Dr. Paul Weston
Directors: Paris Barclay, Jim McKay, Ryan Fleck, Courtney Hunt, Terry George, Jean de Segonzac, Hagai Levi, Norberto Barba, Warren Leight, Joshua Marston, Michael Pressman, Richard Schiff, Alan Taylor
Writers: Rodrigo Garcia, Nir Bergman, Hagai Levi, Ori Sivan, Sarah Treem, Warren Leight, Keith Bunin, Marsha Norman, Jacquelyn Reingold, Pat Healy
Based on the Israeli television series, Be’Tipul
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Forbes, John Mahoney, Alison Pill, Aaron Grady Shaw, Hope Davis, Russell Hornsby
Gabriel Byrne appeared in all 106 episodes of this series.
In Treatment Season 2 is rated 100% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. “Critics Consensus: In Treatment continues to hone in on its characters in the second season, allowing the cast to find more nuances in their performances.” Season 2 gets a metascore of 85 at Metacritic: Universal Acclaim.
Talk to me.
Dr. Paul Weston (Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne) is back for another round of therapy in this HBO drama, based on an Israeli series of the same name, but now he’s doing it as a recent divorcé living in Brooklyn. And while it seemed that his personal problems took time to evolve last time around, serious trouble finds him mere minutes into Season 2, and coincidentally reunites him, on Mondays, with a lawyer and former patient (Hope Davis), whose firm helps him with a potentially career-crushing lawsuit. On Tuesdays, Paul is taken aback when he learns that a new patient, an architecture student named April (Alison Pill), is choosing not to tell her parents about a serious health issue. A sixth-grader named Oliver (Aaron Grady Shaw) is brought to Paul on Wednesdays by his parents (Russell Hornsby, Sherri Saum), who are concerned about his behavior in light of their impending divorce. On Thursdays, Walter (John Mahoney), an influential business executive, is encouraged by his wife to seek therapy to talk about his anxiety issues. And at the end of the week, Paul resumes his sessions with Gina (Dianne Wiest) after taking the train to Maryland, where he discusses his legal problems and the ways his life has changed. Also starring Glynn Turman, as the father of Season 1 patient Alex, and Laila Robins, a long-ago girlfriend of Paul’s. —From Rotten Tomatoes
Paul moves to Brooklyn after his divorce and starts a new practice. His new patients include a 43-year-old former client, Mia (Hope Davis) who blames him for being childless; Walter (John Mahoney), a CEO facing a major life crisis; a young boy Oliver (Aaron Shaw) whose parents Bess (Sherri Saum) and Luke (Russell Hornsby) are divorcing; and a young woman April (Alison Pill) who won’t seek treatment for cancer. He still commutes back to Maryland to see his kids and attempts therapy with Gina. Should therapists be in therapy?
Golden Globe® Award-winner Gabriel Byrne stars in an all-new season of HBO’s acclaimed half-hour drama series: In Treatment. Set within the highly charged confines of individual psychotherapy sessions, the series once again centers around Dr. Paul Weston (Byrne), who recently divorced his wife Kate, and has moved from Maryland to a brownstone in Brooklyn, New York. Rebuilding his practice while wrestling with some of the demons he left behind – including a lawsuit filed by the father of Alex, a patient who died last year – Paul takes on several new patients. He also commutes to Maryland every Friday to continue his own sessions with Dr. Gina Toll (Emmy®/Oscar® winner Dianne Wiest). —From HBO UK
From the HBO character bios page:
Mia (Hope Davis)
A successful litigation attorney whose firm is handling Paul’s malpractice suit, Mia also happens to be a former patient of Paul’s. Childless, single and 43, she still harbors unresolved feelings about an abortion she had 20 years ago — and resentments towards Paul for abandoning her back then when he moved away from New York. Excusing herself from working on his case, she returns to therapy with Paul.
April (Alison Pill)
An architecture student at Pratt, April finds Paul off of a school listserv when she needs someone to talk to. Facing a serious illness and unwilling to seek assistance from friends or family, April engages in a complex push-pull relationship with Paul, both refusing and desperately needing his help.
Oliver (Aaron Grady Shaw)
Things are tricky enough for the shy, overweight Oliver as he faces bullies at school. But it’s the stress of his parents’ divorce that brings Oliver and his parents to Paul’s office. As Paul tries to help the trio navigate this tricky transition, he can’t help but hear echoes of his own fractured family.
Walter (John Mahoney)
A successful CEO who built a family-owned company from the ground up, Walter comes to see Paul at his wife’s urging because he’s been having trouble sleeping. He’s in denial over several other deeper issues however, which come to the surface when his standard solutions to crises fail him.
Gina (Dianne Wiest)
Gina served as Paul’s professional supervisor years ago. Since then, she has lost her husband, turned 60, retired as a therapist and finished writing a novel. When Gina starts her practice up again, Paul’s more casual visits evolve into a commitment to return to therapy to deal with the multiple stresses on his personal and professional life.
Mia: This couch is better. The old one was blue with black pillows.
Paul: You have a good memory.
Mia: I just thought it was funny. That you had a black and blue couch.
Mia: You sound like Bennett. Lawyers should never be with other lawyers. I wonder if his wife is sleeping with him again. I taught him what to do, she gets the benefits.
Paul: And what did you teach him to do?
Mia: Because, the first time, it was like doing it with a salmon. Do you ever watch those nature documentaries? You know, where the male salmon frantically kind of jerks around for about 15 seconds with its mouth gaping open, and then it just stops? Not to mention, there’s no hands or tongue. He never really touches the female?
Paul: So you turned Bennett from a fish into a man. Sounds mythic.
April: Am I talking too much?
Paul: (laughing) People don’t usually ask that question.
Paul: So is that what you’ve come to talk about?
April: My break-up? I wish.
Paul: You don’t have to apologize for anything you say in here. You can’t offend me.
April: I can’t?
Paul: Of course you can, but I can take it.
Paul: [gets deck of cards from the cupboard] So, what kind of game would you like to play? Hearts? War? Crazy Eights?
Oliver: Uh, Blackjack. I’ll deal.
Paul: So, your dad’s apartment is inconvenient.
Oliver: Yes. Plus, he never has any food.
Paul: No food at all?
Oliver: Ok. Maybe protein shakes, mustard, and Advil…
Walter: You really don’t know who I am?
Paul: You’re a CEO with a cashmere coat and a wife, and that’s all I know so far.
Walter: And two boys. They’re on their own now. Launched. And a daughter. [Pauses]. So, you never read the business section?
Walter: Did you ever read this book Blink? Malcolm Gladwell. Smart guy. His thesis is basically that an expert can tell in the blink of an eye what the story is. Is the painting real or a forgery? Is the war won or lost?
Paul: Sure, I know the book, but I think you should know that the kind of therapy that I practice–it’s not a quick fix. It’s a process, and eventually change happens, but it does take time.
Walter: And I have to tell you: I don’t have a lot of time.
Gina: You didn’t keep notes, did you?
Paul: I don’t need notes. You don’t need notes.
Paul: Was it my not taking notes that killed him? I haven’t taken notes in 15 years, Gina. Should we put all the rest of my patients on suicide watch?
Paul: Are you seeing patients again?
Gina: I am.
Paul: I thought you were a writer now.
Gina: Just the one book. But people seem to like it.
Paul: I saw the reviews. They more than like it.
Gina: You didn’t get a chance to read it?
Paul: To tell you the truth, Gina, I don’t think I’m ready to read it yet.
Was the move really necessary? Was it part of an effort to make a clean break and do this redefinition? I just ask because he seems kind of lonely, like this is a difficult adjustment for him.
I think anyone who’s been through a separation or divorce or has moved to another town will understand that sense of alienation. So yes, he is going through that. One of the things about this series, I suppose, is that it reflects a wider world out there. Although we are connected more in terms of technology, we seem to be more alienated spiritually from each other. We live in an age of huge anxiety and uncertainty and fear. And that is reflected in how we behave and how we view the world. This revolution that we’re going through — I believe it is [a revolution], it’s not just an economic revolution but it’s political, social and spiritual, and the world will not be the same in five years’ time. So some of the themes that come up in the show reflect that broader uncertainty about the world.
It examines the notion of, for example — there’s a story about a woman who has a flourishing career. She’s not in a relationship and she wants a child. The role of a woman who’s 40 years old in our culture, what does it mean? Is there an alternative to marriage? Is marriage changing as well? The Eisenhower-era notion of two kids and two cars in the garage, the nuclear family, is that changing? The society that we wanted, that we longed for, the small-town community where everybody knows everybody else, and everything is safe and predictable — that notion has been challenged.
America’s living through a truly tumultuous age. And never was there a greater need to be listened to than now. Which is why I think people find some sort of reflection in this show, where they may not exactly have the same problem, but something about the spirit of the problem moves them.
So when you’re doing a role where 99 percent of the time you’re sitting down, how does that change things?
That changes things a lot. A huge amount. Your body language is constricted. All that’s left is your eyes, your physical body language. It’s like being in a wheelchair. Part of the character is his stillness. In order to really listen, you have to be still. The danger there is that it becomes dramatically uninteresting. To make that interesting, you really have to be listening so that when the camera goes back to you, the audience has to say, “Oh, he’s thinking.” So what on paper seems like a pretty simple role — you get to sit in a chair, you ask a bunch of questions — it’s much more difficult than that.
By the way, I have a different chair this season, which changed my body language. I know a lot about buying chairs now. Don’t buy a cheap chair. It may look good, but it will be uncomfortable after a couple of weeks. Buy a chair that allows you comfort and flexibility, that you don’t sink too much into it, that supports your spine.
You mentioned listening. For the audience, part of the drama of each show is watching Paul as he listens, trying to decode what’s going on in your mind as you hear these people’s stories. And I always wonder, how do you calibrate how much to show about what you’re thinking?
That’s one of the big acting challenges, to convince people that you’re thinking something and also to give them the illusion that you’re not letting the patient know what you’re thinking. It’s a delicate thing to do.
Another big acting challenge is to find new ways of listening, finding the truth of what the other person is trying to say, after you’ve been told the same thing 24 times. Even when you’re off-camera, you have to give it back to the other actor, so that by the end of the day, you’re utterly drained.
And you don’t get much of a reprieve in this show.
I don’t think there’s any scene that I’m not in this season. I think it’s 1,500 pages to memorize. That’s a hell of an amount. But the brain is a muscle — if you use it, you improve it. I can now speed-read. I could always memorize my lines, but I’ve come up with a way to memorize the relevant points, and work in the logic around it.
Gabriel Byrne looked exhausted. Three days earlier, he had wrapped production on the second season of “In Treatment,” the HBO drama in which he plays therapist Paul Weston, and as he sank into a sofa at the network’s midtown headquarters, the Irish-born actor still had heavy bags etched under his eyes.
“It’s a doggedly difficult role to play,” said Byrne, who is in every scene of all 35 episodes, which begin airing tonight. Each was filmed on a Queens soundstage in about two days, a punishing pace that forced the actor to master his lines breathtakingly quickly: by the end, he was up to 12 pages in 30 minutes.
“I didn’t experience the winter in New York at all,” he recalled. “I arrived in the dark and I left in the dark, and all day I was in a room in a chair. It taught me an awful lot about perseverance and stamina and focus and concentration, and not staggering under the weight of it.”
It was a grueling experience to undergo for a quiet drama that attracted a small audience in its first season, despite its many critical plaudits, which included a Golden Globe win and Emmy nomination for Byrne.
But the actor speaks about the series in ambitious terms not usually applied to a television show. “The themes that are examined in this season are reflective of our culture, our society, in a larger context,” he said. “In my opinion, it deals with the loneliness of the kind of communities that we live in. Everything that we took for granted, the stable pillars of society — that’s no longer there. So uncertainty produces fear and anxiety.”
How do you feel about hordes of women falling for you after watching In Treatment?
Of course it’s nice. It happened to me before when I was younger. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t make it real for myself; it was like they were talking to somebody else. This time around I understand the dynamic a bit more. The character appeals to a lot of women. He seems to know the answers. He is totally on your side.
Why do you think In Treatment is so compelling, given that the only action is emotional?
Because it provides a voyeuristic experience for the audience. They get to empathise with the patient, to criticise and judge the patient. They have the same relationship with the doctor, too. It’s a three-character play: the doctor, the patient and the audience.
April says goodbye to Paul.
In fact, “In Treatment’s” ambivalent take on therapy is a big part of what makes the series so engrossing. Even as the show’s writers capture the narrow, un-self-aware perspectives of each character and celebrate the work of therapy, they also underscore therapy’s shortcomings. The “healthy professional boundaries” of therapy are often exposed as unrealistic, demanding superhuman acts of self-restraint by Paul or any other therapist. Yet, viewers are also shown the countless perils of breaking those boundaries: Paul insists on keeping his personal life separate from his clients, but they constantly try to break down the wall, from busting into his kitchen to eat breakfast, posing direct questions about his love life or his kids, or asking him for a ride to the hospital…
…I can’t think of a more deliciously smart, unapologetically complicated, heartbreaking TV series. Watching this show with real focus and devotion is an experience that approximates the harrowing, often thankless therapy process itself: You laugh, you lament, you question it all, you feel angry, you cry, you feel devastated, and then you look at everything around you in a new way. Crushing and unsettling and heavy as “In Treatment” can be, like the best art, it offers a chance to see the world through fresh eyes.
Byrne remains the show’s sturdy anchor, and the story bores deeper into Paul’s troubled history — including his relationship with his parents, which bleeds into how he processes these latest cases. And while some of the exchanges occasionally feel overly mannered and cliched, the series has found a stronger, more cohesive rhythm — thanks in large part to the fabulous Mahoney, Davis and the stunningly natural Shaw — that mostly compensates for the claustrophobic, off-Broadway approach.
There are still moments when the writers’ Geppetto-like manipulation is too apparent, but the revelations that pile on week to week help smooth over those excesses — as does the simple pleasure of watching the intellectual tennis match as Byrne goes toe-to-toe with Paul’s resistant, each-damaged-in-their-own-way clientele.
“In Treatment” initially felt like a voyeuristic exercise for the everyone’s-got-a-shrink crowd in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, only to veer — awkwardly and too deeply — into melodrama. Now it’s a genuine addiction — just the sort upon which a pay channel, and a small but discriminating audience, will thrive.
It is, to put it bluntly, a cast to die for. Each story line is well-drawn and compelling and each subtly represents a thread of Paul’s own issues that come together in Gina’s office even more effectively, if a bit more sentimentally, than they did last season.
While many of Paul’s patients from last season seemed, strangely, much more concerned with him than with their own issues, this round is much more believably self-absorbed. Oh, they may rail against Paul’s methods, but they at least acknowledge that they are in therapy of their own free will, which leaves the writers and the actors free to explore issues that are more wide-flung and resonant…
With his crookedly handsome face and sad, sad eyes, Byrne’s Paul is obviously a man who has too long been giving what he has not gotten. “I hate my life,” he says to Gina in one early episode. “It’s broken. Every day, it hurts . . . OK, I have you. But you can’t give me what I need.”
Of course she can’t, of course she won’t, but the point of being “In Treatment” is that at some point the patient will give voice to precisely what that need is often enough or loudly enough that he or she will finally hear it.
First and foremost, “In Treatment” is a superb acting showcase. It’s very theatrical in nature: there are essentially two simple settings (Paul’s office and Gina’s), and most of the time is spent on two people having a conversation. No action, no artifice — just one person talking, and one listening.
And it’s in the latter that the great Gabriel Byrne truly excels. In the first season, Paul was in crisis as he grappled with his attraction to a patient and the end of his marriage, and so he tended to act out in the sessions. This year, even though he’s being sued for malpractice about something that happened last year, he’s much more on his game. Therefore, he usually keeps his feelings in check, opening up only to Gina — yet Byrne has now become so good at showing the viewer how Paul is reacting to each patient that he barely needs to say anything at all.
You can see him thinking of his own broken family as he watches Oliver’s parents fight, or trying to stifle his incredulity when Walter shrugs off a major childhood trauma as no big deal. When Byrne won the Golden Globe earlier this year, some pundits viewed it as a joke — HBO paying off the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — but it’s an awe-inspiring performance.
“You should know that the kind of therapy I practice, it’s not a quick fix,” Dr Paul Weston advises a new patient at the beginning of this new series of In Treatment. He’s not wrong. Paul, an Irish psychotherapist based in the US, spends much of his time planted in a chair, listening to an intriguing litany of woes from his patients. The show moves at a glacial pace, but Gabriel Byrne‘s performance is captivating, requiring careful observation, and is all the more remarkable given that he has so little to say.
Like the first series, it’s essentially stage drama on TV – a couple of actors in a room – without being theatrical. But crucially, the tension is there from the start in this season. With series one, a lot of people couldn’t see where it was going, and lost interest. But Paul seems to be teetering on the brink of something awful right from the first episode.
If our televisions still had rabbit ears, they would be drooping with sadness over the humiliating spectacle that was 2009. But the year that brought us the Jon & Kate nightmare, the balloon boy scandal and too many other reality-TV train wrecks to count also delivered a heap of precious entertainment cargo.
From the time-jumping theatrics of “Lost” to the quiet brilliance of “In Treatment,” television redeemed itself a million times over, so in the spirit of the season, let’s rejoice and remember the television episodes that helped make the best out of a very bad year.
1. “Week 5: Oliver” (“In Treatment,” HBO)
When a bully vandalizes his locker, young Oliver (the priceless Aaron Shaw) ditches school and heads to his therapist’s office, where Dr. Paul Weston (the peerless Gabriel Byrne) makes his young patient a sandwich and we are treated to a scene of such gentle intelligence and empathetic beauty, we could feed off it for years.
inspired by In Treatment
behind the scenes
Everyone who works on the show remains in awe of what Byrne does – not just the sheer amount of work per week, but the way he has to deliver so much of his performance as a reaction to the other characters.
“Gabriel’s always doing something,” says Leight. “It’s an extraordinarily strenuous thing to actively listen. God help the one director who told him, when Gabriel asked for help with a scene, ‘You’re listening intently.’ Gabriel said, “For (heck’s) sake, that’s all I do! That’s your direction?’ Gabriel has probably figured out 2000 ways of listening intently. He just wanted some guidance on what Paul was thinking as he listened.”
Much of the time, the camera tends to stay with whichever character is speaking, but both actors are shot in full reacting to what the other is saying to create more options in editing. Sometimes, the script will specifically include directions like “Paul reacts to this,” but it’s usually a judgment call on when to show Byrne doing his listening thing.
“We have a rule: when we cut to Paul, there has to be a reason,” says Barclay. “We’re not cutting to him because he’s the other person in the room. There is information to be gathered. Either he’s catching something the patient isn’t catching, or he’s concealing a response — which he does better than any other actor – like he’s becoming impatient, he’s becoming intrigued. As we go through the editorial process, we ask ourselves, ‘Do we need that cut of Paul there? Is it moving the story along? If not, then we don’t need that cut.’ Fortunately, with Gabriel, it’s such a rich performance. He’s 98 percent available to cut in, but we want to tone it in a certain way, we want to lead the audience down a certain path. It’s very rigorously applied.”
A set of In Treatment episode excerpts with voice-over analysis from what appears to be a professional psychologist. Very helpful for understanding some of the real psychoanalytic processes at work in the stories.
A lovely collage with scenes from all three seasons, by Lachka.
From the Official Soundtrack for the series
Many thanks to Aragarna and Momentos de Flashes for sharing their fan art with us!