you go along?
Paulo Costanzo: Well I do. I mean, yes, we’ve all talked about it but it’s one of those things where it’s a slow burn. We can’t give up too much, too fast and that’s part of what makes television is in keeping people watching to find that stuff out. So yes, I do know. I know. I know. I know. He was a prostitute. Sorry, I had to just let it out. No, he’s definitely got a somewhat shady background. That’s all I can say.
Is Evan just going to go from girl to girl or would you like to see him kind of have a longer relationship?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
A lot of USA is all about the characters and they like the promotions where they mix people together and act like they’re kind of at the same time all over the world. And so I was just wondering if you could have somebody from another show on Royal Pains from USA, if you….
Paulo Costanzo: Oh, you’re saying the crossover?
Yes. Who would you want to do that with?
Paulo Costanzo: 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.
It always seems like actors and musicians and everyone’s writing their autobiographies. So I was wondering, if you wrote one yourself, what would it be called – your title, your awesome title?
Paulo Costanzo: Let me think for a second. It would be called, Comedy Injections: Sex.
What would you advise young actors starting out today?
Paulo Costanzo: 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 cliche, but you have to believe in yourself because there’s going to be moments that no one else does.
Thank you. I’m going to say one more thing to everybody. I would love it if you could, 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 it. So I came back and I told them that I wanted to do something a little more cinema verite.
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 [email protected] 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.
Interview By: Emma Loggins