The Verge: Paulo Costanzo
After putting in his time in a series of studio comedies early this decade like Road Trip and 40 Days, 40 Nights, Paulo Costanzo found his indie groove, lending his wry presence to the Douglas Coupland-scripted Everything's Gone Green and the horror film Splinter. Now, as Evan Lawson on the USA series Royal Pains, he's got an out-of-the-box cable hit to his name. Movieline talked to the 30-year-old actor about improvisation, Josie and the Pussycats, and that whole "de-Jewing" kerfuffle.
Paulo, I'm sure it's of no concern to you, but we actually look alike. Back when Road Trip came out, I got "Are you the guy from Road Trip?" for at least a year.
That's amazing, because that's what I still get. No one ever comes up to me and says, "Hey man, I loved your work in Road Trip." They say, "Are you that guy?" Like, they have no idea. "Were you in American Pie 2?"
Have you started getting "Are you from Royal Pains?" yet?
Yeah, now it's different. Unlike Road Trip where no one seemed to know if it was me, I'll be walking down the street in Manhattan and as people are walking, they'll be like, "Heymanloveyournewshow!" They won't even stop.
How does it feel to be on a big hit? You and your costar Mark Feuerstein both put in some time in the short-lived NBC series trenches.
It's a new feeling for me. It's a good feeling to know that your work is actually being watched and liked by people. To be honest, I was surprised. I just assumed, "Oh, it's television: the hype is big and the show will suck."
What's the comfort level like of working consistently on a TV series as opposed to just hopping from independent film to independent film?
Well, they're very different beasts. The beautiful part of this show is that it only shoots for four or five months out of the year -- I live in LA, and I get to go live in New York for four months and basically it's like summer camp. I prefer doing movies, though. It's who I am, it's in my blood, but as far as making money and having a steady job, it's pretty much the greatest feeling.
What do you bring to the character that's not on the page?
For me specifically, I have a very improvisational style when it comes to comedy. I modified the script a lot in my original audition, and I think part of the reason they hired me is because they liked that. So they allow me to do a whole bunch of that; what you see on the show is a lot of what I come up with, mixed with that script. [The writers and I] have a wonderful relationship that way, where I can just go off the script that way.
Do you have an improv background?
No, not at all. In fact, it's the only drama club in high school I couldn't get into.
It seems terrifying to me.
I still find improv terrifying. But the difference is that with this, you can improv in rehearsal and come up with an idea of what you're gonna say when the cameras roll. It's not like you're necessarily always thinking in the moment. If you go on an actual improv stage, it's like, "OK, you have herpes and she has a sledgehammer. Go!" The parameters are different and it's much easier to play within that.
When the show first premiered, one critic took a look at the press images, specifically the main image of Mark's face, and alleged that it had been de-ethnicized in the airbrushing.
That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I've never been privy to any conversation about that, and that's definitely something we would have laughed about on set. I mean, do they think we're wearing, like, crosses around our necks? I think it's clear that Mark and I are supposed to be Jewish, although it's not like every episode, we go to a synagogue or something. We never talk about it.
Do you know that the main bit of trivia on your IMDb page is, "He is colorblind and blue is the only color that pops out at him?"
It's true. That's why I love blue so much: all other colors just don't look the same to me. In fact, the consulting medical physician on the show, I had said something, and he was like, "What? What color do you think this is?" "It's brown." "No, it's green. Hold on." And he had this application on his iPhone that tested colorblindness and he started the test and the whole crew gathered behind me -- there was, like, fifteen people -- and he said, "What do you see here?" And I'm like, "I see nothing." And the crew would yell, "We see the number 25!" He called me out.
Paulo, you played Alexander Cabot in Josie and the Pussycats. Are you aware that Josie has kind of a cult fanbase?
It was one of those movies. I don't know if it was ahead of its time, or what, but yeah, there's a very specific group of people that love that movie and have watched it millions of times.
And how would you describe that group?
Crazy. [Laughs] No, to be honest, I don't know. I think it's a cool movie. I was kind of aware while shooting it that it wasn't going to be a big commercial success, and I felt bad. Like, "Guys, do you realize this movie's gonna be a humongous flop?" But there's this faux-nerdy intelligentsia crowd that seems to really, really love it because of its references to how ridiculous pop marketing is.
Which voiceover was more taxing for you: "Cogburn the Rooster" in Dr. Doolittle 3 or "Matt the Morgue Attendant" in 50 Cent: Bulletproof?
My answer to that is, "I hate you."
Hey, it's right there on your IMDb! Right under the colorblindness.
Are you kidding? They have that listed there? That's so embarrassing.
Oh, it's there.
That's so funny. The biggest challenge was doing the rooster, because [laughing] I can't believe you're asking me this. Ah, you bastard! You know what, I'm going to leave it with my original answer. I hate you. [laughs] ♦